Been feeling my age lately, I have.
It’s not just the bad back, or the sagging jowls, or the fact that most commercials I see have people younger than I am — unless it’s for retirement homes, Medicare Advantage, or the 32,740 drugs Big Pharma wants you on for every condition (or supposed condition) they can think of.
It’s looking back and realizing how many parts of my life I don’t want to remember.
When you don’t have kids or grandkids, the passage of time kind of sneaks up on you. You’re constantly thirty- or fortysomething in your head, and then you look in the mirror in shock, or your body hits you upside the head with a Clue Brick.
And you generally don’t have the happy memories that family milestones can leave you with.
The world was my oyster on June 11, 1973. Or so I thought.
When I think back over the past fifty years or so — the years since I left home as a high school graduate — I cringe at how many mistakes, double-backs and idiotic decisions I made.
I lived a life that was roller coaster no brakes; I was impulsive and had a hair-trigger sense of resentment and anger; I judged everything and everyone.
Monetarily, I careened from frivolous to downright blind about the realities of it.
I lost friends because of my attitudes; I trusted no one because no one trusted me.
Yes, that’s me. 24 years old and having no idea of what was ahead.
I spent far too much time living a fantasy life in a re-enactment group that kept me from facing my hard realities.
But oh, I could put on a good show for the groundlings and casual strangers (and myself from time to time), so I never looked — REALLY looked — at what I was doing. And no one else asked me to, either.
The results of all that: two bad marriages, constantly dancing on the edge of poverty, losing job after job. A family who saw me as the failure they were ashamed of.
And there were the things that weren’t my fault, but happened anyway: rape and abuse.
Is it any wonder I try not to think back on the past decades?
What snapped me awake and woke me up to what I *could* be were two things:
The best day of my life:
October 19, 2002
ONE: I finally married the right guy.
TWO: Eighteen months later, I got breast cancer for the third time and the Dolly Parton-esque figure I’d had since age 11 (and traded on since I was 18) was destroyed through surgery and botched aftercare.
And I can remember many things since then.
2007.Three years post surgery, and watching myself age ten times as rapidly as I did before the hormone stripping.
Since the Cancer Dance, as I call it, I was completely forced to re-evaluate every single thing about myself: my attitudes, my needs, my self-vision.
And I finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to be, or still “own,” all the things I was in the decades previous.
Didn’t mean I could pretend they didn’t happen — they did.
But I could stop using them as a personal measuring stick. And stop playing them over and over again in my head.
In the twenty years since the surgery and botched aftercare, there are many good memories. It hasn’t been easy, and there have still been ups and downs.
But I understand now why I am really feeling my age, and why I can no longer fool myself into thinking that the calendar is miswritten.
Today. Deep into my Elder years, and someone the 24 year old me wouldn’t recognize —
or admit to.
I hope to use whatever time is left to me — five years, ten, twenty — to make more good memories. To use the hellfires I went through to carve my compassion for others more deeply into my psyche, and to be a better teacher and counselor.
And now, every day when I awaken, I remind myself I *get* to get up that morning. And today is unwritten.