Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wisdom of Age

It's strange - the wisdom that comes with age. Things that we could not see clearly when we were young are suddenly crystal clear when looking back with a little life experience behind us.

I was cleaning frantically the other day, trying to tidy my messy life for a visit from my college roommate (the nurse I wrote of at Christmas time). She has never been to visit me here in California and I talked her into leaving her 17 year old daughter behind and make the trip for a little "me time" for herself.

The fact that I'm cleaning for her is exceptionally funny. She's the one who taught me to be a mess! She was a diplomat's daughter, growing up in exotic locales like Egypt and the Philippines - but much more suited to small town Mississippi. Her only duties as a child were to make her bed (something I never did) and place her neatly folded pajamas underneath her pillow. She never had to pick anything up, put it away or dust it. After fighting her clutter semester after semester in college, she won me over.

To this day you will find my bed made and my nightie under my pillow. And nothing else in it's place. That being said, my house cannot look like my house with company coming. And while cleaning off the bookshelf to get rid of some of the many books I've already read or ones that were given to me and I know I will never read (try as I might, I simply cannot even read a sentence or two of books such as "Wealth without Risk" or "Securing your Financial Future." I will always be poor because I fall asleep reading these things...Hmm... maybe I should have kept one by my bed for my insomnia).

In the course of filling three huge boxes with books, I found my high school diploma. For a girl who feels so overwhelmed by stuff, why am I still lugging this thing around? It's not like I need it to prove anything.

I remember being so proud of my gold seal for my years in the Forensic Society. I didn't get the second seal reserved for 4.0 students. I was a great student and have one of the highest i.q.s in my school but for the life of me, I couldn't get decent grades in the secretarial courses my mother forced me to take.

"You might want to be a secretary someday. You'll be so glad you know how to type."

"Mom, I'm going to have a secretary, not be one."

In the end, we were both right. I had a secretary. I'm also glad I know how to type. But that skill came from my interest in computer geekdom, NOT just wanting to know how to type.



I called my best friend and asked for permission to throw it away. It felt good... but I had to dig it out to scan the thing for the blog. Now it's back in the trash and come Monday, it'll be in an L.A. landfill, no longer one more piece of clutter. What it represents, I will always have with me. Letting go is good.



The other bit of wisdom has to do with looks. Every woman I know is so hard on herself looks-wise. I have always felt like the most hideous woman - certain it was my strange looks that were to blame for my lack of a boyfriend. To complicate matters, I've always had really pretty friends.

I could name a litany of reasons I look strange: red hair, curly hair that would get to my shoulders and get wider instead of longer, freckles, stocky body, too short, lips too thin, legs too muscular, feet too small, hands too thick... you name it, I've hated it.

While cleaning, I ran across a mini wedding album from former bosses' wedding. We were close friends for 10 years. 2001 was a crisis year for me... many things happened and I was exceptionally busy. She sent me an email to tell me all the things I didn't do for her - stupid stuff like missing her toddler's birthday party. I tossed the album in the trash pile.

Later, while picking up, I noticed this photo and started flipping through the album. I was so insecure at that wedding. All the blond bridesmaids and me... the silly redhead. I felt so ugly next these blonds.

But looking back, damn, I look good. I am not a vain person but I think I'm the cutest girl there. Why couldn't I appreciate that? Why couldn't I have been a little gentler with myself? Why couldn't I just be a little kinder to myself now? Just accept myself as I am?

I could... but I don't look like that anymore.

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4 comments:

Annie said...

On my last birthday a girlfriend asked if I was giving myself a present. I replied that I was indeed and that it would be a photo of myself naked. She was startled by my plan, and said she would never take a photo of herself naked for she'd never be able to look at it without dismay. I asked her how she felt when she saw pictures of herself from years gone by and she said, "I'm okay with those but not with me now". I told her I am taking the photo for my 90 year old self. I know when I'm 90 I'll have the objectivity I don't have now.

I have since figured out that if I just look at it through 90-year-old-eyes, I am able to see a lot of beauty in me.

CreekHiker said...

Annie, You are a VERY wise woman indeed! I hope you did give yourself that picture.

Ordinary Janet said...

I can't believe you threw out your high school diploma! I wouldn't do it because I had a hard time getting through school by lipreading, and that diploma is proof that I made it through.

I'd throw out that album, maybe you can cut the parts with you in it out and keep those. Make a collage and hang it on the wall. Hmm... maybe I'll do that with my old photos.

I don't think that a naked picture of me as I am now will make me feel any better if I make it to 90 which I fervently hope doesn't happen. ;-)

Jackie said...

Holly, that Annie IS a wise woman! Having said that, I don't think I'll be doing it anytime soon. :-)