Well, it is on next Tuesday, June 11. I will be 53. I have been letting my hair take its natural course for the last year and a half. I have to admit, I like it. And, I have relaxed, not needing to rush off to the salon to get the roots covered before they become too much of an issue. Most of all, I have relaxed, because this is me. I’m 53, not 23, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t hide that fact. So, instead, I’m going with the age old wisdom that my mother has bestowed upon me since my earliest days. I’ll get to her wisdom in a moment.
When I was six, my siblings were 13, 15, and 17. In the summer, on the longest days of the year, in my rural Iowa hometown, I still had a bedtime, and it was before dark. I’m very happy to say that my pleas didn’t sway my parents. They did not weigh the judgement of the six year-old in the house when it came to what was best for me. They wanted a well-rested child the next day.
So, my early summer nights were filled with me in bed, while all of my siblings were up. Most often, my brothers were outside my bedroom window taunting me. This would drive me crazy! I would yell out the window for them to stop, which, of course, caused them to laugh at me.
For all the disfunction my father handed me, there was one night when he offered me a valuable lesson.
He walked into my room, and asked me if I knew why they kept taunting me. I said something like, “They just want to rub it in my face that they don’t have to go to bed and I do.” My dad didn’t disagree with that, but he didn’t acknowledge it either. Instead, he said, “They do it, because you respond. Stop responding, and they will stop.”
I had my doubts, but after two nights of me doing nothing, they quit.
It was situations like this that would lead me to complaining to my mother about the inequalities that I perceived existed between my siblings and me. Now that I’m an adult, I can see that things like this aren’t inequalities at all. They are simply stages of development that we move through growing up, and when these stages are put aside, and the child’s cry of perceived inequities is treated as such, and validated by the parents (i.e. letting the child stay up past their bedtime), the smallest person in the house begins driving the family bus. Good luck taking back the steering wheel without a very big fight.
But, I digress. What my mother would always say to me in these moments was this: “Connie Sue, you will never be this age again, so enjoy it while you are here.”
Now, I can admit, that as I got older, I would try to use her advice against her when it came to birthday or Christmas presents, or something I wanted to do with my friends by saying, “Come on, Mom. I’ll only be this age once. I won’t have this opportunity again. At least, not at this age.”
The one time this really worked to my advantage is when I got my mom to chaperone three of my friends and me (none of us could drive yet) on a road trip to Cedar Rapids to see Rick Springfield live. And, yes, everyone of us believed he had singled us out in the audience, and was singing directly to us.
I have applied this thinking to every year of my life. It has kept me young, because each age is different and new, and full of its own adventures. It keeps me present, because I won’t be back here again. And, it makes me mindful of those things I am still capable of doing, both physically and mentally, that might not be available to me in the future as I continue to age.
This mindset adds both vitality and a healthy impermanence to my journey that keeps me dreaming of the things that I want to accomplish at this age, because I will never be this age again.
This doesn’t exclude looking towards the future. For instance, one of the reasons I stopped doing pointe at 21 was because I wanted to walk comfortably at 50. Thus far, it was a good plan that worked.
So, I’m about to say good-bye to 52, which has been an exciting year. Tornado Dreams was published, my daughter is thriving, and my relationship with my husband continues to deepen.
I’m looking forward to 53. After all, it’s my only shot at being 53, so I want to make it the best shot I can.