Recently, I reconnected with a friend from years back. As we got together to catch up on years gone by, I was struck with how young this person looked despite the fact that we are the same age. I’m not sure what, but something in the last few years has accelerated the aging process in my body. That fact was confirmed last week as I sat and got a much needed haircut. As my hairstylist blew the cut hair off the apron that covered me, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the hairs were gray. A quick glance in the mirror when I got home revealed deep wrinkles and age spots on my face and even more on my neck. Discouragement set in quickly as I thought about the inevitability of the aging process–at least for some of us I guess.
I’ve heard all the words of wisdom about aging–how gray hair is a sign of wisdom and growing old is inevitable but growing up is optional.
Newsflash: at least for me, those sayings are crap.
Sometimes I feel like I just graduated from college or just became a mom. Sometimes I forget that I’m not 21 anymore. Well, I forget until I wear myself out trying to do something that I used to be able to do with ease. I remember, like it was yesterday, being a high school soccer player, running to the practice field a mile away, putting in 2 hours or so of practice, and then running back to the school. Fast forward a couple years. As a college soccer player, the long days of classes coupled with the long nights of studying and working full time didn’t take anything away from the energy I had to give on the soccer field. Even after getting married and becoming a mom, I coached my kids’ soccer teams and played on an adult team once a week in addition to the rigors of keeping a house clean and homeschooling. Now, just typing all this out exhausts me.
Now, when I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. Sometimes I don’t even know the person looking back at me. I was talking to a friend one day and this subject came up. He is much younger than I am but said that even he sometimes forgets that he is getting older. Yes, I chuckled when he said that given that he is probably the same age as my oldest son. (Gosh, that makes me sound even older–I have a son who is older than 25) My friend said that he believes the reason we tend to often forget that we have grown older is because we were created as eternal beings. In other words, our natural inclination is to know that we are going to live forever and it is the body that is wasting away–not the soul. I get that. I even believe it. Still, as I push my limits each day at the gym in hopes of achieving a fraction of the fitness level I once took for granted, I can’t help but feel down about the thought of never reclaiming youth. To add insult to injury, yesterday we went to brunch for Mother’s Day…our waitress charged the senior price for my meal. I wish I could have laughed about it like my family did. I pretended to, but inside it was one more crushing blow to a weary body.
Ponce de Leon set sail for the New World in search of a fountain of youth.
The book Tuck Everlasting revolved around the idea that a potion was found that would keep someone at the age they were once they drank it.
Beauty companies like Loreal and Olay produce products they claim will give one back the natural beauty that was once held effortlessly as a younger version of themselves.
Walmart has an entire aisle devoted only to hair color products, each one promising to hide the gray that may be adorning the head of the consumer.
Companies like Sephora and Cover Girl produce makeup that promises to hide the lines of aging and make one’s face youthful again.
The list could go on.
As I left the hair salon, as has been typical lately, I found myself fighting back tears once again. Each haircut takes away more of the natural brown color of my hair and leaves me with more gray. The thought repeatedly creeps in that maybe I should bite the bullet and color my hair. The only reason I haven’t done that yet is because I know, once I start, it will need to become a regular action. Not only do I not want to devote the time every month to sitting in a chair while my natural hair color is restored artificially, I don’t want to spend the money that involves either. I mentally have added what a monthly hair coloring would cost and, honestly, I can think of better places to spend that money–like spoiling my grandson or treating myself to something that I have cut out of my diet. In addition to these things, where does one stop at the expense of trying to reclaim youth? Do I spend hundreds of dollars then on a cream that promises to take away my aging look? Do I have injections or plastic surgery so that I can look like a woman instead of an old woman? I’ve seen Hollywood celebrities who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to look young; after a while, it doesn’t matter what you do. Age is going to happen and it is going to catch up with you.
Are there advantages to growing older? Definitely. But those advantages do not seem to outweigh the disadvantages for me. Society loves youth. The plethora of products claiming to return youth to the aged proves that fact. The rate of married middle aged men who leave their wives for younger women proves that fact. Television shows and commercials starring young, beautiful, fit people proves that fact. The loneliness of elderly people in nursing homes proves that fact. There doesn’t seem to be much incentive to live once old age sets in. For someone like me, who seems to be aging faster than my peers (who seem to look ten or more years younger than me), it is just another battle to fight–a battle that requires strength that just isn’t there.
I wish I could figure out why some grow old but do not seem to age. Perhaps there is no secret; instead, maybe it is just God’s blessing on their bodies. Today, I will once again avoid the mirrors in my home. I will avoid having my picture taken–why give myself a permanent reminder that I am no longer the person I used to be? I will spend time, again, contemplating why my friend still looks like she is in her twenties or thirties while I look like I am in my fifties or sixties. I will rationalize that I am a grandma after all, so I am supposed to look old. I will try to push out of my mind the images to which I compare myself. I will wonder, for the millionth time, why I am still alive given the limitations I seem to have mentally and physically. And, hopefully, at the end of the day, I will remember that age eventually catches up with everyone.
I just didn’t run as fast as some I guess.