Somewhat related to my last post, I’ve been wondering lately how in the fuck I got to be this old.
Sorry for the F-bomb, it’s the end of football season and for the past several months, the traveling husband has been using enthusiastic and colorful language. And by using, I mean screaming. Usually directed towards the TV, but he’s an equal opportunity screamer in that his laptop and phone see some action, too. I remind him sometimes that the people on the devices can’t actually hear him, but it doesn’t help. Anyway, the F-bombs are contagious. So for the bulk of the year, I talk like I’m watching my team lose in a sports bar. Sexy, huh?
Getting back to my (fucking) age, am I the only one who remembers their life in snapshots and short video sequences? It’s like my memory catalogs itself in my head as a photo album with missing pages.
I remember a lot of things, but it’s not a continuously streaming video. There are several sizeable gaps. Here’s how some of my conversations go:
Friend/Husband: “Hey Am, remember (person/place/thing)?”
Me: “Hmm. Nope.”
Friend/Husband: “Yeah, you remember…the guy with that thing and that other funny girl that we met at the place…?!”
Me: “Yeah, no. Not even a little bit.”
If I subtract the missing pieces in time from what I actually do remember, I should probably be like 15 years younger than I am on paper. That might feel right. I mean, no self-respecting 46-year-old stirs their coffee with a fork, because they forgot to turn the dishwasher on the night before. Right? At some point along the line shouldn’t I have honed the necessary skills that would lead to always having clean spoons in the drawer? My parents never had to stir their coffee with a fork. They were grown ups. My hope is that this inability to age gracefully skips a generation so my kids will never be spoonless.
My Dad said to me not long ago, “I’m 82 and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” This from a man who is practiced and patient, wise and thoughtful. He was a nuclear engineer – basically a rocket scientist – for, um…EVER. But he is also a talented illustrator, can imitate Mr. Magoo, and dozes off on the couch with startling consistency. This is a well-rounded cat. In the words of today’s kids (at least the kids mine go to school with): The man is a LEGEND. And you know what else? HE HAS CLEAN SPOONS. He might not know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he’s got his shit together (in more ways than one).
I guess I’m wondering when I’m going to get it together. Maybe never. Maybe I simply don’t want to start the dishwasher before I go to bed. I’m not lazy, I’m a rebel! (I’m not. I don’t even look rebellious.)
Which brings me to another question: Ever think about what you look like? I’m not talking about checking yourself in the mirror, I’m talking about what other people take in when they see you at school/work/exercise class. I wonder all the time what I look like from the outside. Like what label do people give me after first glance? Do I come across as a Poised Dancer? (Used to be.) Casually Carefree and Moderately Stylish? (Not likely, but a girl can dream.) Frumpy Mom? (Potentially.) Exhausted Middle-Aged (eew) Lady In Yoga Tights, Though Clearly Not On The Way To Yoga? (Nailed it.)
I just don’t think my book cover is a very good representation of the internal story. When I’m not in front of a mirror I feel I’m putting out vibes of gentle mama, patient wife, loyal friend. Then I look at my reflection and I see sagging jawline, tired eyes, frizzing hair. And when I pull all that frizzy hair up, I swear I have every intention of achieving a Pinterest-worthy, Anthropologie-esque “effortless messy bun.” Alas, it’s more of a “Did she just wash her face?” result. (Hey, judgy young girls, clean skin is an achievement, too.)
Perception is everything, I suppose. That is, if you care what others think of you. Honestly, I’m more curious than anything. I’ve already ditched anyone who can’t bring themselves to get past my dog-eared, wrinkled book cover. The good stuff is found on the inside anyway. The people who read me over and over saw my cover when it was hot off the presses, shiny and new. And now they know my stories as well as I do, so they can help me fill in the blanks, reminding me of what I’ve forgotten over the years.
Speaking of years, the traveling husband and I realized a while ago that we’ve been together for half of our lives. We met in middle school. (We didn’t.) Actually, who cares. He gets me. He saw me when my kicks were high and my eyes were bright, he’s seen me heavy with babies and sadness alike, and I think I could be covered in poop and he would still act like a predator as soon as Eleven and Thirteen leave the room.
Maybe it’s seeing myself through his eyes that keeps me feeling younger than I am. He keeps it real, but he loves me throughout, as do a handful of other people I know. Maybe just knowing that is what builds up the brave enough to stop sweating the book cover and just keep writing the book.
Because like I said, to me, that’s what matters. My truth isn’t hanging in my closet or tucked away in my bathroom drawer. My guess is that isn’t where your story is either, that’s just where the cover art gets created. You have to turn some pages to get the real scoop. It takes time and energy, and I kind of like throwing my effort towards building my life, my people, and our stories, instead of spending that time on my hair. (The fight against the frizz is exhausting.)
The fact is, I'm good with this life and my place in it. I don’t mind my crazy hair because I love where it came from. Even if it’s a work in progress, I respect my body because it’s strong and it created lives I love. And when it’s groundhog day, and I’m doing all the things I do every day over and over again – it’s still a gift. I like the mundane, the tradition, the surprises that don’t really surprise you, the gestures big and small, the milestones, and saying yes when everyone expects you to say no. That’s how we ended up with two fish, two parakeets, and a Flemish giant rabbit (long story) in addition to the dog.
I suppose I just talked myself out of a mild mid-life crisis, and hopefully talked you into loving your squeaky clean face and daily uniform, whatever it may be.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
P.S.: I remembered to run the dishwasher last night, so I’m up to my elbows in clean spoons. However, I’m out of coffee. Fuuuck.