Staring at the face tagged in a photo on my Facebook page, I bolted out of my chair like a missile exploding from an abandoned silo. I ran straight to the bathroom mirror, praying it wasn’t so. Pulling the folds and wrinkles back that had somehow magically appeared overnight, I shrieked horrified, “When did you become a crone?”
Not long ago, I was 55 and experiencing the prime of my life. All my body parts functioned, my hair cooperated after each cut, and my pants zipped with ease. The aging process had begun, but the train hadn’t run off the track. Growing old, in my mind, would be a breeze since each step so far had brought only minute changes. Then, I saw my image on the computer and realized that the Amtrak engine was full speed ahead.
Once I loved having my picture taken. With each new Kodak moment, a happy place in time was captured for posterity, then strategically taped to the refrigerator door for all to “ooh and ah” over. Now at 61, I see a camera and run in the opposite direction. I know it’s my vanity’s demonic side holding me down and that I shouldn’t be so shallow. After all, the aging process happens to all of us. But I wasn’t prepared for it to be quite this soon. In my mind, 80 would be soon enough.
Just as in other moments of ego overload, the universe set in motion a revelation that not only put me in my place but screamed: “get over yourself.”
Recently, I was gathering memorabilia for a family album with photographs of my children’s lineage from their great grandparents on. Sorting through the few I had of our ancestors; it was understandable why there was only that, a few. Photography was complicated at the turn of the century and photo ops were rare. When I couldn’t find many of my mother after the age of 62, I became crestfallen. Then it occurred to me that she too hated seeing herself in print and shied away. Now, I had nothing to remember her by.
Aging gracefully not only takes acceptance, it demands sheer force of willpower to embrace it. We live in a society that worships youth, and the media suffocates the mind with stories on how to freeze-frame our natural evolution.
For my entire life, I thought my mom was the most beautiful creature God ever created. Even more so in her final years. This keeper of the Madden jewels, those memories so often forgotten, was the hub of the family wheel that kept things turning smoothly. Despite the fact her last days were shrouded in excruciating pain due to her cursed body, she walked in grace with an infectious sense of humor. I never noticed the wrinkles she hated, only a face that loved unconditionally.
So, now I’m trying out a new attitude: Bring on the cameras and iPhones! Kids, I’m ready for my close-up. I promise I won’t run away, turn my back or hide in a closet. Snap all you like. Out of the one-hundred you shoot, I’m sure there will be at least one I like, and for all the ones that aren’t so lucky, there’s a magical little button labeled “delete” that will take off the rest.
My children will have pictures to go along with their memories of our time together. No matter how old I become, I want them to remember this delightful journey our souls have traveled together on and that there for a space in time there was a woman who loved them with all her heart.
We all have times in our lives where we don’t like how we look. I’d love to know how you get past those moments of insecurity and vanity.