Musings at 65
The harsh reality of getting older is that you know you are and can do nothing about it. But accepting that is freedom
And so this is who I am. The bare bones me. Facing growing older with an arsenal of knowledge and wisdom which can only come from having lived a life full of heartache, sorrow and oh so much love!
Birthday's serve us in many ways. They are reminders of so many things. They remind us of where we've been, and where we are headed.
As I turn 65, I am thinking back to the young girl I was. I always felt that I didn't measure up. Possibly I can attribute that to having come from a dysfunctional home life, but back then, all I knew was that I wasn't like my friends and that's tough on a young girl when she's struggling to find a place where she fits and belongs.
It was the 60's and I had curly, thick hair which didn't fit with the narrative of long, flat, straight hair. At less than 120 lbs. I thought I was fat. Being fat, or even thinking you were fat, also didn't fit with the narrative of looking like Twiggy.
Looking back I am now sure that my self-image was guided by my lack of self-confidence which was also guided by an intolerant mother whom I could not seem to please no matter what I did or how well I did it.
I was physically built more like a guy than a girl. I had broad shoulders and my body narrowed toward the bottom. I had no hips and no butt, But I did have great legs. But even with anyone telling me that I had a nice shape, or attention from the opposite sex, I still suffered from a terrible self-image.
When your'e a teenager, especially one trying to be like everyone else and just trying to fit in, you will do lots of things to achieve that oneness you crave. I ironed my hair. I would also torture myself by rolling my hair with orange juice cans or beer cans and then attempting to sleep on them, all in the name of straight hair. I wanted to look just like Jane Asher who was the girlfriend of the cute Beatle, Paul McCartney. Looking back I am amused that I ever thought, even with perfectly straight hair, that I COULD look like Jane Asher. But try as I might and burn my head and my ears and my cheeks as I did, I could never achieve...perfectly flat, straight hair.
I can remember, as a very young child, watching my mother put makeup on and watching her wash her face with Pond's Cold Cream and in that little girl way we all have, I loved seeing her get dressed up for an evening out with my Dad. She had great taste and gorgeous clothes and high heels which always seemed to match her outfits. She also had a jewelry box full of jewelry and I thought she was the Queen of Mt. Lookout, Cincinnati, Ohio when she stood in front of her dresser and transformed herself from an ordinary housewife and mother.
Those memories carried me through my life and created in me a need to always look my best. However, when you blend wanting to look your best, with an unhealthy background of feeling as though you never quite ARE your best, you create problems. Physical appearance to someone who suffers from self esteem issues is closely tied to acceptance from other people.
If you're pretty on the outside and look good, then people will love you and you will be accepted.
Perfection. What a tangled web we weave when we try to achieve the unachievable. I felt that need strongly as a young adult and young mother and wife. And while I damned near killed myself to be perfect in all things, I fell short when it came to my body image.
I gained weight, lost weight, gained more weight, lost more weight and all the while made myself miserable and no doubt did the same to those around me. It was always tied into some mythical need I had to be perfect and wanting to be accepted.
Anyone who has struggled with weight knows the demons we allow to live inside our souls and minds. On the outside, I could have finally won the battle I had waged with my hair and accepted that it would never be straight and even learn to like it. I could accept that my eyes were brown instead of blue and that one eye always looked larger than the other in photographs. But nothing mattered if my body wasn't sylph-like and slender. No matter that it never could be.
Oh how I regret those years! What I know now is that I missed so many chances to just relax and enjoy life. I missed photographs with my children and husband because I was too fat and didn't want a memory of me looking like that. No matter that I couldn't control the memories of the people who loved me and that they saw only the mother or wife that they loved for reasons that had nothing to do with how my body looked.
As I've grown older, I have softened my harsh judgement of myself. I suppose we all get to that point. We recognize that we aren't perfect and that trying to be is an inescapable exercise in futility. And we begin to forgive ourselves for whatever sins we perceived we committed by not being perfect.
I know now that the person I am has nothing to do with my outward appearance and everything to do with the fact that I love my family and my cats and my country and the friends I have and the lives I have touched by just being myself. I have come to the realization, as I turn 65, that the parts of me that are good now are those parts that would be good even if I looked like Jabba the Hut and Attila the Hun (thankfully I don't!)
I was blessed with good genetics. So not looking my age is nothing I can take credit for. I am half Lebanese and I am grateful for all the olive oil I ate as a child! I am also grateful that, despite her emotional problems, my mother taught me how to take care of my skin and how to make the most of what looks I have. I owe her my good sense of style and taste. I absorbed those things through osmosis. I say these things because when you are raised by someone who is critical of everything you do, you have to try really hard to finally come to the realization that regardless of the bad things, there were also good things that she taught you and gifts that she gave you which have endured.
I was never very confident as a young woman. That was proven in my need for perfection and my need to be told that I was good, wonderful, beautiful. But I have come to the understanding that being confident is finally being able to be all of those things without someone telling me that I am....even my mother.
We women are so hard on ourselves! We expect much more from ourselves than we ever do of anyone else. We are groomed to think that we must live up to someone else's perception of what we should be until it becomes our own perception of what we should be and its almost never reality.
We waste so many good years trying to be everything to everyone and we lose ourselves in the process and sadly, we end up losing time we can never get back. We rush through everything in order to achieve some elusive goal and we never truly seem able to find it, if indeed it ever existed.
Regrets always seem like such a waste of time. So as I do look back over these many years, I see the little girl and the teenager and the young woman who did her best, and often felt that her best wasn't good enough when in fact, it always was.
I was with my grandsons recently and there was an opportunity for a great picture to be taken of all 5 of them and I made the comment that they were messy looking and needed to be cleaned up. Someone much wiser than myself, opened my eyes to the moment by pointing out that the picture would be still be perfect, even if their clothes weren't.
We are never too old to learn.
Thankfully, I still am.
I'm stronger because I had to be.
I'm smarter because of my mistakes,
Wiser because of the sadness I've known
And now happier because I learned