Jun 30, 2009

Mourning the loss of youth...

Back when I was in my mid 20's, I met some friends of my then new in-laws, who at the time were probably in their early 50's. This couple struck me as really odd...he had black hair that appeared to be dyed, well what there was left of it. And he seemed very uncomfortable with the aging process, as he was dressed in something that seemed far too "young and trendy" for his apparent age. She, on the other hand, looked older than what I thought her years probably were, with gray hair rolled up in a bun, and wearing pretty old-fashioned clothing and no makeup. They didn't seem to be a very happy couple and certainly appeared to be quite mismatched. Perhaps it was just a judgment on my part.

I just remember thinking that I hoped I would grow old more gracefully...that I wouldn't do anything to look silly by trying to be someone I wasn't, but at the same time, not wanting to look older or frumpier than I needed to!

Easy thing to say when you're in your 20's, thin, healthy, newly married with the best of life yet to come.

Last weekend we went to the wedding of the daughter of some friends of ours. There were a whole ton of beautiful young people in their 20's...mostly skinny, lots of beautiful hair, and fresh looking smooth skinned faces. Oh, and so energetic.

I realized once again what has been on my mind for some time now: I'm nothing like them. I mean physically. Its been decades since I saw the scale read 118#. And every 5 weeks or so, on goes some more hair color. Its a constant battle to work on smoothing out the crows feet around my eyes and those awful lines that have begun to appear around my mouth, to say nothing of the myriad of lotions and potions I've tried to tighten up the sags under my eyes.

I no longer engage in a lot of the activities I did 35 years ago either: tennis, bicycling, visits to the gym. Nor can I wear the cute little skirts, shorts, or high heels any longer. My mission when shopping for clothes, in order of priority, is this: fit, comfort, fashion. Trying on jeans and bathing suits is a traumatic experience, reserved for rare occasions when I am totally alone and have lots of time.

And speaking of energy, my husband and I were both pathetic last Friday night, as we were just too exhausted from our day to even eat supper or go on our typical Friday night coffee date at Borders.

But its not just the physical changes that have become so apparent that remind me I'm getting older. Its all the things about family life and mothering that I miss so much. I wrote in an early blog post about how hard it was to let go of my kids. But I realize now it's more than just letting go that is so hard. It's the realization that a significant phase of life is forever behind me: packing the kids in the car for a family vacation, dressing my little boys and combing their hair, watching them grow through so many stages and being so excited at each new thing they learned, each new big word they tried, the endless summers filled with swimming and baseball. I miss dinnertime where we always were together and my three guys would compliment me on the meal in their corny way: "we worship the linoleum you walk on" as they would make bowing gestures with their hands.

Just when I think I've adjusted well to the transitions life has brought me, something reminds me of the indisputable fact that no matter how many years I might have left on this earth, the majority of them are behind me. Does anyone else think like this, or is it just me?

Now, just to be perfectly clear: I'm not afraid to die. I know this earthly life is only a very small part of my existence, and I am totally confident that whatever lies ahead is nothing but good. Eternity is a long time, and I have full assurance that I will spend it with God and my loved ones who loved Him, and I do look forward to meeting all the saints from ages past. My faith in Jesus Christ and His Word have sustained me through all of life's trials, and will usher me to my eternal home. So, that's not the issue.

The word "entropy" is one I learned a few years back. It is a scientific term that has made its way into the realm of sociology and metaphorically means basically that all things tend toward decay, disorder, and chaos. That's why we constantly have to pick up the house after the grandchildren have visited. Or keep the weeds under control in our gardens. Entropy is the reason we don't look younger and younger the older we get. So my point is this: Our earthly lives will only last so long, and even if we live to be 100, that seems pretty short to me in the scheme of things. And with each year that passes, the aging process will take a toll.

I don't care so much about getting old, in fact it beats the alternative, huh? But I don't want what goes along with it. I don't want to have health issues; I don't want to ache every morning when I get out of bed. I miss some of the things that used to be very much a part of my life when I was younger. When I go to bed at night, I need to feel I was productive in some way, or my life held some kind of meaning. I don't want to arrive at a place where I'm just existing because my heart is still beating.

