Recently we had a Shabbos guest who we hadn't seen in a long time. She had moved to New York and was back in town for a friend's wedding. We were having a good time, reminiscing about people and places. At one point she turned to my husband and said, "Nachum, I've known you about 20 years now and you haven't aged a bit. You look exactly the same as you did when we met."
My husband beamed. And I sat waiting patiently for my turn. I waited and waited (Hullo! Over here!) and waited and waited... Then the conversation turned to other topics.
But I'm okay with that (really). I can accept that I look my age (well I can accept that I don't look 25 or even 30!). And I didn't give that conversation a second thought (okay, I didn't give it a third thought) until a few months ago when I had one of those birthdays. You know the kind I mean -- big, scary numbers. As much as I couldn't believe all those years had passed they have and I decided not to buy into the PR -- 50 is not the new 40 or 30. Who are we kidding? It just isn't.
It may be true that people are living longer, and the expectations and energy of a 50-year-old are not what they were 100 years ago (thank God!). But you can't erase 10 or 20 years. I know the date on my birth certificate. I can't pretend I'm really 30. And I'm not sure I want to.
It's also not true that "you're only as old as you feel." I like facts. I'm as old as the calendar says I am. And I prefer it that way. Because even though there are days when I feel like a kid, there are also times when I feel about 70 or 80!
However I feel, I'm still 50. And that's okay too. It's even okay that I look it (most of the time, and as long as I avoid those magnifying mirrors!). Because I've earned most of my wrinkles and a few of those gray hairs.
I frequently point out to our children which wrinkles they are individually responsible for (a pastime they really appreciate!) or, on a good day, just claim they are all laugh lines.
But it is what it is. At the end of Abraham's life, the Torah teaches us that "he came with his days." This expression means that he used his days fully, made each moment productive. And while I'm certainly not laying claim to the greatness of Abraham, nor can I say I've used every minute fully, I can say that this is my goal, that I try to make full and meaningful use of my days, some days with more success than others.
And if the price is that I look like I have, so be it. It's worth it.
I'm grateful for all the opportunities in my life thus far, the joy, (most of) the challenges, and the hard work. It's okay if my guest doesn't say I haven't aged because I have. I just pray that I have also "come with my days." And that I am granted many more chances to do so. Maybe the new 50 can just look at life through new eyes every day, anticipating the future instead of dwelling in the past.
There's more to say but there's a new anti-aging cream on sale at the mall and I just need to run out...