being human

Vanity & Aging

I wrote an Instagram post last night, about being vain and how much it drives me crazy. The attached ‘snap chatted’ photo of me accompanied the post. My skin is flawless thanks to the filter. It’s not real life.

I am forty-nine years old. I don’t look forty-nine in the photo, do I? I’m glad I don’t look forty-nine.

Within the last month, I’ve been carded three times for alcohol. I ran into an old friend who asked my age then raved that I don’t age. Another acquaintance said she couldn’t believe I was that old. “Get out,” she said. This was real life. I felt so happy and proud in each of these scenarios.

Sometimes, however, I feel like I look older than forty-nine. It changes my entire mood when I feel this way.

I didn’t start disclosing my age regularly until this year, and I’m not sure why except that I’m trying to give myself permission to stop hiding. I can’t believe I’m in the final year of my forties.

When mom died earlier this year, I weathered and changed a lot. I grew. I began to see life differently. I continue to do so.

My mom was an attractive woman. She took such care of the way she put herself together. Even at the end, her body riddled with cancer, no hair, there was a light shining from within. Her soul was beautiful, yet she hid herself in her last six months. Sure, she was sick, she didn’t feel good a lot of the time, but I also sensed that she lost much of herself when (she believed) she lost her looks. It bothered me that she hid. Since her passing, I’ve recognized these same tendencies in myself.

If I get cancer and lose my hair, how will I be? Will I hide? Will I devalue myself because the outward facing part is no longer attractive to others? I am grappling with these questions and I have no answers except that that’s not how I want to go down.

I am working through my growing age and the fact that I attach to the way I look. Good hair days are good days. Summertime is awesome because of the tanned glow of my skin, but I also struggle with showing too much skin; I’m not a super skinny girl. The way I look matters — a lot — and I don’t want it to be this way, but I don’t know how to change.

I think about the things I find beautiful in others: kindness, a heartfelt smile, gentleness, intelligence, ingenuity, the courage to be different. The list goes on and I wonder what others see in me. I don’t talk a lot. I don’t share intimate parts of myself with others. I’m an introvert. It’s overwhelming to share too much or be around a lot of people. I feel deeply but have a hard time verbalizing. I feel I’m often misunderstood or judged because I don’t share.

And that, my friends, is why I write. There is so much inside that longs to be seen and heard (read). I struggle daily with the reason I’m here, telling my story. No one cares, I think, and perhaps that’s true, but I’m here because I firmly believe my life, my story, needs to be told.

My mom died and I have nothing left of her. She didn’t journal. She didn’t write letters. She didn’t scrapbook. She didn’t show herself at all. She also didn’t talk much. There was so much I didn’t know about her. It made me sad then and it makes me sad now. I am a lot like her, but I’ve parented my own daughter differently. I’ve always shared with her. I want her to know whats in me. I want her to know me. I want her to know my heart. I don’t want her to have questions.

I write here because I have to. I suppose I want others to know me too, since it’s so hard to verbalize. At least when I’m gone this will be left. I’m not special, just human, but I suppose that makes me special. Being alive is a gift.

“Tell the truth,” is the biggest takeaway I’ve gleaned from the memoir writing classes I’ve completed. Everything you read here is my truth. I’m scared, confused, happy, sad, grateful, loving, jealous and aggravated all in the same day, sometimes in the same hour. I am human. I am figuring things out, or I’m not. But I’m here, breathing, learning and writing, mostly for me, but also for you if it helps.

For me, the topic of vanity and aging meanders and circles back to beauty and life. I may never reconcile the two. I only hope my words reveal the truth inside of me, the beauty of who I am.