Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Old Are You?

Have you ever had that question asked and you actually had to do the math to answer? You have literally forgotten your age. It has happened to me on occasion.

I've always thought I had an old soul. I was one of those kids who enjoyed the company of adults as much, or more than, the company of my peers. I was also the one who would say to my friends, "Are you SURE you want to do that? drink that? jump off that? drive that?" My nickname (somewhat with love, somewhat with exasperation) in college was "Mom". And even though my taste in movies, tv, and books can sometimes run to the juevenile, over all, I've always been older in my soul than in actual years.

But I think I've actually surpassed my "soul" age now in physical years. Because now I'm starting to think, "I don't feel old enough for that." Sometimes it's little health glitches. Sometimes it's talking to younger people and having that disconnect when shared experience is lost in translation from one generation to another. Sometimes it's when you lean in really close to the mirror and don't recognize the face staring back at you. Sometimes it's when you re-connect with an old friend and think to yourself, "Holy hell, was it really 20 years ago that we were hanging out together? Where did THAT time go?"

I wonder sometimes what I'll be like when I'm "old". And I'm starting to understand that there are a lot of people out there - our grandparents, our parents, our older siblings, who probably feel out of step with their calendar. Several years ago I heard about an experiment that a young woman did where she was made up to look like an 80 year old woman. She met up with other women of that age and formed friendships. She was amazed that they talked about many of the same things younger women spoke of - sex, relationships, money, politics, entertainment, fashion, family troubles, etc. It wasn't just a litany of illness and decay, it was a group of peers sharing similar experiences of life and much of it was not only timeless, it was youthful. When she later revealed herself to this group at her real age, they at first felt betrayed, but then were glad to learn that she had discovered that under the wrinkles, gray hair, and arthritic hands, beat the hearts and souls of young women with dreams and experiences not that dissimilar to the much younger generation.

I was looking at some pictures of my mother-in-law the other day. In the picture she was pregnant with my husband - her first born. She was giggling and had her hands on my father-in-law's shoulders and she just looks like such a young girl. I think she was about 25. I'm just fascinated by this picture. I don't know why. I mean she is quite recognizable to me in the picture - she still has a very similar smile and laugh. But there is just something about the promise of life to come in her face, while now her face reflects a knowledge of the life she has already lived. And when I showed her what I was looking at, I got the distinct feeling that she recognized that person a lot more than she recognizes herself looking in her mirror today.

I wonder if there is one little moment in time when our mind, our soul, our body, are all exactly the same age at exactly the same time. Or are we forever seeking to synchronize those three together? If there was that moment, I think I passed it without notice. Because right now, for maybe the first time ever, I feel like my body is just a little older than my soul...and that's okay. As long as there are still those people out there that recognize - like my mother in law's picture - the youth underneath and the promise of life yet to live.


Ian Lidster said...

I feel such empathy for what you wrote here, especially in the past few weeks.

The points you make in the final paragraph are especially poignant.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I just finished the book Water for Elephants--the author describes exactly what you just did.

I lost the year I was 38; I thought I was 39!

Thank you so much for the comments on my post today. I don't think anyone has ever said nicer things to me. It's especially meaningful because yours is one of the first blogs I started reading.