I always assumed I’d grow old gracefully. I’m not sure why, I just figured I’d embrace aging like I did the rest of life - openly and without reserve. And usually, I’d like to think I do. Usually.
I mean, I’m not the mom who hangs out with my teenage child's friends in attempt to recapture my own glory days. I don’t dress like I’m still on the prowl (although it wouldn’t kill me to dress like a girl more often than I do). I get that my role in life has shifted with the passing of time, and in many ways I welcome it.
But every now and then, something makes me look back down the road and wonder how I got so far along the path so fast.
My last birthday was one of those moments. The number didn’t bother me, it was people’s reactions to the number. It seemed like everyone said, “Wow, you don’t look that old.” On the surface, it seems like a compliment. But there was a common thread in every single person’s inflection that changed the sentence and made me start to wonder. It was this resounding emphasis on the word, “that.” As in, “Wow, you don’t look that old.” I can be a little slow, but about the third or fourth person, it struck me: Maybe I am getting old.
And then there was the selfie I took to show the baby chicken that had taken up roost on my shoulder. I couldn’t bring myself to share it because the woman in the picture had an old neck. Maybe I do look that old after all. But it’s okay. It’s what necks do. They age, just like the rest of a body.
But tonight, watching Netflix with my teenage son, something in me wanted to dig my heels into the ground and cry that enough is enough. Maybe it was the combination of the movie, the dose of Christian Slater that came with it (reminding me of fanciful teenage daydreams), and then having a serious conversation about colleges with the aforementioned son.
It hit me that it’s his time to stand before a limitless world, gazing upon opportunities and wondering which one will lead to his story. My own story is already well in motion and dictated by the choices I made - or didn’t make - along the way.
Maybe the trick to growing old gracefully is knowing you lived life for all it’s worth, that whatever your story, you were an active participant. If I have any regrets, it’s that I spent too many years afraid, too many years drifting while life happened to and around me. But at least I woke up before it was over. I took a deep breath and dove into my dreams before they slipped completely out of my grasp. (Although, alas, it seems Christian and I weren’t meant to be…)
I’ve always thought there was a certain irony to my middle name - Ann. It means full of grace. I could cause myself serious harm walking down the street. Graceful is not an adjective that typically describes me. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to live up to my name in this.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.