Sunday, December 28, 2014

It’s All Relative

I think about this topic frequently.  No, it’s not sex; although I have to admit that’s high up there too.  Why?  Because I’m an unabashed pervert.  But I think about and talk a lot about aging.  Not in a bad way, just in a reflective way.

I remember when I was a little girl and the young ladies especially were turning 21, we thought that they were so old.  We couldn’t believe that such and such were out of their teenage years.  What we didn’t realize was that these young ladies were six, seven, eight years older than we were, and when we all got into our 30s and 40s, we would be in the same age group.

Because our parents, aunts, uncles and their peers seemed so mature compared to how we currently are, they always seemed much older in their 40s than we seem.  They never interacted with us kids like how we do with our kids.  They always seemed more intense and stressed than we do. 

When I look at my teenage and tweenage children, I’m surprised at how big they’ve gotten.  They are not above average.  They are average at best, but when I look at the twins, all I see is four pound babies looking up at me for milk.  I look at my youngest gaining on them, and all I see is the baby we brought home from the hospital that completed our family.  Instead, what they really are, are people with big personalities, big opinions, big attitudes and big ambitions, walking the hallways of our home.  Even my nieces and nephews and my play nieces and nephews are amazed at how big my children have gotten, which is really weird because I look at them, especially those in their 20s and marvel at the fact that I used to take care of them and now they are nearly as old as I am.

But one of the reasons why I’m mildly obsessed with aging is because above everything else I think it is a miraculous thing.  We take it for granted when we look at it as a one day at a time event; however, when we sit back and look at it from long lenses, it is indeed a marvel.

At 45, I can actually observe physical aging.  I remember when we used to watch TV with our mother and seconds after she got a joke, her smile would slowly revert.  We thought it was the funniest thing.  We would always look at her and exclaim, “Mommy, you are still smiling!”  The other day, the kids did that to me, but now I realize it’s probably that my laugh lines are two steps behind my actual smile.  There is a favorite photo of me and my daughter cheek to cheek taken one summer.  From a distance, we can pass for sisters, but if you look closely, you can see my crows feet and some gray hairs along my hairline.  And it takes a lot longer for me to digest a huge meal and much longer to work it off.  Therefore I don’t eat as much as I used to.  Well, it depends who you ask because every time I say that, I feel my husband and kids looking at me as if to say, “Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”

But as fascinating as I find the physical traits, in my opinion the mental aspects of aging are even more astonishing.  Yeah, my patience level is not near close to where I want it; but compared to where it was 20 years ago, I’m pretty impressed.  But the wisdom has got to be the best thing about aging.  As I’ve mentioned, I watch a lot of OWN.  Her Super Soul Sunday series is very interesting, and I’m always amazed when one of her speakers mentions something that I had already realized.  I have to admit that it does make me seem not only smart and evolved, but it proves that somewhere, somehow I had been paying attention to my mother all these years.  And when I see that so many insights are new to so many people, I have to admit that it scares me because I wonder 1) how come they’ve been here for so long and haven’t learned that and 2) what else is there for me to learn.

It causes me to be restless, and I get on a quest to try something new, do something different.  I believe that if we become too content with the now, then we are just preparing ourselves for the end.  And my hope is that my end is nowhere close.  Which brings me to the saddest thing about aging -- dying.  Of course I know that not everyone gets old and then dies, but that’s usually the preference.  At 45, I see or hear about the parents of my peers becoming bed-ridden, getting dementia, living with cancer and other serious illnesses; and watching your parent going through infantile stages has got to be one of the hardest things in the world.  I now see and hear about my peers and folks a few years older becoming sick and dying.  I mean people who you think were healthy just literally dying suddenly due to some sickness that they didn’t know existed. 

So aging for the vain may not be something to embrace, but perspectively speaking, it is a marvel because it means that the younger generation is making ground, and for great things I hope; that I can impart some wisdom because parts of my journey are now becoming hindsight; and that I have mellowed because so much of what I thought was a big deal truly isn’t.