I have linked aging to my maturity level my whole life as if the two were supposed to run parallel. You get older, you get more mature but the two have run in very skewed manner since I have rarely accepted my lot in life, not gracefully anyway. Unless, like a very quiet doormat translates to gracefully. I suffered with massive, turbulent, churning inner turmoil and barely contained mental illness but only rarely handled any of it with any grace.
For instance, when I was 10, I tried to commit suicide. Months before that, my biological mother had abandoned me. Literally. She worked nights and I got up and got myself ready for school every day. I would see her getting ready for work when I got in from school in the afternoons and we would have perfunctory conversation only because my real mother just wasn’t very motherly. Sometimes, I wouldn’t see her for a couple of days but I never worried; she usually popped up sooner or later and there was always food to prepare for myself. One time, after about 4 days, I thought maybe something was off. I was not allowed to use the phone, ever. So great was my mother’s tyranny that even in what I imagined was an absence fraught with foul play, I would still dare not to defy her orders. So, after school, I walked to my grandparents’ house across town.
My mother and my Nana are English and I remember my Nana opening the front door of her house, looking down at me and saying, “Hello, Love. What’s this?”
I stared up and simply said, “My mom hasn’t been home for a long time.”
She backed up and ushered me past, “Come in, then. Let’s sort it out over a cup of tea darling.” Her accent and the years she’d been in Texas always made darling sound like dullin and I loved it when she called me dullin.
My Nana constantly had the kettle on and she made me a cup just like hers which never failed to make me feel special and grown.
She indeed poured two cups and went to dial the phone. I heard snippets of conversation.
“…Little one is here …. Where is she?...no she says …How many days dullin??” she yelled across the room.
“3, I think, maybe 4.” I was nursing my tea and feeling super special.
I could hear her say, “Oh no reason, just checking in.”
Nana made so many phone calls her tea was cold when she came to sit and she had to warm it up.
She sat down and made a sort of a squeaky, chirpy noise with her mouth and said, “Well, why don’t you head back to the house and get your clothes all together and you might have to stay here tonight. Papa will come by and get you before bed.”
I looked at her and thought, Wow. Maybe my mom is dead and that would be so great. I didn’t feel badly at all and I didn’t feel badly that I didn’t feel badly either. I wasn’t explained to any further. I did as I was told, went home, got my shit together, made a sandwich and some Kool-Aid, fed the cat and turned on the TV. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in trouble for it because my mother most assuredly was not coming home and hopefully had been grabbed and stabbed by some landlubbing pirates or something. I fell asleep on the couch and was woken by a loud noise outside. I opened the front door to see my Dad pulled up bobtailed in a big ass Kenworth. He opened the truck door and my little brother scrambled over his lap and came running across the front yard toward me. He hurtled into my arms and we hugged and hugged. My dad had a huge smile on his face and told me to get my stuff.
I was ecstatic. I loaded all my stuff in the truck and off we went, hundreds of miles away and away from my horrible mother.
Eventually, though, in a world surrounded by testosterone, I sank into a slight dark princess, Lydia Deets-ish place. There were nothing but boys about all the time. I felt all put upon having these men all over the place and then the boys in the countryside that flocked to play with my brother were ever present and always taunting. I was shot with their BB guns, I was forced to kiss one of them at BB gunpoint once. I was pushed, prodded and picked on mercilessly.
One day I’d had enough.
I cleaned my room. Put on the nicest dress I had and wrote a very moving suicide note. I say that because I don’t remember what it said but I know that I was very sure it was devastating. I went to the medicine cabinet and checked myself in the mirror before I pulled it open to do myself in in the only way I’d ever heard of…with a bottle of pills. I sat down on the edge of the tub and proceeded to gnaw up every last one of the chewable, fruit flavored Tums in the family sized bottle. I went then and placed the suicide note on the yellow frilly pillow sham next to me and laid upon the bed…crucifixion pose, like any good martyr, and waited. I waited for the sweet release that only about 15-20 fruit flavored antacids could bring.
After what seemed longer but was probably 10 minutes or so, my brother burst in the front door and into my room and asked what the hell I was doing.
