Learning Late

All of my life I have been a solitary human being. I seldom reached out to build relationship with people; I almost never sought and cultivated relationships with people in my profession. I did two things: raised my children and tried to run my church.

Because of the way I lived, I grew up and have lived as an adult with a skewed vision of what life is all about. I robbed myself of wonderful relationships which could have helped me emotionally and spiritually in some of the situations in which I found myself. Being in those relationships would have afforded me wise counsel from those whom I trusted and who loved me, and would have allowed me to see that what I was feeling or not feeling was not unique.

People reached out to me, but I did not reach back because I did not know how. I thought that “being there” in a pastoral role for my church members was adequate, but I didn’t realize that “being there” and forming relationships are two different things.

I never asked for help – not for anything. I figured if there was an issue, I’d figure it out, and I normally did, but I did so at the expense of benefitting from people who had “been there, done that” and who could have helped me see things I did not see.

I learned late that the way I was living was not the way to live. I wrote about 15 years ago that I had lived in a cocoon, but writing about it didn’t mean I got out of it. The cocoon was safe, and I stayed inside of it. But safety was not what I needed. I needed to come out of the cocoon and let my wings dry so that I would be able to fly and soar.

I watch people now and see others who live as I lived. I listen to people who say they have few friends. I watch people as they crumble from situations that happen in the lives of all people just because they do not have a support system to help them get through it all.

I was young …and now I am old. In the Christian Bible there is a psalm that says just that: “I have been young and now I am old, yet, I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread.”  It occurs to me that one cannot be “righteous,” i.e., be in relationship with God if we are not in relationship with each other.

I, the preacher, have been out of genuine relationship with God because I have not been in relationship with human beings. What a troubling revelation!

When you get older, you start getting things meant to attend to your aging. When you hit age 50, you get sent an automatic registration for the AARP. You get notices about products you can use for incontinence, hearing loss, and aching joints.

What you don’t get, however, are notes to remind you that you still have time to make thigs right in your life, to make relationships, to stop living an isolated life, and to experience life in a new way, be you incontinent, suffering and crippled from arthritis, or both.

What is clear is that being a “late bloomer” is not a bad thing. It is a blessing, a gift, to make sure that for the rest of the days you have on earth, you can live life “abundantly.”

It is hard to begin again when you are older…but it is not impossible. The cocoons in which so many of us have lived are not prisons unless we make them so. They are, instead, self-imposed berths of isolation which have weak seats and thin walls.

We can, in other words, break free.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Getting Older

Fuck You AARP
Fuck You AARP (Photo credit: martymadrid)

Some things about getting older are funny as hell.

Like, when you turn 50 and you get the AARP card in the mail. I resented it when I got mine. Did I ask you for this card?  Turning 50 was interesting enough without getting that little reminder. There’s something about being half a century old that takes a few minutes to get used to.

But other things are funny. Like gray hair in the eyebrows and eyelashes. When you’re younger, you don’t think about the fact that all hair on one’s body has the capacity to turn gray. I first noticed a gray hair in my eyelashes while I was driving, and looking for hairs on my chin in my rear view mirror.

Those, too, are funny.

But my eyelashes? Seriously? Once I saw that, I would do a witch hunt every day, looking for the little unwanted visitors, tweezers in hand. And yes, I did tweeze them until I realized they were not really growing back, gray or otherwise. While I hated (and still do) the gray eyelashes, the alternative of not having them at all was not acceptable.

Chin hairs! What in the world? They come onto our chins, again uninvited, and stick out, like little sticks. There are gray ones there, too. Sometimes you cannot see the little gray ones, but you can feel them. I thought about making it explicit that when I die, whomever “does” me makes sure the chin hairs are gone.

I am fortunate; I don’t have stiff joints, and my health is good, but the physical signs of getting older have truly amused me. Once, when I was a tad late in getting the rinse on my hair to get rid of the gray, a guy came up to me and said, “look at all that gray!” Oooh! Needless to say, I left church and went to get my rinse.

Then there are the wrinkles. I have deep wrinkles in my forehead, so I have gotten a couple of creams to see if I can lessen them. How about NOT?  Every time I hear the commercial that says, “Is your anti-wrinkle cream gone…but your wrinkles are not?” I laugh out loud. I am not going to do Botox, and walk around with a frozen face, but the deep creases in my forehead kind of make me laugh. They are stubborn and are here to stay.

The cellulite is pretty interesting. How did that happen? I can remember seeing “old” women with “funny looking legs,” and now I am one as well. Seriously?   Will doing my ballet stretches help to alleviate that? Time will tell…but geez! Who invited the cellulite? It came stealthily, quietly, and when I look at my legs, I promise it looks like the cellulite is smiling at me, victorious.

This process of transitioning from what we used to look like to being “older women.”  is immensely interesting …and funny!  My sister said she passed a mirror once and backed up and looked again, asking, “Who is that old lady?”  How about I know that moment well.

Everything changes. Our necks change, and Kathy Lee Gifford says that we get “peach pits” instead of sexy cleavage. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but I suppose it’s coming.

I am not complaining. I am glad to be older, yet alive and healthy. I do not think being attractive or not looking old is the ticket to having a good, full life. I have plenty of friends who are not so old, and who are very attractive, who have empty lives. Mine is not empty, nor will I allow it to be.

But it is funny how this physical part of  getting older thing just kind of crept up on me. I concentrate on eating well and being active so that no matter how old I am, I feel good. There are some things I’d like to do before I get too old to enjoy them like I’d like to, things like visiting the Pyramids, and the Great Wall of China.

I am writing this because I am hoping that more and more of us women are looking at ourselves getting older and are smiling, not panicking or becoming depressed.  The cosmetic industry absolutely counts on us panicking and spending tons of money on creams that will never get rid of our wrinkles, but make us feel like we’re doing something to fight the inevitable.

Rather than spazzing out over getting older, it would be nice if we just “walk in it,” and be as elegant and as classy as we can, kind of like Helen Mirren or Betty White or the late Lena Horne. Better that we thank God for one more day, wrinkles and all, than to waste a single moment being sad that we are going to get older and continue moving away from our young, fresh look, no matter what we do.

We are no longer young and fresh; we are seasoned and mature. We are beautiful, that beauty defined by the trials and experiences we have been through. Better that we bask in that reality than to create or recreate something that will never be again.

Getting older is funny…but a blessing.

A candid observation …