Something has happened. I have stopped looking into mirrors. Or perhaps, mirrors have stopped being kind to me.
I turned 50 in 2016 but without the fanfare I envisioned when I had celebrated my fortieth birthday. In my blessed 40’s (the new 28’s?), I felt relatively secure in my profession, in my relationship with my teenage children, and with life after divorce. Then, my mid-forties hit me like a mac truck. I fell in love again. Marrying a complex and witty man whose love and affection for me were unparalleled. All was good in the world.
But my mirror. My mirror was showing signs of wear and tear. Mold was crowding its corners and little fissures appeared in odd places. I took only cursory glances at the face I thought I knew so well: moderately pretty brunette with wildly curly hair, brown eyes, full lips and hips, all supporting a cocoa-buttered belly rounding none too gently.
She looked familiar but there was something wrong with the mirror. In the mirror, her eyes seemed tired continuously, and her hair betrayed silver and gray strands. Her hands had touched to many dishes ungloved, and her neck became a circus of rings.
Time for a glass of . . . what? Beer? Wine? Metamucil? No matter what I might drink, no one cards me anymore even if I hide my neck with a brilliant scarf. I think they know my tricks. I’ll take a Metamucil please, with a stool softener chaser!
Surprisingly to me, I began to question myself, my career, even my new husband. That ridiculously clichéd question circled in my thoughts and obstructed my bowels: who the hell am I?
Mother, wife, professor, poet, goddess? Scholar, writer, low-life hag? Witch, bitch, sage?
Can I be all these things and none at once? Do I have to take on a definitive role? Join a gym, a yoga class or a reading circle? Volunteer for a non-profit or a bake sale to account for something, to be counted as someone?
Truly, my changing hair color reminds me I am in the gray zone – where black and white applications to challenges in my life are more dangerous than honorable.
This is what I know: my time on earth is clearly limited and there is a complexity to being human that belies any of my attempts to create a single, consensus designation of who I am or what I should be doing.
I’d like to say I came to a brilliant conclusion and have reconciled my face, stomach, thighs and emotions to the aging process, or that I suddenly and graciously accepted my flaws, defects and family with renewed commitment. It isn’t true. The truth is I’m still trying to be a better human being, a better person, and a better woman.
Obviously, I’d love to drop twenty pounds within one week as well!
Some days, however, that personal goal to be better seems barely achievable; other days I am a gladiator in Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm.
Today, I’m trying to gift myself monthly massages, a glass of champagne on weekends, laughter with girlfriends, family movie nights, a renewed love and respect for my husband who I’ve wounded deeply during my identity quest.
I am taking one day at a time, and allowing the questions to surface, even if I have no answers.
Tomorrow, I might buy a new mirror. One with soft-glow, energy saving bulbs. What I won’t do is shy away from my own reflection in other people’s eyes or any other mirror I see.