Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: If I could stop time...

If I could stop time, I'd go ahead and do it right now. It is a Saturday morning of cold blue skies and a bright sun spilling across a landscape of fallen leaves and pine needles.

Lately, I've been noticing the faces of older women--the ones sitting in coffee shops or at bus stops, at the grocery store or walking their dogs.... I've been noticing their faces like I've been noticing my own, the way age makes subtle changes over the years, creating a map of one's life.

I look at those women and wonder: is she happy? does she have regrets? would she do anything differently if given the chance? does she have a partner? does she have children? do they love her? does she love them? does the fresh air make her smile? does she sit alone in front of a television at night? what is the most adventurous thing she's ever done? has her heart been irrepairably broken? does she work in an office, sitting inside of a cubicle every day? has she ever changed someone's life? My curiosities about the faces of these women are endless. Maybe because I wonder what they reflect of my own face? They are usually strangers, glimpses of them caught in a passing moment, causing me to continue thinking about them for days and sometimes even weeks in an attempt to unravel the story of their lives from a single expression.

I always thought that a woman should be proud of her age. And I still do. I thought that wrinkles and white hair and age were something that one should wear with confidence. To me, age is equaled to life lived--something to be celebrated. I have always found beauty in age.

I am drawn to the faces of other women because, at 31, the process of aging has snuck up on me. I didn't expect this. My naive assumptions about aging had nothing to do with these dark circles under my eyes. Everyone has always said that I look young for my age. But, these days, I think I'm starting to look exactly my age. Soon, I'm afraid that I will look older than my age. Something in my face has begun to look different to me. I don't recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror. She seems tired--the kind of tired that no amount of sleep will ever cure. She looks worn out, kind of like the woman that stood in the cold wind of the bus stop the other morning.

Looking at myself I think: Who is that woman that looks like a less beautiful version of my mom? An only slightly thinner version of my aunt? I don't understand the familial resemblances. And so I am drawn to the faces of strangers to explain this metamorphosis that seems to be taking place in my mind and taking hold of my body. I want to know where I am headed and am looking for ways to alter my course--not in wrinkles, but in quality of life.

You see, happy women age the best. Their wrinkles have a way of setting off the sparkle in their eyes. Their weathered skin has a way of reflecting long days spent outside gardening and woods-walking. Their still-strong muscles are but reminders of their active participation in each and every day of their lives.

At the age of 31 I see myself on a cusp. My aging process has, in a way, only just begun. And so I wonder: How should I live my life in a way that will age me beautifully? And what is beauty anyway? To me, beauty means happiness; beauty IS happiness. Beauty is a result of happiness. And however my body transforms with the passage of time--that is what I hope it will reflect. But it's the process of getting there that feels precarious. The map of my body and life are sometimes hard to read.

And I realize that what I'm really looking for in the faces of strangers--is a guide. I'm looking for someone to show me how to live life fully, for someone to show me how to be my best self. And what I'm beginning to understand is that the face of every woman I see is, in her own small way, my teacher. I can gleam whatever small amounts of insights I can from the strengths and weaknesses of others. But, in my heart, I know...
...the rest is up to me.


As for the prompt of "if I could stop time...", I guess I got off track. Except maybe not. Is it the ability to stop time that helps us age the most gracefully? And if that is the case, what does it mean to stop time? Is it perhaps nothing more than appreciating the blue sky and sunshine of a Saturday morning, taking time to breathe and love and simply be?

And I can't help but wonder, what will my face say about me when I'm 37? 50? 70? 105? What do I want it to say?


*more stopping of time.
*image from www.presscluboftibet.org

23 comments:

hundred and one said...

I can't tell you how much I identify with this post. Everything you wrote is so true. All my life I have been told just how young I look for my age (36) and although I still look young, my body doesn't. Not one bit. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

jessie...

my god, this is such a beautiful post. i love the thought of you looking into other women's faces for a guide, as i'm sure other people are looking to yours. what a wondrous woman you are.

sophie said...

Jessie!

beautiful post - "a guide"
perhaps a curiousity what
will live present to you -
what choices will you make -
what is your basic nature like
and how will you respond to
the twists and turns of life -
and how will it show itself
on your face?

Your inner beauty shines through
in your blog as it does
clearly in your bright smiley
hopeful courageous eyes:)

yak attack said...

