I remember writing a poem or some short piece of prose on my 19th birthday, and I recall it had a tone of uncertainty about it. At 19 I had no idea what I would be doing with the rest of my life – vocation, relationships, location…all were a bit of a mystery. It was like a huge field or perhaps an ocean, densely shrouded in fog, and I with my little sneakers or little rowboat not sure which way to proceed. But in some way, even at that tender age, I felt “old”. My childhood was behind me and it was time to proceed with adulthood.
The other day I overheard an acquaintance commenting about her upcoming birthday. She was not going to hide her age – she was pleased to be 36 and was not interested in veiling her age. I had the fleeting thought, “Wow – 36. She’s so young!” And then I remembered that only 5 short years ago that was me. Thinking I was getting closer and closer to 40 and I was not going to be ashamed or afraid of it. So I concluded that no matter how old I am, I am always “so old” and no matter how young I was last year or 5 years or 10 years ago, I was always “so young”. What age falls between old and young?
With all the beauty promises splashed across my news feeds these days I find myself examining my face and body more intently. More gravity and less collagen. Or maybe just more scrutiny and less contentment. It’s an ongoing effort, to focus more on the inward stuff and less on the external. Comparison is such a killjoy. I’m not planning on letting myself go (and my husband is grateful, though he loves all my wrinkles and softness), but I do wonder what it would be like to live in a culture that valued age and wisdom above youth and beauty.
A couple of years ago I learned that Sir Winston Churchill began painting at the age of 40. I have thought about this, and about others who ply their hand at new things past the age of youth. It is more like growing grapes than grains. Age lends wisdom to know when to pour in and when to soak up. The old, weathered vines with deep roots are not so dependent on the week to week precipitation but have access to underground reservoirs in and out of dry seasons. Growing deep is good for our souls.
Proverbs 31:30 tells us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. Good thing good fruit grows on old vines ~