Today I was invited to my neighbor's leaving do. She's moving to a care home in the town where her daughter and family are. I walked into a room of 50 silver and grey-haired women, all in their 70s and 80s, dressed in bright colors and jangly bracelets, holding glasses of lemonade and champagne.
I felt so uncomfortable at first. I mean, here I was, 44 years old, in a room with people I don't know anything about, who are at death's door, right? That's what I felt like. I felt out of place. Too young. As I was walking through the room smiling and clutching my lemonade like a life raft, I overheard snippets of conversations about hip replacements, bone scans, brain scans, teenage grandchildren, care home reservations, wills, dead husbands. I thought, is this my future? Am I staring into the abyss? I felt slightly invisible. And then, a woman named Mimi started asking me questions about life. And I asked her about whether she fears death. And then the lessons started happening. Mimi told me about how she's 77 and interviewing care homes that have acres where she can do her daily walks, and specifically 'not have a lot of boring people that live there'. She acted about 20 years younger than her age, and her eyes had stories in them. She told me she was being interviewed for a 'sanity test' if she wanted to live at this place. I know, isn't it crazy, she leaned in and laughed. I asked her what they needed to know, and she said that they'd probably ask her the year, and what she used to do for work. I said Mimi, you should tell them you used to be a stripper, which is how you can afford to live at this care home. We both laughed so hard we started to cry.
And that's when I realized that these women were just living in different chapters of their lives, but all in such similar ways. Women's lives come together, splinter off, and then come back together with the most amazing tapestries of stories stitched together to make the same quilt. They all lost their husbands in the last 10 years, they all had babies in their 30s, they all had a collection of lovely jewelry and comfortable houses, but they all knew they had to let a lot of that go and start again.
And that's what we do, we start again. We live new lives with old stories as the foundation.
Western society tells us to delay aging, to back away from it, as if the mere denial of it keeps us young and attractive somehow. It creates marketing and money around the idea of living 'agelessly' so we buy eye creams and face creams and we get plastic surgery to try and revive the skin of our youth. But reclaiming those stories feels like we delay the ones that we need to learn from in the present; we miss the ones happening to us at the moment, because we're wishing for the past.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to stand in a moment and spend time with the person we are? To cherish every line and scar, and not admonish our bodies for not 'behaving', but instead celebrate them for getting us this far? It's not exactly easy, but every second we spend wishing away our existence, we move more quickly in time; we blink and we miss the years that were given to us to live fully. Our legacies are being written every day- what we choose to write is important.