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How To Act Your Age
How OLD are you?
I don't know how to act my age. Looking in the mirror, I pause, wondering. Inside, my mind reels with activity, thoughts, dreams, plans, goals. Outside, I am my mother. "How did she get here?", I wonder.
I recently began using wrinkle cream. At forty two, I fear I may have damaged my skin beyond repair, during my youthful days of sunning myself. Spending hours everyday, religiously rubbing oil, rolling myself every half hour. Too thin to care about exercise. Too vain to care about skin cancer. I examine my sunspots closely, hoping they will fade. I religiously apply sunscreen. I wear a hat. The things my older friends do. We are hoping to slow the clock, as it marches relentlessly forward.
Beyond my looks, I do not know how to act the proper mental age. My friends are in their fifties and sixties. We all want to learn. We want to grow. We thirst for knowledge, we hunger for learning, and we want to teach others. The younger ones. But they aren't hungry yet, for what old ladies know. They don't respect the vast knowledge that years bring. They enjoy the blissful ignorance of youth. Book knowledge, without experience. They have learned, but they have not yet lived.
Aging with children
I can't claim to have much experience yet. Married. Divorced. Remarried. Again. And then again. Learning lessons in love and marriage.
I have lots of kids. And I have learned lessons in becoming an adult the day they send you home with another human being to care for. I have learned about sending children off to school, and homeschooling, and teenaged daughters and sons and adult children. The lessons I learn from my eight children are sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful, and always, always memorable. Children take you places you never thought you'd go.
From the pain of actual childbirth, to the pain of watching my children suffer, the pain and anxiety of watching them grow into adults and make their own decisions and their own mistakes, I have grown.
The experience of raising children has been teaching me and aging me since I was a mere child of 18. Looking back, I am amazed that I felt so grown up and capable at the time. When looking at my own children, as they pass the magic age of 18, I can't imagine burdening them with the worries of a child.
Becoming a parent ages you in ways that you can never imagine, and takes from you a carefree nature that you will never recover. Being a parent never ends, and you never get back those years. They are not lost, but you have been altered and aged.
A Granny who knows how to say young!
Death, where is thy sting?
I have not yet been widowed. My parents live on. The sting of death has touched me closely only once, briefly. My sister died at a relatively young age, 21. She had lived a lifetime in those few years. She lived fast and wild and free, in a way that made me envious due to my own responsibilities.
My sister's death left a permanent, indelible mark on my mother's spirit. My mother has hurt for years.She has suffered a lifetime of pain, since the passing of my baby sister. I was too young and self involved to see beyond my own pain. I wish I could have offered my mother the comfort when she needed it.
My sister's death came as a sudden blow, although she had been sick for a year. It was a glimpse into the eventual fate we all face. It was a sobering glance into the future, which can never be avoided by any of us.
Now that I understand my mother's great loss, the scar is set on her heart. Her pain deep and untouchable. She aged a lifetime, giving up her desire for fun and youth to grieve the loss of her beloved daughter.
My own children live healthy lives, and I sometimes feel guilty for my good fortune. I realize that I have no control over their lives, nor their eventual deaths. I have let go of micro-managing every decision and move they make. And I watch them as they age, with a mix of angst for the future, relief that they have made it this far, and anticipation for the things they will accomplish.
Gaining freedom and finding youth
I spent my children's youth, and much of my own youth shrouded in fear. I clothed my fear in religious zealotry, thinking religion could save me from the dark scary world. I sheltered my children, home schooled them and protected them in the name of God.
I hid myself. Cowered from my husband and hoped that God would save me. God wasn't love back then. He was punishment, vengeance, and anger. I knew I was paying for my youthful indiscretions, and for things I might do wrong in the future.
I didn't act my age then. I acted old, dead, and scared. Life was not for living. It was for enduring. There was not much I enjoyed, there wasn't much life in me, and I certainly felt old beyond my years. I was filled with fear, dread and anticipation of worse to come.
Slowly I emerged. After twenty years of penance, I broke free from the chains of fear that bound me. In the process of grasping my freedom, I discovered a God of love, forgiveness and peacefulness. I learned that life is for living, exploring, enjoying. In the process of becoming free, I became a much younger, happier version of myself.
And now. Now, I certainly don't act my age. I feel alive, young, eager, hopeful. I want to learn, to know, to grow. And when I look in the mirror, I wish I had started sooner. I figure I have sixty nine years left on this earth. In this form. I want to make a mark, albeit a small one. I want to touch and heal lives. I want to make a difference in someone's life today.
The Fountain of Youth
Never Grow Old!
So how do you act your age? I wish I knew. My kids wish I knew. Their stodgy, strict, angry, fearful mother has transformed into a free flying spirit, embracing the cosmic energy, and flowing with the movement of the angels. They hardly know what to do with me. I hardly know what to do with myself.
My advice for acting your age: Grow. Be happy. Wear sunscreen, and a hat. Do something to brighten someone else's day. Be the best you that you can be. And that is the age you should act.