Discovered something new today. Two bright white hairs on my head! At first dismayed, surprised, a tad embarrassed, and by the time that had all spun through me I was just laughing. Well your body can still do new things even when you are all big and grown! Plucked them out and decided I was proud of them. Not grey, but white! Startling white! Does this mean I will gradually become a white haired lady rather than the standard grey? This pleases me. Considered saving them in the same way I have saved the snippets of hair from the kids first hair cuts. There is no adult/growing older equivalent to the ‘baby book’ is there? Probably because most people, and women in particular are frightened of growing old, ashamed even, of the changes it brings. People don’t want to talk about it, let alone admit to it or celebrate it! I held my two bright white hairs between my fingers and stared out the bathroom window. It’s November and the leaves are busy dying. One by one they zig zag gracefully down to their graves. When the wind is up the air is full of them, tumbling past. I don’t mind growing old and dying, like the leaves. I see it as playing my inevitable part in everything. There is no point railing against it, no point in feeling sad. I look back on the years that have already passed and feel so many things. I feel like the years that have rolled by have done nothing more than bring me closer to who I really am. Who the hell knows who they are when they are a child? Children just want to be anything else. I wanted to be a dog for a really long time. Didn’t really understand why I couldn’t eventually, somehow, be one.
Then you struggle through puberty. A horrendous, frightening, confusing, exhilarating time. You don’t know who you are, you don’t know who you want to be, you don’t understand anything or anyone. Mostly I remember just looking around at people and feeling disgusted.
Late teens, early twenties was a time for hard won confidence and faked bravado. Getting drunk, being reckless, not seeing the point in caring about anything apart from the present moment. Spinning dramatically from deep and consuming self hatred and depression, to almost unbearable joy and hope and wonder. Independence and freedom. Finding out who your friends are. Living for today. Fuck tomorrow. Tomorrow will never come. You will never grow old and you will never die.
I found myself when I became a mother. Funny that. I found everything I was looking for right there in that small bundle in my arms. I felt so much love that I ached from it. I felt so much hope for the future, her future, that it seemed impossible to ever feel darkness again. I felt light, and fierce at the same time. I longed to know her, I planned to guide her. I pushed her pram and talked to her incessantly. I had no more reason to hate myself or by body, for my body had created something perfect. My own vanity and insecurity ceased to be important. All that mattered was her.
Becoming a mother saved me from the dark things. Took me to a bright and cheerful place, full of mucky finger prints and chocolate smiles. Reminded me to laugh at the small things. I was proud of them, and proud of myself. I felt part of nature in a new way, recreating, rolling the circle back around, moving to the back so that their light can outshine your own. They made me stronger and braver and friendlier.
Then they start to grow up. Day by day you watch them slip away. First they walk away from you. Then they run. They say no! They tell you that you are wrong. You stand back further and feel a tug of conflicting emotions. Unbelievable pride at who they are, what they are, what they are capable of, and a hollow sense of loss that they don’t fit on your lap anymore, that they tug their hand out of yours and don’t look back.
Thirties, you find yourself again. Unexpectedly you were there all along. You wipe away the glue and the paint and the glitter and the dirt and the sand, and you find your own face still there underneath, wondering what the hell happened. They need you less, so you have to find more. I found myself returning to my old loves, the loves that had kept me sane during the turbulent teenage years. My writing. Books. Music. Dogs! It was like hello, there you are, shit I had forgotten all about you when I was knee deep in dirty nappies and brain dead from sleepless nights. Fuckinghell, it’s me again! Me! And this time I can see myself and it’s all ok. I look ok. I’m not too stupid. I still have the desire to learn new things, to ask questions and listen to the answers. Life has spun me around in circles so fast I felt giddy for a while. Forgot I was here. Forgot who I am.
Now I feel big and tall and proud and strong. Most of the time.
I take pleasure in the small things. I know time is short and there is no time to waste. I embrace my white hairs because they are part of me, and I am growing older and that is how it is meant to be. Like everything in nature. Life begins, life ages, life dies. I was fortunate to have ever lived in the first place. And it’s been good. It’s all been good. Shit makes you stronger and you can’t appreciate the good times unless you have struggled through the bad. You need both. You need it all.
In ten years time I will have more white hairs. I will have more wrinkles. Gravity will not be on my side. I will look back on now and think how young I was!
You’ve just got to laugh x