When you turn 37 and suddenly discover you need glasses, it can come as a shock. You thought you would never get to this time in your life, never have to use glass to see the world clearly. You probably fended off those who suggested you might need a little help, because, in truth, you don’t want a little help in any area of your life. You are fine on your own two feet thank you very much and this niggling soul, often someone close, is turning the mirror around so that you can see who you have become…….or not quite see who you have become, for this slightly blurry person is so not you. You are on the outside of the looking glass. I remember being there and all sorts of thoughts and feelings rose to the surface of me, bubbling me into new rooms where I found my old mother and other ancient animals. I blamed my busy life, my husband for wearing me out, my work load and so on. The consideration that I, of all people, was victim to the aging process, was one I was not prepared to face.
Children run without a care. They burst through gates and leap over rocks and not for one minute do they consider falling. They may well fall but they don’t worry about it ahead of time, so caught up are they in following each other, of being the leader, of getting from here to there as quickly as possible, of laughing into the sky, of being one with the moment.
I remember being like that even as a young woman, an older young woman. When did I get caught up in the idea of falling? I have to tell myself, firmly and often, whilst facing the rocks in between me and the curled lip of a wave, to forget myself, forget my feet, just go! After all, I have done this a hundred times and never once planted my face in the kelp. But no matter how much talkback I give the monkey, the monkey confounds me, arrests my itchy feet, cautions me to slow, to consider, to walk the run. Am I alone in this?
When I sit down to paint on my face for the day, I am cautious about the application of each product. I have seen orange old ladies many times, or those with the scooped line of the wrong colour foundation dancing around their chins as they talk. I have seen lipstick bleed and spiders legs sticking out like fencing around receding eyeballs and I have thought to myself, Well, when that is me I shall make certain I look hilarious. What I don’t want is to lay too much store by the falsehood of ‘better not tell her and upset her’, and that process begins with me. I will laugh at myself, I will, I will, and that will then free others to feel okay about pointing out that my lip liner is green when it is green, and the red around my eyes makes me look like a hamster. It is easily done, and although I haven’t done it myself on those early dark mornings when specs and mascara will not mix and I have had to take especial care in my colour selection, a friend has. She pulled into a layby to touch up her face before arriving at a party, and in the gloom of an interior car light, surrounded her mouth with green eye liner. Actually, it looked rather swish and she may well have influenced others to try it out next time they went dancing. She looked stylish and different and I like stylish and different. Her sense of humour is always Head Girl in her life, and once she realised what she had done, she did not rush to the bathroom for a scrub, nor ask the floor to open wide, oh no indeed. She remained for the evening, engaged in animated conversation, all the while just knowing that the person opposite was doing everything possible to avoid staring at her mouth.
Although some of the quick moving things in life can still be quickly moved, many cannot. But boundaries must always be pushed out a bit, for they do tend to move in, ever so quietly, and probably at dead of night. If we must do something that makes us uncomfortable every day, then I am onto a winning streak, for the questions and the emotions that float up to the surface as life takes what she needs from each one of us challenge me to remember who I am, not who I was. This who I am thingy means I must be still and in the moment, like children are, although children are rarely still. And, what is more, it isn’t just one decision. It requires consistent focus and attention. It is all too easy to join the sick queue, not even realising we are in it. In order not to buy in to what all the young people fear, ie old age, we must work like never before. Where life was effortless, no moisturiser required, it now requires effort and moisturiser. I see so many folk by the side of the wrinkly road and they make me sad. Talking about ‘how it was in my day’ is lovely if the children or grandchildren want a jolly good laugh, but that is where it stops. If we allow ourselves to recede, the path is an easy one, but if we rage against the dying of the light, we can have specs in every room, we can sit on them, lose them, laugh at them and make others laugh too. We can reach the sea however long it may take. The mistake is not to bother going at all simply because it takes longer to pull on boots, because we have a sore back, because we might get cold. What we will miss is this:-
The seabirds dipping and soaring above the salt; the colour of the sand, the squelch of kelp; granite, orange with lichen, white with fungus,sharp-edged or rolled into soft by endless tidal flow; the sound of children laughing into the breeze, the puddles along the track, the spring birdsong, a sudden wren singing aria atop a fallen branch; new shoots on winter trees, a chance meeting with others who also chose to seize the day; rain, sudden and heavy, and the merry dash for shelter; the feel of boots, their crunch and squish and squeak as they carry us along; a small cold hand in yours, the gift of a shell, a hazelnut, a pebble; the crazy barking dance of a happy dog.
Perhaps we can change the fear of aging if we do bother, if we do teach ourselves how to inhabit the moment, forgetting the past, forgetting the future. We can do nothing about either, but, right here, right now, well………there be dragons and magic and anything is possible.
Put your specs on and take a look. It’s a fairyland out there.