Day 66(ish) — Daily Prompt: “Act your age, mama, not your shoe size” ~ Prince
Age-Old Questions: “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore? http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/age-old-questions/
Age is just a number (and numbers are made up, if you want to take it a step further), but just like the hour of the day, it means something, something HUGE — in my opinion. I am 47 and am happy to be here at any age, I say now, knowing that if I’m lucky, I’ll look way back one day at 47 and think, “Oh, how young I was then…,” knowing that I don’t really understand now what growing older (way older) really means AND that growing older will bring many things in addition to wisdom, some of them harder to look forward to — less pleasant to share — than wisdom, AND that wisdom is not even a guarantee …. and not always useful anyway (could have used this when I was younger, but now?) or transferable to others (what does that old lady really know anyway?). My father and I both say we’d like to live to be 120, but really my aim at any given time is to make it as far as I’ve already gone again: e.g., I did 47 years once before, so I can do it again. A close friend of mine, Maya, says she’s not interested in living past a certain age (say 70), as she does not want to live a reduced version of the life she has now (which is still pretty much full tilt, at all times — going, going, going!), but “now” keeps changing, as does that certain age — it is usually about 20 ahead of where she is at present.
I have a vision of this friend and me as very old ladies, walking on a pier (which appeared in a dream about us once) back toward the shore, in Coney Island maybe? It’s winter and we’re walking slowly, holding hands. She has on her crazy Russian hat and an old coat with a zany pattern; I am wearing misc. LL Bean hand-me downs from misc. family members from years gone by. (“Where are your winter clothes??? What on earth did you wear last year?? Here, take mine. I was going to replace it anyway.”) We are still making each other laugh in this frosty future, but not the convulsive, full-body laughter of our younger years. We may talk of age, but not in the ballsy way we have at times — especially years ago. We are more careful, but we’re just fine. As we pass young couples in love, we’re not embittered — on the contrary: we nudge each other, smile, reminisce, giggle — exchanging identifying fragments of saucy tales we used to relish. And we are happy, too, to see the Wonder Wheel rolling along in the distance, even though we won’t be riding it today. “Too bad the beach is closed,” I say. “I have my suit on under all this down and corduroy.”
One thing is for sure, for me: I like to think I have a LOT of time. One, because I have young children. Two, because I have so much I want to do. Three, because I am not doing a lot of it. The whole purpose of this blog is to “bear witness” to my reaching ONE GOAL in one year, by May 20, 2015. And I have not made much progress. There are some good, solid, happy reasons for this: Sarah has come (!) and Elliot is here too now, all the time, it being summer. And Roberto got a big promotion (and so is not as available to share in all that needs to be done at home). But still.
Some of the reasons aren’t so hot.
Yesterday was supposed to be a “me” day, one of the first since Sarah joined our family. I planned to get so much done, SO MUCH, but the main thing was just to get a real haircut (as opposed to the kind I do at home, myself, with scissors from Staples). Instead, I ended up going through a huge backlog of papers/mail (even found an invitation to a party, for last night, that I was slightly miffed about not being invited to). It had to be done, going through all that stuff, but I never got to most of the things on my actual wish list, and by the time I left the house, it was 8:20 p.m. I was headed to a mall 10 minutes north of here fully expecting (but not really) to get my hair cut. Oh, and I ran a small errand on the way. Oh, and a Phish concert was about to begin at a venue next to the mall — read: HEAVY TRAFFIC! (Where do these people keep coming from?) When I finally got to the mall, I was surprised (but not really) to learn it was TOO LATE to get my hair cut (WHAT??). So I returned a few items I brought along with me just in case the haircut I hoped to get was finished in record time, and I did a bit of shopping too. Who knows when I’ll get another chance? Then I thought I might go to a movie, but the reviews for any I might consider were terrible. And I was hungry. So I got some Korean BBQ. But I kept thinking about that haircut.
Later, when I got home and found everyone but the dog asleep, I went at it — with more gusto than ever before — and gave myself the worst self-hair-cut yet.
