It was one of those moments that just sneaks up on you. It was 5 years ago, but it remains fixed in my memory. It was the day I realized that even though I was the one driving from point a to point b, my passengers were not far behind me. I was sitting in the car pool lane at school with my neighbor in the back seat awaiting the arrival of my daughter. We had just finished an uninhibited, full-throttle, banging on the steering wheel and backpack sing-along with Adele. I was still “Rolling in the Deep” when my 15-year-old passenger asked. “How old do you feel?” I turned to face her and she continued. “Do you feel as old as you are?”
I was impressed with her question, and I wanted to know where it came from before I answered. She said that it came from observing her mother closely. Fair enough. She deserved a thoughtful response.
At the time, I was a mere 52-year-old, so in some ways I was still getting used to the label: “50-something.” I was then and still am in good health fortunately, but I didn’t really think that was at the heart of her question. I had to tell her that, although I wasn’t really sure what “50” was supposed to feel like, it was very hard to believe that it had happened to me, even though I was along for the entire ride.
“So you are saying what everyone says: time goes by quickly?” she asked. She’d heard it before and I could only confirm that it is one of those truths that can’t be known…until it is known.
She wanted more than a simple, trite, easy answer though, so I drew a comparison for her. I described “Imaginary 50-year-old Michele.” She’s a better driver. She’s very wise in a very casual way. She’s less fearful. She’s more organized.
In contrast, “Real Michele” was still a lousy driver and a bit disorganized. She knew what she didn’t know and she did not hesitate to ask for help. She was not unafraid, but she had a greater sense of peace than she could have imagined.
I also confessed that the picture that I carried in my mind no longer closely matched what I saw when I looked at photographs of myself. Generally, I wasn’t bothered by that though. I estimated my imaginary mental picture age was about “35.”
If I were asked the same question today, I’d probably reply in the same manner. I’m now closer to “60” than “50” and I’m sure when that happens it will feel sudden, and I’ll bet I won’t feel like a 60-year-old. I’m guessing I’ll still be a poor driver and a bit disorganized, but, in my mind’s eye, I will have aged some; I’ll probably look about “45.”
I’ve decided a bit of denial is just fine. I know how old I am, but there’s no reason to dwell on how many years I’ve lived except to marvel at my incredible good fortune. When I want to feel really young, these things always take me back:
- Listening to the Bee Gees
- Driving a fast car…fast
- Flirting with my husband
- Swinging, you know, in a swing in the park
- Eating a doughnut or hot fudge sundae or a piece of cake with special candles
This year I visited my daughter at college the week before my 57th birthday and she and her roommates helped me celebrate. They baked me a cake and used the only candles they had in their apartment, as they had all turned “20” this year!