like sand through an hourglass
Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m not really one of those women who freaks out about age or the associated effects of getting older. In fact, I’ve always kind of looked forward to aging. When I was little, being older meant being able to do more. I was always 20 steps ahead of myself. I’ve always wanted to have more responsibility. I like being the responsible one. I like doing things. And I’ve never really cared about my appearance. I never really invested in it.
As a kid, I always felt much older than my chronological age. My parents were much older than most parents, and as such, I didn’t really get socialized in typical ways. They valued different things than my peers’ parents. I was taught to take care of myself. To focus on school. To cook meals. And when my father died, I sorta had to take over very adult responsibilities for my family. I was the one making and balancing the budget–worrying about money. I was the one planning meals.
My parents also treated me like an equal. Which was both great and awful, depending on how you look at it. I wasn’t given outs for anything, because I was a child. I was expected to know things and behave in certain ways. And when I was an immature little brat, it wasn’t tolerated. So, I learned to keep a lot of my emotions inside me. On the other hand, I was empowered. I always believed in myself because they taught me I could do anything…that I was worth something…and because of that, I didn’t inherit a lot of the things that keep people stuck. I always knew I could change my life. It might take work, but I could do anything. I learned how to make things happen–even when it was unlikely.
(I’ll be writing more about this in a future blog post–mostly because it’s been on my mind a lot lately).
All of that changed for me when my Mama died. Losing her shook my foundations. Funnily enough, despite my grown-up-ness, I never thought my Mama could die. Even at the ripe old age of 26, I still thought she’d live forever–because God couldn’t take them both. And she was Mama. That stubborn, resilient, never say die woman. She couldn’t die.
Only she did.
There’s no way to stay the same after that. While she was sick, I was her caregiver. And I found myself wrestling with myself…with that ever-present sense of duty–that adultness–that need to take care of everyone…and this urgent desire to just run away–stick my fingers in my ears and pretend it didn’t exist. Duty won out for me, of course, but it nearly destroyed me.
So, after that, I gave it up as much as I could. I started living more for myself. I changed my mind, even when it disappointed people. I burned bridges. I stopped pretending I was okay all the time. I stuck my neck out and tried to meet new people. I lived honestly every day. It was all new to me. But I did it because the alternative meant dying in some other way.
I suppose, since then, I’ve been a chronological age, but have been a mental age that’s quite different. I feel very young emotionally and mentally. I do things that a lot of kids do. I still drink Hawaiian punch. I still like fingerpainting. I’m not afraid to look like a total ass.
But I’ve never been very kind to myself, and years of that self-abuse along with all the trauma from losing so many family members and living in poverty–well, it caught up with me. My body started making me feel like shit. I had all kinds of health scares. Because everything lived in this skin and these bones. Toxic waste. Years and years and years of storing up things that should have been released. And I felt really really old.
Last year was a big milestone for me. I turned 34, which was officially one year older than half my mother’s life. I had no idea how important this year would be for me. But this was the year I stopped allowing myself to be old–mostly because my body gave up on me. I literally almost died. And I had to stop fighting with myself. So, now, I’m trying very hard to feel like a 34 year old. To finally take care of myself and allow the inside to match the outside. It’s hard for me, but I’m learning a lot. And despite still not feeling great due to all the adjustments, I do feel younger physically. Stronger. I have more energy, and I’m getting back to the me who could do things and didn’t hesitate…unless the brain got in the way.
I turn 35 in about 11 days. It’s been bugging me.
I associate 35 with new demographics. The middle-aged. I can’t possibly be middle-aged. Middle-aged means settled and stuck. It means you’re okay with being fat and boring. It means you’re obsessed with your lawn and all the shit that doesn’t matter.
Only I’m not remotely that. I still worry about paying rent. I still rent. I have a roommate. I’m still working on my degrees and working on making dreams realities. I have no desire to own a house. I don’t want some cozy, safe, corporate job. I am not going to be your child’s plan B.
I want to travel the country in a small little bus and make things. I want to help people see who they are. I want to be my own boss. I want to be free.
But I also want to love someone. I want to have a kid. I’d like to have a home. I like stability, full fridges, and money in the bank.
So, there’s this push-pull inside me. That part of me that doesn’t need anyone and just wants to leave. Along with that part of me that wants everyone…that wants to need people and wants to stay.
It’s my mother and father…right there, inside me. And that didn’t work out so well.
I’ve always thought I’d make time for what mattered. That I’d do things in my own way, at my own pace. And yes, I AM behind. Most of my peers have married…some have divorced and are single again. Most of my peers have children and houses. I am part of a dying breed. Time is running out. It’s annoying.
I’ve never been one to think I should put my dreams on hold for such things. I’m a fan of the doing everything approach. That’s how I’ve always lived my life. I want my children to know me–to see me struggling and see me learning. I want to show them the world. Too many people stop living when they have children. Put the kids in soccer and then drown in that identity. My kids will cook and read and travel.
At least, I hope so. I hope I can have them.
It does bother me that time is slipping away. That high school feels like yesterday, but–in reality–it was almost 18 years ago. Holy God.
I don’t want to be the older Mama. I don’t want to be a single Mama. So, what now?
I guess I just feel like there’s too much to do. And sometimes, I feel so much pressure–self-induced–to make everything happen all at once because time is slipping through my fingers. And what if this is my last year–or my last decade? You never know when it’ll be up.
It bothers me.
And I know it’s stupid to be bothered. Because we don’t know, and we can’t do anything about that not knowing. And life happens as it should, despite our plans. And eventually, it’s always okay.
Sometimes, you have to make it okay.
I’m okay here. I suppose.
But I’m still human, which means I still fight against it. But I guess that means I’m not as old as I sometimes feel.