How Non-Issues to One Are Real Issues to Another
― Oscar Wilde
As I am writing down my thoughts and feelings, I am very aware of their insignificance in the big scheme of things. I wonder why I am writing at all. Surely, faced with climate change, natural disasters, people facing health or financial issues or even fighting for their existence, my every day minor struggles pale in comparison. They are shallow, futile non-issues.
But they matter to me. As the world is changing, so is my world. As I grow older, everything seems to change at a sped up pace. I am not in any immediate danger. I am fairly healthy and, for once in my life, I am fortunate enough to have no financial worries.
I have a house to call my own, a husband, work I enjoy, pets to care for. For the first time in my life, all my modest wishes have been fulfilled.
Still, I am having a hard time.
Shame on me? Perhaps. Shame on anyone who has everything but still is not happy, right?
But how fair is that? I think all problems are real for the person dealing with them. There’ s no such thing as “non-issues”:
everything is important if you care — and dare — to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
What I am having a particularly hard time is The Change — a ridiculous term in itself. Don’t get me started on that.
My body is changing, and I don’t like it. Things I once took for granted can no longer be counted on.
I shouldn’t complain. It’s only logical, after all, for my body to give up on me after all the abuse I put it through for almost half a century. But the timing is never right. For inside, I don’t feel 55 years old. I feel about 35.
At 35, my body is still in reasonable shape, though — as ever — somewhat overweight. My skin is a glowing honey in summer, a warm ivory in winter and still taut and flexible. My hair is curly and shiny and still an even dark brown. My memory is as sharp as it can be — I enjoy a glass of good wine or an occasional whiskey. I’m in my prime.
Not that I’m enjoying it though — I’m facing several challenges, on top of which life threw me some curveballs. I’m not living the life I think I should and I’m lonely. I have health problems, money problems and I haven’t met my husband yet. I might have some good taste, but lack the means to show it. I am living in my parents’ house and desperately crave independence.
So maybe not 35. Come to think of it, there is no age I’d rather be than the age I am today. I’ve never been healthier (though still somewhat overweight, as ever), there’s money in the bank, I’m living in my own house, at a three hour drive from where I grew up, with my husband, my faithful companion. I have never cared less about the opinions and criticisms of others and, under the circumstances, I am as comfortable as I can be in my own skin.
I love being 55 today.
Unless I look in the mirror.
These days, when I look in the mirror, I see my parents — my mother, most of the time. These days, I have to make more of an effort to be me. I started wearing some eye makeup again, emphasizing my eyes, just so I recognize and like who I see in the mirror again. My mother and I are very different, yet share similar features. I have her nose and mouth, but the shape of my face and my brown eyes are very much my father’s. In the shape of my body, I recognize my mother again. She, too, has been overweight for the greater part of her life. As I watch myself on our security camera footage, plodding across our yard in a less than charming way, I become very aware that my mannerisms are painfully similar to my mother’s.
Yet I see my father in the mirror as well. That is even more of a worry. He seems to have passed his eternally disgruntled face on to me. My colouring is his legacy, of course: my all too serious brown eyes, my curly hair, the slight tint of my skin, the shape of my face, which seems to have drooped, adding to that dissatisfied look.
“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”
― Mark Twain
Even in school, people used to tell me all the time not to look so grumpy. The thing is, unless I am smiling, the corners of my mouth face down, dragging my entire face down with them. The only remedy is to smile like an idiot all the time. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that.
My hair, too, is a worry: a frizzy mop instead of the luscious curls I always imagined. After letting it grow for many years, hoping it would someday reach my butt, I have to resign in my hair having reached its maximum length. Shoulder length seems to be the best it can do. And of course it’s started greying.
A part of me wants to have it cut into a modern short coupe, but I realize, once it’s off, that’ll be it. No more ponytail or braids, options that are now still available to me. Moreover, I dread hairdressers.
The one thing I used to pride myself on was my skin. It used to be smooth and firm, without me having to apply lotions, creams or such at all — I have always had trouble ‘fussing’ with myself that way.
Those days seem to be gone forever. When I touch my skin these days, I feel impurities and imperfections — when did my skin become this scaly and dry? Hydrating is no longer an option — it is an absolute necessity. So is scrubbing. When did I become this person?
Of course, these are just superficial issues. Appearances that I never used to care much about before. Perhaps this is the price I have to pay for that. Had I been more concerned with properly maintaining my body — as seems to come naturally to every woman — perhaps I would have bought me some more carefree years.
I have issues. Non-issues in other people’s eyes — issues, nonetheless. They matter to no one but me. They don’t make me unhappy, but often enough, they make me mourn my youth’s irrevocable passing. Every age has its charm, or so it is said, and so does this age.
“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”
― Maya Angelou
As I lean upon the lower half of our front door and look outside, I witness the tree in our yard shed some of her leaves. To me, those yellow and reddish-brown leaves look just like little flames. It is autumn. My favourite season.
I am in the autumn of my life.
This post was originally published on Medium in my publication The Changing Blog on November 13, 2021.