Crow's Feet and the Gift of Life
I recently heard that an old acquaintance of mine passed away. She was a few years younger than me, the younger sister of a friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. I didn’t know her well or see her often, but I loved every minute of it when I did.
She was always a lot of fun, and she was also crazy beautiful. Not in your average, girl-next-door kind of way, but in the Disney princess kind of way. She had this fantastic mane of flowing red hair and emerald green eyes that would make Ariel herself swoon with jealousy.
Every time I saw her, I was convinced that she was the prettiest person I’d ever seen. It was only later that I learned hints of a darker side, of struggles and demons hiding beneath her lovely surface.
When I learned of her death, it hit me like a ton of bricks. How could someone so lively and full of life just not exist? And how could someone so beautiful never know it?
My husband recently took a few pictures of me for this blog. When I looked them over, what I saw gave me a bit of a jolt.
I like to think of myself as an attractive person, and in my head I think I’ll always be a vibrant 27 year-old. But when I saw the pictures, the signs of age were there, unmistakable. Nothing crazy, just the crinkle of crow’s feet around my eyes, and smile marks around my mouth- and I swear they weren’t there the day before.
I’m 36, so I know I’m not gonna be pushing a walker any time soon. But the truth is, I do feel it in my body, a certain coming of age that can’t be ignored.
Being a (rather vain) girl, it’s a tough transition, because the only language and cultural lens I have about age tends to be negative. Age is something to resist, ignore, and defy. It’s something to camouflage and hide, a source of sadness and shame.
Sometimes I feel like a desert-dweller encountering snow for the first time, and having no words to describe it. If I had words, would it be so scary? If I had words, would I have a better way to cope?
Because here’s the thing. Age is a privilege. And in the wake of someone’s passing- a death so painfully tragic it takes my breath away- nothing is clearer than this. To be here, on this day, breathing these molecules of air and standing on these particles of earth- it’s a gift.
Not everyone makes it this far. And I’m old enough to know that’s the truth.
So here’s what I know for sure. I’m blessed. To rise each morning and look in the mirror. To experience the physical sensations of a physical body, one that supports me with all the love and loyalty of an old friend.
I don’t want to spend my living moments with that friend chastising and abusing her like a mangy, unwanted stray dog. I want to cherish her. For her gifts and tenacity. For her strength, and yes, even her beauty. She’s given me every good and precious gift, and she’ll do it as long as she is able.
I don’t know how well I’ll be able to circumvent the social conditioning wired into my brain. But I’m determined to give it a try, in tender dedication to the dear ones who didn’t make it this far. And to this faithful body, who has seen me through this far. I’m still alive, thank God. Crow’s feet and all.