I bolted upright and grabbed the suicide note. I hadn’t figured on having to explain myself. I was going to let my beautiful, lifeless corpse do the explaining. He grabbed the note from me and after reading it, he paused and looked at me with a furrowed brow and then he just hugged me. He said, “Let’s get rid of this and me and you will play in here. Away from everyone outside.”
So the nature with which I handled being abandoned earlier was practically heroic compared to being picked on and the ensuing botched suicide attempt. Turns out though, all that abandonment shit ages, and not well. It sits and ferments and comes back to haunt you.
The decade that followed was confusing and full of more chaos brought on by spotty parenting and oppression. Mother blew back into town and Dad let her back. By the time I turned 20 I was marrying a virtual stranger, thousands of miles from home in order to feel as if I belonged to someone. My dad had driven me to upstate New York on a run to Canada. When he met the beau I’d been corresponding with for a mere 6 months on a snowy, bone-chilling night outside a barracks on Fort Drum, he was not thrilled…in the least. The last thing he said before he loaded up to leave the next day was, “Whatever you do, don’t get married. I’ll come from wherever I am and get you if you need me…just call.”
I agreed and sent him on his way. Two weeks later, I called him to tell him I’d wed the aforementioned near stranger. He blew a heavy sigh, “I knew that was gonna happen.”
Aging 10 years hadn’t improved my thought processes or injected any maturity or wisdom. Aging – 10, Maturity – negative 20.
Fast forward another 10 years to the second husband and I turned 30 and I was feeling as if I had it. I had two babies and a child groom (5 years younger than me) who was devastatingly handsome and equally as devastatingly simple. I had accepted that lot and was fairly secure in the feeling that I had “grown up”. I liked turning 30. I had hitherto held the design that things would be better when I got older; that as I aged, magical insight would settle about my shoulders like I was a Disney princess being attended by benevolent woodland creatures. I felt as if this were happening when I turned 30. The thing I had always waited for had arrived. The 10 years between 30 and 40 pretty much dashed that all to hell.
When I turned 40, I was so miserable and dealing with inner crazy that I often dreamed for an amorphous blanket of nothing to swallow me whole. The aging process had not, in fact, conspired with the universe to turn me into an astute, happy sage. I waited and waited for everything to get better but as I looked in the mirror, I noticed that I was getting older and for the first time, I noticed the wrinkles. I noticed the not as smooth skin, the stray hairs growing in weird places, the flesh that did not snap back, the hair that was oh so slightly thinning. The fact that my world was completely spinning out of control behind me as I examined my many flaws compounded every last one of them.
I hated that my body was betraying me. It was all I’d ever had when my mind was constantly on the blink. Big boobs can get you through a lot, don’t kid yourself. Now though, they were turning into 38 longs instead of DDD’s. It was all so terrible and I cried. I was old. I had to face it. I was my mother. I was chunky and old. I couldn’t be anyone’s real fantasy any longer because I was practically geriatric. The only thing that any man had found interesting about me up to that point was gone. My looks had just disappeared. I cried. I cried a lot. I avoided mirrors. What little self-esteem I had vanished. Aging had finally caught up to me.
It is a mere 4 years later. I will turn 44 in two weeks and I feel fabulous. I look like a 40 something woman and I’m okay with that. I have wrinkles, I am doing a thousand pushups to help curb the southbound journey of my boobs, I’m poofing my hair with outrageously priced products, I drink a lot of water and take a lot of supplements. I am, indeed, trying to look as good as I possibly can…
BUT I have found that feeling love and peace inside shines love and beauty to the outside. The person I love, who loves me, watched me act like a complete happy, doofus moron for months before we got together. Just like I do with every friend I have. I was myself. My real true self. The one that breaks into song for no reason and whose feelings would best be expressed in a monologue from TV’s Portrait of a Teenage Centerfold. The person that has for the first time really, truly found joy in living every day. Don’t get me wrong, shark week rears its ugly head and the hormones rage occasionally, but I don’t cry every day anymore. I suppose mostly that is because I realize with age comes aging. I won’t have every day forever and for the time I have here, I want the most out of every last second. I don’t want to be crippled with worry or anger or self-doubt or self-loathing. It’s a waste of precious time and I want to live before I die.
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