One of the best gifts of aging is gaining wisdom so we can refine the ability to make healthy choices. For example, we can choose to believe in fighting to retain our youth which is an impossibility. Or we can accept ourselves, even with signs of aging, as we grow older. I’m not saying we don’t all like to look and feel our best. The goal is to understand the futility of buying into external definitions of our personal best. I hope this next story demonstrates my point. I doubt seriously this is an event only I have experienced. Basically it all boils down to choices – and who we decide to listen to.
One morning I was walking in a mall after an exercise class and treating myself to a hot, vanilla latte. A salesman came out from a kiosk with a pitch aimed at convincing me I could not pass up the opportunity to purchase his age-reversing product.
He made an attempt to guess my age (uninvited, thank you). He of course guessed twenty years younger as he caught sight of the steaming cup in my right hand. I think he saw this as a potential weapon. I have to give him credit for having guts. Then he told me what he did not like about my face. In his opinion, my wrinkles surely had to go and he had just the product that could “fill in the cracks, smooth out my face, and make it real pretty.”
This is where I checked out of the dialogue mentally. Please know I didn’t do this with malice, and it was not intentional. Although I politely nodded like a bobble-head dog in the back of a 1960 Cadillac, my mind wandered to the image of a former neighbor. When I was a little girl, we had a neighbor named Mr. Mueller. Every day he went to work in his big white panel truck, dressed in his overalls and a checkered shirt. He carried a metal slate with a handle and a thing called a trowel. He was a brick layer, and these were tools of his trade.
One day I asked Mr. Mueller about these interesting gadgets. He informed me he mixed up mortar and put it into cracks between bricks. The mortar, he told me, held bricks in place, filled in the cracks, and made things look “real pretty and smooth.” Ah ha.
When I returned to the company of the anti-aging guru, I saw that he lost interest in me and moved on to the next mall-walking lass. I moved on and drank my latte.
That night, I could not help spending a few moments studying my mug in the mirror. I smiled, frowned and made faces. I was trying to find what needed to be plastered up. I wanted to see why I could not live without a 0.5 ounce jar of what most likely was a secret mixture of pigeon droppings and Oil of Delay for a mere $150 (on special too!!).
I was struck by the stories that reflected back at me. I saw the face of a little girl who weathered a family riddled with alcohol and abuse. There were wrinkles forged by the heartbreak of divorce and smile lines from beaming elation when discovering a second chance at love. Behind my wrinkles lays a heart that beat with indescribable love and tenderness at the birth of my child.
I smiled, unconsciously I suspect, at floating memories of the mad 60’s and 70’s – the friends, parties and shocking realization when it was time to grow up. I revisited the pain of losing parents at a young age, friends to war in Vietnam, and at witnessing injustices against my brothers and sisters of color as they were and still are denied rights that should be guaranteed by this country..
Tears filled my eyes when I remembered the night I found and accepted Jesus. I rocked gently in the rhythm of the dance we have done together for almost forty years. In gratitude to Him, I acknowledged the blessings of wonderful family, friends and opportunity to grow through forgiving and being forgiven. My face revealed smile lines forged at the birth of my three grandchildren and the offspring of others. These lines sit beside scars of anguish from sharing friends’ pain while burying their precious babies.
In my face, that night, I saw tracks of a lifetime (not so unlike others) with good and bad, joy and disappointment, fear and faith, love and loss, and the precious, precious gift of sixty years. I was puzzled to think this face was considered offensive and outside the current definition of beauty to someone who could never understand the treasure each wrinkle on my face represents.
As I turned off the light and headed to bed, this verse came into my heart. “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” —Job 10:8. I drifted into sleep making up a little poem that to this day I believe was God’s voice declaring His definition of beauty, His establishment as author of my beauty and how He feels about His creations.
“I’ve put you dear one in this time and this space
Sculpted your life, plotted the course of your race
And even though life is both leather and lace
There is nothing, I mean nothing, sweet child
I don’t love about your face.”
Copyright August 2011
Lakewood, CO 80401