None of us knows how much time we may have left on this earth, or what the future may hold for us. We can't dictate that. So the only question that seems relevant is this: "What will I do with TODAY?" I can choose to squander my time today, wasting it on laziness or fear, or anger, or worry, or indulging a critical spirit, for example. Or I can choose to "follow after the Spirit" which produces good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Praise be to God that He has provided a way to make each day meaningful as we go about our lives-- a way that pleases Him, helps others, and provides for our own satisfaction at the end of the day. Life is good, even as it quickly moves us through all its stages.


Wanda said...

Jacquelyn...I would give you an A+ on your transitions and phases of life report! I have similar thoughts and have often stated the human life span is just too short...I have always been a stay at home mom who valued making memories and being in the moment...wanting to savor my life experiences...even with knowing that then...I still feel that life goes by so quickly...I think slowing down with age may have the benefit of "making it even easier to savor the rest of one's life"...I'm 64 but honestly and truly...inside my mind I am not...I do hope these last years draaagggg. :)

Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT blog! I can't tell you how often my mind has been traveling down these same paths over the last few weeks.
When I was in my 20's, other people were 'old'. They were 'them' and I was determined that I wasn't going to be like 'them'! Everything about me was going to stay free-spirited and 'natural' - and I would be careful not to do the things 'they' did that made 'them' look and sound and behave 'old'.
After the events of the last few weeks though... I can hardly believe I'm that overweight lady in the mirror who's Crow's feet have stretched into Ostrich's feet and who's gray roots just keep popping right out of the pretty L'Oreal dyed hair. I can't believe a good nap feels so much better than riding my bike against the wind. And that a good book is much preferred over strenuous physical activity (like tennis or badminton or well... anything active!).
I don't know how this happened, or when, but Jacquelyn, when I wasn't looking I woke up one morning and realized that I'd become one of 'them'!
I absolutely love the way you addressed this issue. And I understand exactly what you are saying. I'm not afraid to die either. Sometimes I even long to be with Jesus and those who've gone on before me. And I'm not even afraid of being old, but like you, I just do not look forward to the struggles that come with it. More than that though, I was just thinking yesterday that I don't want to simply exist either!!!! To just wait for old-age to 'take me home' isn't what life is all about. I want to LIVE. Every moment, every second of my vaporous, aging, life can be meaningful and it can make a 'divine' impact. It's not too late to focus today - on following the Spirit.
Sorry to get so lengthy here, but I can't tell you how BLESSED I am that you shared (so well!) the very things I've been feeling of late.
Well said my friend!

Rose said...

After reading this, why do I feel like you took a page out of my daily life? I can relate to EVERYTHING you said. I tell my grandkids constantly to let me know if I start looking desperate to be young. You know, all the wrong clothes, too trendy, too tight, or too whatever. On the other hand, I refuse to wear polyester pull up pants and tops with appliques all over them. I may be old but not quite ready for that look that screams "geriatric". There are some great things about being a "senior" citizen. I can say whatever I want and blame it on my age. Well not exactly. I have been blunt my whole life but now I have an excuse. But, like you, I would like to not feel like I was hit by a Mac Truck everyday. I don't need to feel like a child with energy that knows no end, but I would settle for feeling thirty. That seems to be a great age. You are past all the "I don't know who I am"identity crisis, but definately not to the "I don't know who I am" stages of old age. I do realize like you said, that most of my life is behind me and I wonder will it matter? When I am dead and gone, did my life make a differance to anyone? I don't need to be imortalized in this life, but I would like to know that I didn't waste it. So, with whatever time I have left, I too will embrace each day and thank God that He has given me another day to enjoy all that I can. To love those who are in my life, good friends and family and to strive to be worthy to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Jacquelyn said...

thank you friends for your very thoughtful comments. I am so glad to know I am not alone in my thoughts! I appreciate you!

Kitty said...

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