As I look into the mirror and examine myself at too-close a distance, I can’t help but see the small changes that have been slowly taking over my body. Sometimes, I can fool myself into believing that I’m the same woman I was 20 years ago. Most of the time, though, those tiny changes scream at me that I’m losing the race against time.
Then I stop myself.
Why is youth something we work so hard at to maintain? Fear of one’s own mortality is a valid concern, but now that I’m almost 40, I find that a growing part of me wants to embrace all aspects of it, rather than recapture my youth. All the living I’ve done has only enriched my life and made me more secure in who I am.
And so, I look at myself once again, and sing a love song, of sorts, to 39-year-old me.
These eyes may have a few more crow’s feet around them, but they have seen wondrous things. They’ve seen the Grand Canyon at sunrise and sunsets off the southern tip of Italy. They’ve seen a man looking back with love in his eyes, as he says his wedding vows, and both a daughter and a son take their first breath. They have seen incredible movies and read powerful books. They have seen lakes and oceans and mountains and fields and shooting stars.
This belly may be a little softer and a little wider than it used to be, but inside of it, two babies grew from mere cells into actual humans. It stretched and extended itself, to accommodate each of those two beautiful children, and sheltered them until they became strong enough to face the world. This belly has enjoyed Pain au Chocolat in Paris, Garlic Soup in the Czech Republic and Fish & Chips on the coast of England. It has enjoyed nourishing, homemade salads, grassfed beef stew and chocolate chip pancakes made with love.
These breasts may not be as firm and perky as they once were, but they have nourished two children for more than three years, altogether. They have helped two babies grow into smart, inquisitive toddlers. They have been a source of comfort, as well as a source of food. And they have been well appreciated by the man who helped make those babies, regardless of whether they were perky or not.
This mouth may have more laugh lines than it did ten years ago, but it has shared stories, sung lullabies and laughed a hundred thousand times. It has murmured words of love, and expressed concern and offered support. It has read stories to children and sung countless melodies and made people laugh. It gave names to brand new babies and said goodbye to grandparents.
These bones may be a bit more creaky than they used to be, and this body may feel slightly stiff as it gets out of bed in the morning, but it has performed miracles. It has pushed babies out and scaled the Red Rocks of Sedona. It has danced a Bollywood dance routine and ridden horses and run and hiked and practiced yoga. It has healed torn ligaments and fractured bones and scrapes and bruises. It has tended gardens and built furniture and laid in the grass, under the stars, to feel the vastness of the universe.
Yes, this body and everything that comes along with it is getting older. Things may not look exactly like they used to, or work quite the same, but every ounce of change has been well-earned and well-deserved.
In a society that cherishes the young and not the old, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of the aging process. Men and women spend crazy amounts of money trying to look younger than they are. We earn every grey hair and every wrinkle, and should be wearing them with pride, instead of trying to cover them up.