When I first saw your post, and the photo, I thought, "oh, she has been to Tibet! She knows what its like where I live!!!" I have also thought that "wrinkles and white hair and age were something that one should wear with confidence.", but now as I acquire them, I wonder if I DO wear them with confidence. The taxi drivers used to say that they thought I was in my late 20's, and now, seven years later, they are saying late 30's. Have I aged 10 years over the past seven? Now at 53, I hope that I can start to learn to age gracefully! Thank you for such a wonderful post!

Michelle said...

I think that I stop time to some extent by continuing to teach school. It keeps me younger...being in touch with the pulse of youth everyday. I agree with you about aging well being related to happiness. Those wrinkles are beautiful.

Amber said...

I also always wanted to age with grace. I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn. She was all grace and beauty, even more when she aged, I thought. And what made her so beautiful was how she gave to others, and how she was happy. As we look at our own tired faces, we should remember that I bet even Audrey had days she thought she looked old!

Nice post. ;)


:)

Anonymous said...

This is another one of your posts that makes me leap out of my own head, because it makes things so clear. Yes, I have been having the same relationship with my aging lately, more so because with A. growing so quickly, it makes me wonder about how I'll be in the future.

Beautiful, beautiful post. I miss you...let's get together!

Catherine said...

"Happy women age the best" - something to really think about. Thank you for this post.

GoGo said...

very nice post! I think its profound and beautiful.

I loved the question, "What do I want it to say?"

I've been asking the same thing.

Susannah said...

i can really identify with what you've written here. after 33 years of not looking my age, it's caught up with me, and while i don't mind the lines and dark circles, i'm wanting to rethink the path this face and body is on... that i'm on...

a lovely thoughtful post - thank you x

melba said...

A face says so much. Your questions are so valid. They say so much about you and your journey.
I want to be full. I see my Grandmothers, one in her 80's and one in her 90's, literally waiting to die. There is no sparkle left. (and I don't really know what made them sparkle in the first place as both women are negative and always seem a bit hostile)I just pray that there will be more for the women of my Mother's generation and my generation and all of those to come. Women wanting More than to sit and pass the time. Women LIVING juicy to their very last breath.

Colorsonmymind said...

This post really touched me-and made me think. I loved it-I loved how you shared all angles of your feelings and thoughts on this.

I don't always try to analyze but this post made me want to understand you more:)I wish you would write more on this.

Love and kisses

Tammy said...

If you are happy it shines inside out:) I love my wrinkles but I love photoshop too :)

Michelle Fry said...

I like your idea that "happy women age best".

silverlight said...

you want good skin, with out surgery? stay out of the sun and use a good moisterizer. I won't tell you how old I am but, I have very few wrinkles at my age.also, I do not have awatlle neck..
At 36, you are still a teenager.

Jamie said...

Oh, Jessie, thank you.

I consider myself an age rebel. I don't ask people their age, and I don't talk about mine. I have felt defiant, refusing to be defined by a number. And yet, I share your experience of suddenly seeing a different woman in the mirror. I've longed for someone to show me how to do this gracefully and vivaciously.

And so I'm printing your question and putting it where I can see it:
How should I live my life in a way that will age me beautifully?

I feel moved, inspired and like my wish came true and a wonderful woman pointed the way. Thank you.

ruby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ruby said...

beautiful post, jessie, as all of yours are. you are so wise and inspiring. what i wouldn't give to chat things up with you over a cup of coffee or two. one day, perhaps.

Kristine said...

Beautiful post. I have been thinking about age quite a bit lately too. My mom looks fabulous! Seems that simply keeping current - way of dressing, hairstyle, awareness of the world and it's events has kept her young...

deirdre said...

This resonates for me. I've always been fascinated by peoples faces, by the stories that are written there. For the most part I get guessed much younger than I am, and I like that. A lot. The past year has crept up and now I see a woman the age I actually am, and I hope the story written on my face is worth the writing.

This post is wise and gentle and kind.

tara dawn said...

Such inspiring words my girl, overflowing with beauty. So many of these thoughts on aging I share with you...the beauty of wrinkles that make the eyes sparkle, the weathered skin telling of a life immersed in nature...all of it, the exquisite creation of a life fully lived.
I love the feeling of fullness I get in reading your words...it makes the day, the moment, and everyone I see a little more beautiful!
Love you,
TD

gkgirl said...

this
is beautiful.
i also identify with it
(being 36)

and i love the idea of
aging beautifully in regards
to living your life fully...

great job!
:)

paris parfait said...

Gorgeous post, Jessie, I promise you that the wonderful woman you are has nothing to do with age in years, and everything to do with experience, adventure and joy.