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Wrinkles and All
Mom with a View

Wrinkles and All

The pleasures of reaching middle age.


When the electrician was calculating our bill the other day, he turned to me apologetically and said, "I have to ask you an awkward question. Do you qualify for a senior citizen discount?"

Now I'm not sure if it starts at 60 or 65, but since I'm only 48 I was pretty sure I didn't qualify, and I was a little stunned by the question.

The following day I was at the cosmetics counter of a local department store lining up for my free sample of facial products that would be ‘just right for my skin type.'

"Oh, you must want the one for wrinkles," the salesgirl said, casually tossing the samples in my direction (and leaving no time to argue!).

I have long ago stopped pretending that I'm having another 29th birthday.

Although I have as much vanity as the next person, both of these stories made me laugh (which of course is the reason for all my wrinkles!). I have long ago stopped pretending that I'm having another 29th birthday, or even 39th. When you have children who are in their 20s, it's hard to uphold the illusion. I have accepted (mostly) that some parts don't work as well as they used to. I may exercise more regularly than I did in my 20s but I move just a little bit slower. And my mind certainly isn't as sharp. (My LSAT score would be a lot lower these days and my memory is a little more blurry -- or perhaps a little more crowded.)

But this doesn't need to be a time for wistfulness and nostalgia. Although there is an excitement to being young, feeling the sense of possibility and potential, there is a deep pleasure to realizing it. There is a satisfaction in working hard at something you believe in, at learning from your failures (or at least surviving them) and in celebrating the accomplishments. There is a pleasure to the wisdom gained from experience, the deeper insights acquired, even if they don't come tripping facilely off my lips. My mind may be slower (where are those glasses?), but my thoughts (I hope) are richer.

At 25, life seemed simple, my goals a snap to accomplish. 20-something years later, I marvel at the naivete of youth (Mark Twain and all that), especially as I listen to my children and their friends. It's necessary at that age to have a simplistic view. It propels us forward. If we knew all the challenges ahead, we would be afraid to try, afraid to venture out. The simple view is a gift but it's also limiting.

Life is more complicated now, the answers more elusive; the only certainty is the Almighty's love. Sometimes I long for that black and white world of the past, but would I trade my life for it now? Although there was a certain wonder and excitement to youth, it still had its own set of challenges and uncertainties. Perhaps those who want to recapture their youth have forgotten what it was like!

Having survived some difficulties (and struggling in the midst of others), us "middle-aged" folk are able to have some perspective on the growth and depth they've brought to who we've become.

The 20s are frequently a selfish time -- all about me and my accomplishments. With the greater confidence and greater humility of age, it's possible to let others in, to become a true giver and listener. (I'm not saying I have; just that it's possible.)

I was at a political fundraiser recently where a woman my age seemed to have mistakenly gone shopping in the teen department. I can't speak for anyone else but I didn't think it was attractive. I thought it was sad.

Although there are many aspects of myself (physical, emotional, spiritual) that I am not at peace with, I feel myself inching towards acceptance (I've always dreamed of that age where weight doesn't matter). It's a struggle in a world of plastic surgery (with nearby Beverly Hills probably the nation's capital) to be unafraid to grow old and to (try to) do it gracefully.

Perhaps if I'd used more sunscreen as a teenager. Perhaps I should have lifted more weights in my 30s. Maybe I should have put more effort into learning in my 20s. Maybe then I'd be perfectly self-actualized; a righteous woman with unshakeable trust in the Almighty. But "perhaps" is not helpful. I don't have the past to work with.

But, please God, I still have the future.

I can moan about what I've lost, and try (unsuccessfully) to recapture it. Or I can move on -- to today and tomorrow. I can try to help myself and others learn to navigate our ways through this complex world of ours, trying to understand who we are and what the Creator wants of us. I can try to use my accrued wisdom for good and I can laugh when I look in the mirror (and hopefully on other occasions as well!). I can take pleasure in what I've done and look forward to who I can still become, wrinkles and all.

October 28, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 17

(17) Anonymous, February 21, 2007 6:17 PM


Really enjoyed this article!

(16) Anonymous, November 5, 2006 11:31 PM

After x 29. bithdays..... my kids remind me that they are well over 20 - there is a life out there, even after 50...

What a wonderful way of reminding us that part of our future may be behind us after a number of 29. birthdays. After the 30. birthday (...) we have to prepare a different future, B"H.

(15) JanQ, November 5, 2006 10:55 PM

Being renewed

I'll be 63 this week. Inside I feel 30. I'd like to share this quote that means so much to me: "...we do not lose heart.Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." I've learned that walking with G-d and sharing His wisdom with my family is an eternal perspective and more important than the temporary.

(14) SteveSlinker, November 2, 2006 1:19 PM

Gracefully aging

When I was 28, my grandfather told me something at my grandparents 75th wedding anniversary. I had asked my grandfather about living so long and he told me that for all his wrinkles, stooped posture and careful movements, they were just outward signs of his having lived so long and that he would not change any one of them, they were his and he had earned them. His very appearance of age brought him the respect he had earned in a very long life. He would have laughed at the idea of cosmetics to make a man appear young, he was proud of his age. I think we all should be proud of what we have earned through our length of life be it good or bad. He was 104 when he died 10 months later.
I am 55 now and I start to get a glimmer of what he meant, While I am physically less than I was at 20, my mind has grown expotentialy with each passing year as my physical powers fade and I find I would not trade my experiences for the chance to be younger. I am not near as cocky as I was then which makes me more pleasant to be around now. As I tell my children now "It has taken many years to get the way I am and I am not going to hide them now." Thank you for such a great article.

(13) karin, November 2, 2006 10:38 AM

man looks on the out ward

Emuna this has not happened to me yet, being asked if I'm a senior but I'm right behind you at 45 I'm sure I'll be stunned...ha. My thought on this is "man looks on the outward, but G-d looks on the heart" and both are important, but what G-d see's is what matters most. Thank-You for the blog I really love your insights...I too live near BH and fully understand the vanity of the area. K

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