I was going for this:
But I ended up with this:
And today, even though I’ve cleaned up the clippings (hackings? choppings?), my hair (and face) still looks just like this. And with good reason. As soon as I can, I will need to go to Hair Cuttery again, instead of the fancy mall salon, and ask them to fix it again. I will spend a good chunk of valuable time today, time that was supposed to be quality time for the family, fixing a mistake I’ve made so many times before, relearning lessons I should be able to teach by now, instead of moving the f_ck on with my life. I’m 47.
Even though nothing sounds more exhausting to me than to “live every day like it’s your last,” another well-worn saying, I do think I’ve wasted enough time on silliness (the bad kind, I mean) to last a life time. To be youthful, even child-like, is one thing; this haircut business is another. Of course it is … . But enough. Time to act my age, be my age. To do so can only mean something good, something wonderful, if it does NOT mean saying goodbye to the wonder and freedom and possibility that seem often to be viewed as the exclusive territory of the young, and I don’t believe it does. One simply needs to admit the benefits of age, of every precious year of experience, into that place that still must remain, somewhere, in all of us.
So if age is just a number, it’s one that I believe should be heeded. Notwithstanding the freak accident (my grandfather died in a private plane crash at 50) or other unexpected tragedy (a former colleague, about 50 also, just suffered a massive heart attack while on vacation and is coming home in a body bag), your age can give you a rough idea of how much time you’ve got left, in theory anyway, when you take into consideration your lifestyle and family history. Our days are numbered (0r could be numbered in the end, anyway); we just don’t know what that number is (thankfully). Why hide from the fact that our time is limited, when it is precisely that which gives life its meaning, even though it also kind of sucks. And/but so while I don’t think you should obsess about your age, the last thing you should do is ignore it. These are YOUR years; these are MY years. This is our turn at life here on planet earth and bad as this place can be (bad as it is always somewhere for someone), it is also [ … ]. Just, I cannot imagine not wanting to be here, but I know at least part of the reason for that is that is that I’m still pretty young (why not?) and may have not experienced some of the things that can seriously, perhaps permanently, turn a person around in the joie de vivre department.
SO, I want to say goodbye to all the ways I’ve found to waste time, to avoid the risks that I know I need to take to live my life more fully, to become more completely the person I’m meant to be — and therefore in a position to contribute my most/best.
My mom posted the following on my Facebook page the other day. At first, I was thinking, “Oh, great timing. Anne Lamott? Now? Really? With all I have going on? Where were you with your Anne Lamott quotes back when I really needed them!? Thanks a lot.” But my thought now is simply: “Thanks a lot.” Thanks for the reminder. I’m 47. This year, this day, this moment, THIS ME, will never come again … to paraphrase a great Ray Bradbury quote. Can’t find it now, but maybe you will have more luck. If not, try any of the Sally O’Malley skits on the SNL site — she’s 50. FIVE-OH. And she likes to kick, stretch, and kick! And she’s very quotable also: “I got more juice in this tomato than all you fruits put together.” That one just never gets old. Never, ever, ever. Sorry. This has been a bit of a rambler. Thank you for hanging in there.
THANKS also to Roberto for giving me some time to post today (it’s been a while)!!! Time to go get this hair fixed….
“I did 47 years once before, so I can do it again”. Wonderful phrase! Anne Lamott has a point, no matter what chronological age we are at right now. I love that vision of being friends as old ladies. I have a friend my age who I joke that if we DO end up in one of those ‘homes’ in wheelchairs, we will absolutely be organizing wheelchair hall races! It’s good to have a vision for fun aging.
I volunteered in such a place for the summer when I was 15 years old. What an experience, so many little stories, but the woman that most haunts me is the one who asked this same question several times an hour, of anyone who happened to be around: “Excuse me. Could you tell me what I’m supposed to be doing right now?” The answer was usually some form of, “you’re doing it”: watching TV, staring out the window, etc. And then she’d just say, “Oh, I see. Thank you,” and go on until it was time again. THAT PLACE could have used some hall races! I was happy when school started again.
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