Just because the path you planned to follow is blocked, doesn’t mean you can’t find joy on a new path.
Getting older is a struggle. I always feel that just under the surface of acceptance and enjoyment of the ageing process is a terrible hysteria just waiting to burst out.
– Michael Sheen
There is this idea that people are reincarnated, that they have lived other lives in the past. And there is this idea that there are some people who are “young” souls just beginning this path and that there are “old” souls who have gone through the cycle many times. I don’t know if I “believe” in reincarnation but I have always had the feeling that I am a “young” soul. Every time something would happen in my life it came as such a shock. Small things, big things, more likely than not I would be totally surprised as if I could never have imagined it would be as it was. And I am not talking about a slight surprise consciously or emotionally. I am talking about an existential bomb going off for me that fundamentally shakes what I think about life.
In a way, I “aging” is like that for me and I observe it as if it is happening to someone else. I have to admit that my intellectual connection to my body has been a tenuous one. I mostly feel like a brain that is being carried by a machine that I hardly know but seemed to always “work”. But now that things are starting not to work so easily, I find it surprising and confusing in a way. I mean, I know that I am getting “older” and some of these things one should “expect” from getting older but still. Some of this is weird.
For example, I have been watching my knuckles grow for years. I noticed a long time ago that there were deposits building up and I used to try and massage them away. Now on some of my fingers, the knuckles are disproportionately large and the first knuckle of my left index finger has taken on the family gene and bends extremely to the left. And the end of my nose has changed. It used to have corners that I really hated. Now it is nearly round and it isn’t from drinking too much or scars. It has just changed. Weird.
Mostly, when I look at myself in the mirror it feels exactly to me like Liv Ullmann once said in an interview, “My mirror is very kind to me” and what I see in the mirror is not very different from what I have always seen. It is when I see myself in a photograph or out of the corner of my eye in a shop window I think, do I really look like that? One day a couple of years ago, I looked in the mirror and noticed that my stomach had dropped several inches. I was shocked! I thought something was terribly wrong and I would need to go to the doctor. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that it was probably just “old age droop” but it seemed to happen not gradually but over night. Weird.
And when I lie in bed and look at the skin on my arm that is paper thin, almost translucent and starting to wrinkle like crepe, and I observe this as if it belong to someone else. Not as if it is a part of me. I think, who does that belong to? Who is this old woman, who I have become? When did she turn up? I am totally surprised.