Today is my birthday and I can no longer deny that when I happen to see my reflection in the window of a car I see wrinkles. They are visible even in that poor substitute for a mirror. While some days I can appreciate the ever-present humor on aging (particularly Agatha Christie’s advice to marry an archeologist because he’s the one man who will grow more interested in me as I grow older) it isn’t the wrinkles I am worried about. It’s my reaction to the wrinkles because it has some choices and not all of them are wise or healthy.
Much as I deride those who use Botox and plastic surgery to change the reflection in the car window I secretly think that if I had the money I might be one. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to criticize “them”. As unhealthy as I know it is both from the medical perspective and the underlying message perpetuated by western culture to take part in “youth worship”, it is hard when you begin to see major changes in the face looking back at you from the mirror. The creams that I can afford lure me in with the promise to “wage war on my wrinkles” and I realize that culturally wrinkles are viewed as the enemy and the battle-cry is sounded.
But bowing to the youth culture is only one unhealthy choice as I see it. Another option could be to settle in to a rigidity and unwillingness to see myself as somebody who still has lessons to learn and years to live, instead compromising to a life of bitterness of youth, viewing myself as superior because of age and wrinkles.
What’s the answer? I’ve had good modeling but even with the modeling I think the answer is so deep inside that it’s difficult to find the right words. Perhaps it is recognizing that the wrinkles, the face, the body are really the skin of my identity and not the core. Maybe it is knowing that no matter how old and wrinkled I become if I can still remember to be in awe of life then I won’t really be old.
So as I contemplate my birthday and inevitable reflections of wrinkles I move forward with these words, hoping I will develop the wisdom to go through the chapters of my life with grace.
To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” ~Henri Amiel