Sometimes I feel like the real me is back there. And the sun is shining on and around me but not through me, and it’s cast a long whispy shadow out in front. And that shadow? Well that’s the thing that can’t be, but is. We’re attached. It moves like I do. Bears my shape. Goes where I go.There’s no denying that it’s mine, yet there’s no accepting what it is. Not only mine, but me. The version I’m becoming that’s there but isn’t there.
There is a struggle going on between the middle aged me and the original me. This resistance to accept what’s coming. This desire to cling to what came and went.
The other day I looked at my watch and I noticed when I turned my wrist there were … lines? Creases? Dare I call them … wrinkles? On my arms? How can that be? And then something that felt like defeat dropped into my gut while I thought “There it goes. My arm skin. And the real me is back there with the sun glistening on my young arm skin.”
I have a moment like that several times a week these days.
There is a struggle going on between the middle aged me and the original me. This resistance to accept what’s coming. This desire to cling to what came and went. And that’s what this place is for, I guess. To urge our shadow selves go and give our original selves a big hug. To go tell that little girl, that this is ok. That this is beautiful even. That there is far more dignity in embracing this than fighting it.
But what does that look like? This embracing of age? Does that mean we just let ourselves go? Does that mean we just say “faghettaboudit” and go get a moo moo for each day of the week? Certainly not!
It means we go get the best moisturizers our budgets will allow and then we marinate our arm skin in it.
And we lift weights to force that arm skin to smooth out the best it will and can.
And when that doesn’t work anymore we just say screw it and move on to delighting in decorating our arm skins with beautiful watches, gorgeous sweaters and stacks upon stacks of bracelets. Because arm skin is not what will define us. If we don’t allow it.
It means we laugh at it. And then we work with it. And then we share that laughter and our new tricks with the shadows of our friends, and maybe we walk them back to their sunlit selves and encourage and perhaps even supervise a hug between the two.
An elderly lady once told me she always felt sadly surprised by her own voice, because in her mind she was still 27, but when she spoke she didn’t recognize the sound of her own words. “It sounds like an old woman,” she said. “I’m not an old woman.” It seemed tragic to me. Not the idea of sounding older, but the idea of feeling detached–as though the only you there ever was, was youthful and spritely and she stayed back there, while some altered untethered you goes a-wandering.
I don’t think it has to be that way. I don’t know that our hearts will ever dress our age. As a matter of fact my heart will most likely forever wake up and put on a slinky dress, stilettos and a saucy shade of lipstick. But I hope my shadow self will always wink at her with understanding eyes—the warmest kind of eyes–telling her to go on with her bad self, while I put on something a little more sensible, because I’m cold and my feet hurt too much for those crazy shoes.
I’m accepting that I’ll forever exist somewhere back and forth between the two: the sunlight and the shadow. Suspecting I’ll need them both over and over again for the rest of my life, just as we all have and we all will since the beginning and until the end of time.
My heart will most likely forever wake up and put on a slinky dress, stilettos and a saucy shade of lipstick.
After all, do you know what night is? Night is just what it looks like for us to sit the earth’s shadow for awhile. It’s where things rest and stars sparkle and we watch the moon pull the tides back and forth. It’s where things cool, and when we heal. When we put up tired feet and lay down weary heads, sing lullabies and whisper earnest prayers. It’s when a long busy day in the sun winds down to the quiet comfort of a bowl of soup, a lovely story, the hugs of our loved ones. There is great hope and renewing in the shadow, and so I look forward to making it my friend.