It’s quite impossible to write about life without reference to the pandemic. It is affecting how we live. How we work. How we feel. The smallness of our world has created, within me, an intensity of noticing. Not only of my surroundings. Of my hair, my limbs, my face, my toenails, and my fingernails. Without hairdressers, nail salons, gyms, and estheticians, all matters related to their maintenance are left in my own hands.
The other day I found my small round super magnifying mirror. It was at the back of the drawer of the bathroom vanity, beside two types of tweezers, a flat package of DYI eye mask, and loose vials of free samples handed out by cosmetic counters, rolling around having spilled out from a plastic gift pouch. Standing in the shaft of sunlight coming through our bedroom window, I raised the mirror to inspect the fine rogue hairs sprouting beneath and between my eyebrows.
There ensued a moment of horror. Looking back at me, through hooded eyes beneath an etched frown and wilting eyebrows was my elderly mother. As I bravely took in the full visage, meticulously reflected in the mirror, my emotions bounced between panic and resigned sadness.
No cream, serum, or beauty regime was going to put my skin back on the bones of my face the way it was in my youth. The excess dermis beneath my chin reminded me of a large ancient snapping turtle I came across on our cottage road many years ago. As I approached, it recoiled its head back toward the protective shell, the creases in the skin of its neck like folded crepe paper. As I retreated, her head extended out toward me, the neck now smooth and taut. Sadly, as I lengthened my neck and examined it in the mirror, the pelican pouch under my chin simply elongated.
Drawing my eyes up to my mouth I stretched and relaxed my lips. Hoping that the vertical lines that blur their definition would smooth out and stay that way. Age and heredity stared back at me. My mother and grandmother had deeply etched lines emanating vertically from their mouths. As though they had lived most of their lives with pursed lips.
I am a witness to the efforts women undertake in the battlezone below the nose. Collagen and botox, guaranteed to look lush, full and natural sneer or pout back at me. My eyes are hopelessly drawn to a familiar face and beautiful smile now altered. I wait for the voice and hope the eyes and eyebrows have stayed in the same place and move with expression. I understand the longing for smooth, plump, and younger-looking.
With a deep breath and patience, I squeeze the tweezers and extract the random hairs. Perhaps this is a time to count my blessings. Perhaps this is a time to commit to aging gracefully. Perhaps this is a time to let the youth enjoy their physical beauty. Even if I pull back my face, open my eyes, raise my eyebrows and smooth my lips, I’m still me. My driver’s license still bears testimony to my true age. The skin on the rest of my body is no longer adhering to my skeleton as it used to.
What does my life look like if I practice acceptance of the aging process? If I choose not to do surface interventions? If I instead invest my energy, wisdom, and discipline in strengthening my emotional and physical fitness. If I channel my life experience and creativity into enriching the precious hours in my day and helping those around me will I stop noticing?
The thought of losing my youth, of becoming irrelevant, of not liking myself, terrifies me. However, the alternative is worse. So I choose to live courageously.
At least, that is my experience.