I was recently at a funeral for a dear friend’s mother, when I hear my mother calling my name. Actually she is yelling my name across the room which is how Italians whisper. I look up and see her, standing near the opposite door and waving frantically to get my attention. As I walk across the room, I pass many people who live in the town I grew up in and say hello. I finally make it to where my mother is standing and having a conversation with the funeral director and his daughter. This is not uncommon, as we are friends with him. She introduces me to his daughter, who is probably 25 and beautiful. She immediately rushes up to me and declares she cannot believe I am forty-six years old and the mother of two. (Another common Italian custom. You share everything about your children to EVERYONE.)
Yes, I assure her it’s true. Wow, she continues. You look GREAT for your age.
OUCH. Okay I’m not going to lie. That one stung a bit.
Thank you, I said. I use lots of moisturizer, because honestly I was stunned and had no idea what else to say, other than let me find my walker so I can sit down because you know standing for too long at my age is not easy. (No I did not say this out loud.)
I don’t mean to sound mean. She was giving me a sincere compliment. I think. She was very sweet and meant well. To her 46 probably IS old. I’ve been on this earth almost twice as long as she has, and yes, I absolutely have the body (um, tummy) and hair (grey colored monthly) to prove it.
Her compliment stayed with me for days. It gnawed at me. Was I really OLD? I don’t ever think of my parents as old and they 67 and 68. So how can I be old? I certainly don’t FEEL old. I certainly don’t THINK I’m old. And I certainly don’t ACT old. (Okay maybe when I leave the house in hot rollers, it’s probably not really a young person’s thing.)
Why is there such a negative connotation with growing old? I have thought a lot about this since then. Why can’t growing old be a good thing? It’s obvious there are lots of us. People are taking better care of themselves as we learn more about nutrition and exercise and living longer. The reality is, if I am lucky enough to live to be 92, then I am already at my half way point. So yes, I guess I am more on the “older” side of life.
And I am totally okay being on this side. It means we have experience. We have lived a lot, been through a lot and seen a lot.
I had a great childhood with two amazing sisters with whom I grow closer with each year. I have two loving parents who sacrificed a lot for us growing up, and taught us how to live a full life, with morals and values and family comes first. I have had four grandparents who I was lucky enough to live close to and have in my life until I was thirty. I have cried hard over losses, but gotten back up and survived. I have grown and changed. I have lived in other cities, traveled the world, fallen in love and had my younger heart broken. I have met the love of my life (just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary), created two human beings, and am blessed to be a mother. I have been lucky to watch my girls grow older each day, some days laughing, some crying, and everything in between. I have met some wonderful friends and lost some along the way. I have tried things I couldn’t imagine doing, challenged myself, stood up for myself and others, and tried to make a difference. I have learned to appreciate the little things, like the color of the leaves changing and a kind gesture, and also the big things, like how fast time truly goes by and to enjoy the moment.
So yes, I am on the older side. But I’ve decided it is the GOOD SIDE. After all, at 46, I am much more aware of who I am. Yes, I am still finding and learning more about myself each day, but I have finally learned to like myself. My whole self. And not to care so much about what others think of me. And at 46, I can even laugh at myself! I can leave my house in hot rollers and NOT CARE what others think. (My younger self would be cringing at this right now.) I can reflect on my past and use my experiences to make decisions (hopefully smarter ones). I can also use them to teach my girls how to be strong and confident women, how to believe in themselves and others, how to not give up, how to love deeply, how to be kind and how to laugh at yourself. But most importantly how to
like love yourself.
I may be older, but I am still trying and experiencing new things. Two years ago I tried golf for the first time. (I liked the outfit more than I liked the sport) and just this past weekend my hubby and I tried out a new restaurant – well it was more of a bar/pub kind of place. It was loud and full of energy and we were definitely on the GOOD SIDE of life. (I wanted to hand out sweaters to some of the girls to cover up.) It was easy to spot my hubby when I came out of the restroom. His was the only shiny head sitting at the bar. We met a lovely couple sitting near us. We showed them photos of our girls and they showed us their latest trip to Cancun where they stayed up every night partying and ate most of their meals in bathing suits on a sailboat. They were off on another trip soon to explore somewhere for a few months, finding jobs where they went. They were so nice and fun and bubbly (and she did not have one strand of grey hair).
We had to leave at 9:30 pm to pick up our daughter (that and my heels were killing me and I couldn’t WAIT to put my PJs on). So with one last toast with new friends, we said our goodbyes. They are still on the other side (and probably still at the bar).
Cheers. They will join our side soon enough…