I assumed when you got old, you intuitively knew how to get old. Like one day you woke up and decided to let your gray hair grow out, and you suddenly craved Metamucil and a weekly standing appointment at JCPenney to get your hair set.
But so far, that’s not how it’s working for me. Sure, I’m a few years off from mall granny. But I’ve never been so aware of the aging process as I have been over the past few years. I thought I’d be forever young until I wasn’t.
Complaining about aging often meets you with the, “You are lucky you are still alive” sentiment. I can confirm to you dear friend, that you can feel lucky for being alive AND think physically aging sucks and is scary.
I want to run like I used to- but I don’t have cartilage left under my knee caps, so I can’t. Boy does my brain wish my knees could still run- but apparently wanting it isn't enough. My shoulders ache from arthritis when it rains. My eyes squint a lot more- and I’m pretty sure directions on bottles now have micro-sized fonts. (At least that’s what I tell myself.) I don’t have crows feet- I have big bird ones. I’ve tried the Botox thing, and will probably do it again when I remember I don’t fully care for something that is expensive and only lasts 3 months. Plus, after one zealous poke job to get rid of my 11’s I saw a reflection I didn’t fully recognize. I don’t want to not look like myself. I just want to look like my 30-ish year old self.
Last year I went to Los Angeles for a podcast interview. I find all things nostalgia to be 20% pure bliss and 80% pain. I want to wallow deep inside it even though it hurts. It’s like the exact opposite of being grounded in the present moment, which is something I know is a direct route to happiness- so I try not to stay in the past for too long.
But being in Los Angeles is so painful, despite the fact that I am so glad I lived there for 11 years, and so glad I don't live there now. I just ache for the past, for the memories, and for the versions of me I was when I lived there.
One night I went walking though the heart of Beverly Hills- just a few blocks from my hotel. Holy ghosts of Christmas past. The September night air was warm and alive with the vibration of people and electric and energy. I stopped by a restaurant to order take out to bring back to my hotel. As I sat at the bar and waited for my order, I spotted a little girl in pajamas, her mouth curled into a shy smile. I instantly smiled back, and she started telling me her life story. I was enthralled.
A gentleman to my right started making small talk. (An introverts version of a horror movie.) I'd much rather be chatting it up with the two year old. He asked where I lived, and I shared that although I used to live here, I was now a resident of the Central Valley of California in Fresno. People in Los Angeles often refer to the city I live in as "the armpit of California". It's right in the middle, and isn't Los Angeles (South) and isn't San Fransisco (North). We are landlocked, and agriculturally based- and to those who are attracted to fast and shiny- we don't measure up. "Is that your grandaughter?" he asked, referring to my previous conversation partner sitting on my left.
My GRANDAUGHTER?! I asked, shocked. Feeling like the record screeched to a stop and everyone stopped and turned to listen.
NOT, I emphatically replied.
In fact, I have two small kids at home. (I recently realized since Greyson is 11 and Parker is 9, I can not factually call them small children anymore.) He hit me right where it hurts any woman. (How about you call me fat next sir?) But the truth is, I can no longer relate to the leading lady in the Lifetime movie. I am now her mother. When and how did this happen?!
The truth is, I am scared the best isn’t yet to come. Motherhood, and babies blew my mind and everything I thought I knew about the world. I am motherhood in my very core. Being needed so desperately was exhausting and so defining and everything I ever wanted but didn't even know until it happened.
And because of that, it kind of feels like the grand finale finish and encore happened in the middle of my life. It’s so hard to believe that- that stage of my life and motherhood is over. It makes my uterus ache. Expectant ultrasounds and diapers and exhaustion and chubby tummy raspberries and clothing in month sizes- it's all over. I stare at exhausted mommas and babies in Target longingly. It feels like there should have been a ceremony to commemorate this end I don't think i'll ever be ready to let go of.
I turn my eyes to the present, and try and focus on the good, knowing that has always been the key to my survival.
Parenting is so much less physically demanding now. Sleep is predictable, nightly and not interrupted by teething or growth spurts or stuffy noses. Clothing sizes last longer than 3 months. Diapers are a thing of the past. New milestones reached are just as magical.
Lately, he has loved helping in the kitchen. This never would have happened a few years ago.
And watching this took my breath away.
I know more of what I want and need from life, although sometimes it takes me a minute to get there. I know life is not a resume to be read out for validation, it’s a day to day and interaction to interaction. For the most part, friendships and relationships are truer, easier and drama free. The good ones take effort you are glad to put in, because it’s worth it. Life is still good- it is just different.
Last night we went to Hillcrest Farms, the oldest tree farm in the San Joaquin Valley, to experience the magic of moonlit steam train rides through the Redwood trees, and Christmas lights. There was live music and oversized fire bowls that crackled in the crisp December air.
|Hillcrest Farms Pajama Train Ride 2020|
My boys are both so excited for Christmas. As most people’s kids ours in age are stopping belief in Santa and the magic of Christmas, ours are just beginning. This is something I never ever expected. Their joy, especially Parker’s is contagious.
Hillcrest Farms has a real old fashioned steam train. The vibration while riding the train was electric and magic, and I had the good kind of lump in my throat. I felt so much gratitude for my boys, for the Holiday Season, for the birth of Christ which we celebrate in this Season.
The clear horizon of clean air and trees felt like something Mary might have witnessed as she made her trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and scenes from the Nativity on the ride put a tear in my eye . It was absolutely the best. And riding in the train I just kept looking at my boys thinking that over and over- this is the best. This is the best.
And driving home I wondered, is “the best” as far as seasons go- ever really “the best” from start to finish? Absolutely not. Babyhood is exhausting and leaky and for me was filled with constant doubt. Doubt I was doing the right thing. You feel a new lack of freedom. You forget who you were before kids. You long for alone time. It's hard.
This stage of life was an absolute blur.
Don’t the best of times always come with a side of the worst of times? (Charles Dickens would certainly agree.) And if that’s true- don’t the worst of times also always come with a side of the best somewhere inside of it? I wondered, even though I already knew the answer.
I don’t know what Act Two will bring. But I’m ready for it. Sending you so much love this Holiday Season. And if you aren't in the best of times, may they change soon.
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