Monday, September 26, 2016

On Aging

What the heck, September? PTA meetings and a conference in NYC and turning THIRTY-EIGHT went and sucked up all of my time this month. Thirty-eight -- how did that happen?  PTA MEETINGS! Ha! Who am I?!

A friend wrote a Facebook post the other day about how time is a contortionist. I spent the other night looking at old videos of Quinn, crying my eyes out because where did my sweet toddler go? Who is this five-year-old who thinks it's hilarious to send his dad poop emojis in a text?

And then I looked at those puffy eyes of mine and realized I am super overdue for investing in an effective eye cream. And possibly also some botox. Five years of cancer has aged me and mama is tired.
About a week before I was diagnosed, 2011.
I recently commented on a blog post written by my college friend and author/mom/cook/all-around-badass Amelia Morris. Its themes are something I've been giving more thought to lately (maybe because suddenly I'm old enough that my child is SCHOOL-AGED and also because he regularly tells me I have a squishy belly. "Uh, because of you," I want to respond).

Amelia, a former gymnast, reflects on the Olympic sport of women's artistic gymnastics and the pressure we women feel to have it all and look good while doing so.

She writes:

"And while I agree that our ideas about the female body and its power are, indeed, unresolved, perhaps the gymnasts themselves have it figured out. Aly Raisman is performing world-class gymnastics; she looks good doing it; and (bonus points?) seems to have a really strong sense of self. As for me, as confused as I am—as torn between appreciating my body and criticizing it, between feeling endlessly grateful for motherhood and feeling trapped by it, between wanting to appear effortlessly pretty and wanting to literally put no time or effort into that aim—I remain hopeful for the future."


I didn't used to think of myself as high-maintenance, but between my eyebrow tattoos and eyelash extensions to give me a semblance of what I had pre-cancer, the occasional mani/pedi to mask the spot where I'm missing a toenail -- thanks again, chemo and five years of Avon Walks -- and actually having to do something with my hair for the first time in five years (NOT that I'm complaining and even though that something is often a ponytail), I feel decidedly higher maintenance than I'd like. I care about how I look. I wish it were effortless but it just is not any more.

New eyebrows (about 8 months ago)!
And don't even get me started on fillers and lip plumping and teeth whitening. I am not there yet. Yet. But the immobile foreheads of every twenty- and thirty-something in my yoga classes reminds me that I am in the minority. I have a plastic surgeon, yes, but for far more terrifying reasons.

Or maybe this focus on our looks is just a phenomenon where I live? But having read Wednesday Martin's Primates of Park Avenue as part of a book club last year (and every cover of every Star or US Weekly at the newstands ever), I don't think so. Also, Amelia doesn't live in Arizona, either.

Still, as much as I lament the scowl lines in between my tattooed eyebrows, or wish I didn't have such extreme bags under my eyes, as much as I'd love to have Kerry Walsh's washboard abs, my comment on Amy's post was about how it took cancer to allow me to -- almost -- stop criticizing and spend much more time appreciating my post-baby body. How crazy is that? That it took being told I had a deadly disease to learn to pump the brakes on being an ass to myself.

Now, Quinn is 5 (and a half), I have purplish scars across my reconstructed chest, a softer belly than before pregnancy, neuropathy in my right hand from radiation or surgery or both, and an inability to move or stretch in ways I could before cancer because of those surgeries and radiation. So much for the cover of Yoga Journal

But I appreciate what my body can do. Hike mountains. Show up to volunteer with a class of kindergarteners. Dive into a late-September pool to the delight of my boy, who knows it's going to be too cold for me (it is). I appreciate what my body has done. Recover from surgeries and radiation. Run marathons. Give birth. Breastfeed. I mean, how awesome is that?! I grew and sustained a LIFE with this body.

I watched this video a while back with tears streaming down my cheeks, and then it showed up again in my Facebook feed a couple of months ago.

I hadn't remembered the part about the women who'd lost their boobs. Pay attention at 2:50. Actually, pay attention to all of it. You are amazing, and beautiful, and strong. All of you. Even at 38 years old.