One Morning I Woke Up Invisible
One Morning I Woke Up Invisible
“Old age ain’t for sissies”
When I first read Bette Davis’ immortal quote, I burst out laughing. “What a great line!” I thought. “I wish I had written it.”
That was over 20 years ago. And, as the decades have passed, I have shared those words any number of times with any number of people – from the chairman of the board of a major musical nonprofit to the lady in the grocery line behind me to the guy manning the valet station outside my favorite restaurant.
Without question, bar none, Bette’s rejoinder has met with a laugh. My own loudest of all.
But I am not laughing now.
It is 3 am, I am on my third glass of wine, my second bag of chips and my 10,000th chocolate chip cookie –not exactly a genius menu move when you are diabetic – and, frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn. I am not at all sure I feel much like living anyway. There are worse ways to go out than in a sugar sprinkled carbohydrate coma.
Yes, I am throwing myself one monster sucker of a pity party.
Why? Well, for starters, as I stare into the blank screen of this computer, I see myself reflected back and it isn’t pretty. There are wrinkles and creases where teenage I once fretted over bumper crops of pimples…my jaw line quivers like not-quite-set jello…and I have discovered, to my horror, that marionette lines are not necessarily the exclusive province of puppets. And let’s not even begin to discuss the havoc time has wreaked upon my neck, belly or ass. It’s no accident that Norah Ephron titled her book on aging I Hate My Neck.
Yet, while that outward stuff is neither welcome nor pleasant, I can deal with it, as generations of my sisters have, whether I opt to accept the sags and crevasses ‘gracefully’ or become best friends with Botox. It’s the inward ruination of my youthful self that is killing me.
When I was young, I had confidence. Of course I would write a novel by 30…Okay, by 40. And it would be a great one, too – no garbage would spew from the gifted mind of this embryonic Austen or Elizabeth Bishop (a Pulitzer prize winning poet and writer)! Certainly, by 50, I would have a shelf full of award winning bestsellers to my credit. Hadn’t everyone always assured me that I Had Talent?
When I was young, I had hope. No one devoured fairy tales or gothic novels more ravenously. No one believed in Hollywood happy endings more devoutly. Sure, sad stuff happened – to others as well as to me. But, in my own case, those episodes – the death of my father, the dissolution of my first marriage, the loss of a dear friend and the desertion and betrayal of another – were mere bumps in the road, and the road extended way, way, way, way off into the horizon where a pot of gold and a rainbow, the time honored symbol of hope, awaited me with bated breath.
Because, when I was young, I had TIME. I had bins of hours, bushels of minutes. I was like my children when they were babies; if I closed my eyes and didn’t see something it didn’t exist. That those bins and bushels of time could – and would – disappear, I refused to acknowledge.
But, then, one morning, my eyes were pried open. I went to bed, 25, and woke up nearly 60.
What’s that old expression? “This is no dress rehearsal.” Call it a cliché, if you like, but it’s a cliché for good reason. It’s TRUE.
As I wrote earlier, I have friends who are dead now. I have friends who have diagnoses that will soon leave them dead. And HERE IS THE SCARY PART…
When you’re young and a friend dies, it’s a freak saddening tragic quirk of nature. When you’re in your 6th decade and a friend dies, it’s saddening and tragic, but it’s no longer a freaky quirk. It’s the finger of fate beckoning, whispering, “Don’t get too comfortable or complacent. Guess who’s next?”
Oh, how infant I yearns to close my eyes to this and wish it all away! But, as that face staring back at me in my computer screen and morning mirror reminds me, I am right in lock step with my Boomer compatriots. I may even be clipping their heels or, for that matter, surpass them on this race to the finish line. Whether it happens next week or next month or next year, it’s coming for sure within the next two or three decades.
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