I walk a number of steps past it before I turn around and pick it up to look more closely. The leaf is beautiful, lacy, old and delicate. I imagine it has been on this path after falling from one of the many towering trees all winter and its survival moves me. I hold it by the stem and though I have two miles left to walk before I am home, I decide not to leave it behind.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about the journey of aging this past year. A new decade begins in May and though I’d like to say I’ve moved through the last ten years with grace, humor and acceptance, these years have also been accompanied by a fair amount of horror and awkwardness.
And I’ve vowed to tell the truth, my truth anyway, in this blog. No bullshit.
Though I am not as frail as the leaf, I am a bit faded, a bit torn and not always able to be easily repaired these days. After a bout with plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and Morton’s neuroma (all in the same foot!), my doctor gently said, ‘this is not something you can power through at this stage in life. You will recover, but you need to take it slowly.” Moving slowly has not been my strong point.
A few months ago, I noticed that whenever I was getting dressed to go to work or out for dinner with my husband, I would walk to our full-length mirror saying to myself, ‘let’s see how bad this looks.’ I was frustrated with my injuries, the growth of my menopausal boobs and the loss of tummy tone and had stopped feeling good about my appearance most days.
I wondered if I was vain, lacking in character, or just plain shallow for focusing on my exterior changes. It took me some time before I began to understand the awful hangover of a youth where I was often rewarded for my appearance or attention was tossed my way as a result of my outward appearance. Like many women who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, sexism and misogyny was a fact of life. I think somehow all the objectification of my youth blinded me to the fact that I had learned to objectify myself.
How fucked up is that?
I’m a feminist, and a fairly smart and creative woman but I was fixated on my body as it began to show its age. I was judging my book by its cover. At times I was downright depressed when a pair of jeans ceased to slide over my thighs or a blouse refused to button.
And then I began to get pissed off. Why the hell was I wasting time worrying about my appearance and when the hell had I begun to be so disrespectful of my OWN body? Something was messed up and though I could certainly shine a spotlight on our messed-up media’s representation of the woman over 50, the buck had to stop here.
Who the hell wanted to spend decades lamenting what had past instead of what was here, what was today?
Wasn’t it possible, that though my body was showing its age, that just like this leaf, I had become blind to my own loveliness? Wasn’t it possible that the mirror I relied on was a carnival mirror, distorted by the reflection of a society that devalued women once they showed their age? I had begun to drink the very kool aid that I knew was poisonous.
Time to let my brain do some of the work.
When I was a young woman, the compliment which held the most power for me had to do with a compliment on my intellect. Sadly, there was an inequality in the interior/exterior equation.
Interestingly, there is a contradiction within this aha moment today. Though I find myself bewildered by my body, I also feel I’ve been freed. Freed from attention, or the kind of attention that’s superficial while my voice and brain have strengthened. I don’t like the cliché sound of this, but I feel I am finally coming into my power.
I am increasing in years and a I think a new kind of beauty is rolling around inside today. I like it.
I’m going to let my brain drive this train now.