I’ll never forget the sound of laughter coming from my grandmother’s bathroom years ago as she finished getting ready for one of our weekend lunch dates. Staring with a raised eyebrow at the closed door, I listened as the 75 year-old matriarch of my family collected herself and then quietly emerged, shaking her head.
“Grandma,” I said, making no attempt to hide the amused grin on my own face, “what was so funny?”
“Oh, Lisa,” she answered, giggling again, “inside I still feel like an 18 year-old girl and I’m always so shocked to see that the mirror disagrees with me!”
My grandmother passed away just a few years later, but her extraordinary outlook on life continues to influence the way I view myself – and my own life – every day.
Just a few months ago I looked in the mirror and realized that I’m starting to look a little different, too. I’m never asked for an ID when I buy a bottle of wine anymore, the fewer men that glance my way are much older, and cashiers have started calling me ma’am. My God…. I’m a “ma’am” now. When did THAT happen?! Somehow, the slow and steady crawl of time caught up with me, seemingly overnight, and I’ve entered a different age bracket. I’ve been a mother for years, but suddenly I look like one. Occasionally, I’m even surprised by the reflection I see in a store window as I walk by. Despite diet and exercise, despite the use of anti-aging creams and living a healthy lifestyle, I am getting older – and it’s bringing change whether I’m ready for it or not.
Age has, of course, also brought valuable gifts that would have been lost on my younger self. I force myself, diligently, to remember them. Sure, every now and then I see the beginnings of a new wrinkle, my knees remind me that I’m not 20 anymore, and I’m faced with the realization that, when I finally find myself with the time to perform in a theater production again, I’ll likely be cast as a Madame Morrible instead of an Elphaba. But when I’m lamenting the loss of my youth I try to remember my newly found self-respect, my unabashed assertiveness, a recently found ability to set limits with people who would otherwise consume me, wisdom balanced by hunger and an excitement that there is always so much more to learn, a heightened appreciation of culture, the kind of strength that can only be learned through ongoing adversity and perseverance, a recently learned ability to be kind to myself and a far clearer vision of who I am and what I truly want out of life.
Like my grandmother, I still feel like an 18 year-old girl with a full life ahead of me. I may never be able to laugh at what I see in the mirror, but I am trying to speak to my reflection and ask for its understanding and compassion as my declining vision adjusts to the older face staring back at me, and my mind learns to accept the knowledge that, in this life, the only thing that stays the same is change.
photo credit: alanis.simmons.edu