This is where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible ~ W.S. Merwin
I recently added another year to my fifth decade on this side of the world. I must say I love this decade most of all. When I think about it, I spent the first decade in the warm embrace of childhood, the next in the weird and off center world of adolescence and young adulthood and part of my twenties being a true blue party girl before I settled down in marriage. My thirties were an intense period spent raising my sons. I would like to write off my forties in some respects; I think that I spent most of that decade just surviving! But then again, I believe that period set the stage for the freedom and peace of mind that I am now experiencing.
I was talking the other day with my fiance’ ( I totally love saying that by the way) about the fact that when you reach our age, you feel like you’ve lived several lives. I mean, really, I am old enough to remember the 1969 moon landing ( I was eight and the memory is quite vivid), the revival of the women’s movement (I used to get Ms. magazine in the mail when I was a teenager), the Vietnam War, disco, punk and eighties music (but seventies rock still rules!). It sometimes blows my mind that I have lived this long, not because I feel old but because so much has happened in what seems likes such a short period of time.
For women in particular (but certainly not totally excluding men), our bodies are markers of our age and of the life we have led. Ignoring the media blitz of false body images is a constant practice of vigilance for many of us regardless of our age or size. Ignoring the images of youthful good looks for those of us who are past forty only adds to the mix.
When I think about it, my body has been reincarnating itself for as long has I have been experiencing each decade. I never was the girl who was slim of waist and rounder in the hips. My mother used to buy me “boy’s cut pants” when I was young because none of the girls pants fit quite right. As I became a teenager, my body looked much the same due to the fact that I ran 50-70 miles per week. Zero body fat leads to low weight and no breasts (plus no menstrual cycle)! In fact, I don’t think I wore a running bra until I was nineteen! Of course, my college years were marked by less running and more pizza and beer. For the first time in my life, I felt and looked fatter. Plus, I had finally reached puberty!
When a more regular work out and less of a party regiment began in my mid twenties, my body became more solid but never as slim as it once was. Then, of course, I became pregnant and that changed everything. It was a challenge to feel attractive and not fat. My pregnant body was huge on my 5’4″ frame and I gave birth to babies that were one-third of my height! Never mind their large weight. The pressure to return to pre-pregnancy weight and shape was present for sure. I had no trouble doing either as I love to exercise and eat well. But let me tell you, stretch marks never go away! My middle bears witness to the size of my sons and I have learned to embrace and accept this fact.
It was during my mid to late forties that my body took on a whole new shape. The stress and trauma of separation and divorce caused a very dramatic loss in weight which lingered at a low point for nearly two years. Funny thing is, many of my friends, family and colleagues were worried and thought I looked seriously ill while my estranged and soon to be ex-husband thought I looked great. It wasn’t until the worse of the situation was over that I could begin to eat again.
The confluence of healthy weight gain and peri-menopause was at first quite jarring. Not only had I gained weight but my shape became more square. I was extremely self-conscious of this new look. A colleague recently shared it was like “my boobs falling and my stomach exploding!” I have come to accept that this is the natural order of growing older. I take good care of myself and work very hard to stay in shape. I look fine and most of the time I feel young-maybe thirty or thirty-one. The writer Anna Quindlen would call this my “resting age rate.”
And I take care of my face without breaking the bank. Wash, tone, moisturizer and a little makeup work well. I color my hair and recently added foils to the hair care list. They enhance my look-according to my hairdresser-and do not hide my age. The way I look at it, I am being born again. I have gotten another chance to start my life over. It is not only fun but filled with laughter, love and true happiness. My hope is that I can spread this kind of energy to others and live my own life as if I were going to be born again tomorrow.
Parts of me that I never even knew I had sometimes ache- but parts of me I never knew I had in my brain sing ~ Robin Morgan