“I think I’m going through another growth expert.”
This is what my daughter will tell me before she goes to bed one night only to wake up the next morning two inches taller and a whole shoe size up. I know this has to hurt, this constant growing at a rapid and relentless pace. All I can do it is sit back and watch it all unfold, or sprout up, as my baby grows taller than me.
It seems I go to bed some nights too, only to wake up not two inches taller, but three inches wider and with swollen and achy feet. I know this hurts. I feel it, this consistent changing of a forty year plus body at a rapid and relentless rate. But all I can do is sit by and watch it all spread, swell, and pucker, as well.
Obviously, there are things I can do to “smooth” it all so to speak, but I like to be able to breathe while I eat. Oh, and actually sit down. And sure, I can consume less and exercise more, but I don’t like to be cranky. Neither do those who have to share my same communal space.
And sometimes, y’all, seriously . . . I don’t recognize my face in the mirror.
It has lines, crevices, and cracks as deep, it seems, as a continental divide. And after years of acne-free skin, my face, arms, and thighs will break out in an angry and cantankerous mess at something as silly as a thunderstorm, too much sleep or a sleepless night. It doesn’t help either that one of my lower lids sags slightly heavier than the other, and it seems they are perpetually packing not just an overnight bag, but a 2-week European backpacking duffle.
I forget things too, like the names of my children, pets, casserole dishes, and online passwords. I can’t see two feet in front of me, but I have a floater in my left eye that I can see, spinning on end, in crystal clear clarity.
I guess I can accept these inevitable changes, as unfair as I find the whole blessed thing. I mean, haven’t I been pretty darn good to myself seeing as there was plenty of damage I could have done along the way. Not to mention, I’ve walked miles in other people’s shoes, I have fed those who are hungry, I have moved small mountains if I needed to to help someone I loved. I have sweated, bled, poured, and pondered for most of my forty years.
Do I really have to bulge, balloon, and puff out for all those years of hard work?
When I get on this self-loathing kick about getting older, I pull out a picture of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. When I look at the photograph of her at a young 86, I see more lines than I can count. They are not even lines actually; more like grooves in an old scratched up record that has been played over and over again- loved….more than anything.
There are hundreds of them, these grooves. But it should come as no surprise; this woman lived a thousand lives in her 87 years. She traveled through war zones, evacuated children from hospitals, fed the hungry, and bathed the sick.
She was tough, too, suffering malaria, a heart attack, broken bones, and pneumonias, but tireless all the same.
I look at Mother Teresa now and I’m reminded I haven’t scratched the surface of the world, or even my own single rough cut 45. Not even close.
When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, she was asked what we can do to promote world peace. “Go home and love your family,” she said.
I try and remember her advice, especially now more than ever . . . when unimportant things seem to be so . . . ridiculously self-important.
Nutrisystem: “Because some events in life tip the scale.”
Or M.T.: “Intense love does not measure. It just gives.”
Weight Watchers: “Expect amazing.”
M.T.: “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because that is where your strength lies.”
L’Oreal: “Because I’m worth it.”
M.T.: “We cannot do great things on earth, only small things with great love.”
And for all of those laugh lines and wrinkles I keep on agonizing over:
M.T.: “We shall never know all the good a simple smile can do.”
We cannot stop the unstoppable process of aging. I have to remind myself of this most of the time. But what can we change?
We can smile more, laugh often. Give. Be true to who you are and stay faithful. Go home and love our families.
Yes, Mother Teresa was here to tend to the sick, the poor, the unwanted, but she was also here to help all of us; by reminding each and everyone that there are little ways we can change the world, or at least leave a little nick; even a single groove.
I like what Livi calls the whole aging process, too, by the way . . . that they are “growth experts.” When I look at my daughters face, I see a smooth surface with room to grow. When I look at Mother Teresa’s face, I see road maps, journals, and charts of all the places she has been. I need to look closer at mine too, wrinkles, lines and all, and remember it doesn’t matter if I am getting older, but am I getting wiser all the same?
So butter it up and spread it on thick, y’all. I am.
Let’s grow up and out with love.
Laura Packard recently moved to Beaufort from Saint Simons Island, GA where she still pens a humor column for Coastal Illustrated/Brunswick News. She has brought along her 2 daughters, 3 dogs, 4 cats and one husband. They sometimes let her write. You can learn more about Laura and her writing at www.lauraleighpackard.com. And don’t forget, if you can’t make fun of yourself, someone else will surely do it for you. For Laura, someone else is usually her kids… and her dog, Atlas who she swears is John Candy reincarnate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.