It is constant. This dull ache that hums when I’m still and whistles when I move. This pain has been my unrelenting companion for months, and this morning I was done. Bankrupt of positivity. Spent from smiling through the burning, of pretending that I don’t feel like a prisoner in my own, failing body.
Lingering pain is the thief of joy. Often it’s not enough to examine your blessings, or compose mantras of gratitude. On the contrary, I am now more acutely aware of these treasures than ever…but they bring no delight. Like a mist settled across my surroundings, I can see and even touch them. But they are blossoms without sweetness, dust in my nostrils.
The adage “age gracefully” keeps flitting about my head like an errant moth. I always assumed that I knew what it meant. Don’t overdo it on the cosmetic surgery! Keep up your fitness (but not too much) and put on a bit of makeup (but not too much). Don’t buck against the years, but embrace your season and suit up appropriately. Smile like you’ve earned those wrinkles! Your ability to lean, ever supple, into the arc of time will make you freshly beautiful in dynamic and unexpected ways.
But I am not just the age that I am. As I sit here tapping away with these freckled, solvent-stained hands, I am all of the ages I’ve ever been, woven together like a braid of gold and silver. I am twenty-one and four and eighteen and twelve and thirty-five. I want to run into the forest and build something with zebra sticks and yellow leaves. I want to sit on the floor, stretch out on my stomach and draw. I want to play pool at a club that should have checked my ID more carefully, and I want to hold my newborn baby in a hammock, drifting gently on a sunlit deck. I want to drink whiskey and catch tadpoles and ride to the grocery store all by myself to buy a Sprite, but I cant because my goddam hip hurts and I’m supposed to be aging gracefully.
I gaze up at a painting of my tiny son. He rests softly in the warm sand, embracing the weariness drawn from digging the hole that his body curls into. He is a bird in a nest, expectant and embryonic. When he was inside of me, I was tired too. I was sore and slow and hobbled. The cultivation was herculean, but, then the bloom! It was unfathomably beautiful. This glorious little life that continues to unfurl and spread delight.
As I gaze back at my life, I see the sweaty seasons…the digging and hauling and planting. Winters of loneliness, heartbreak, and the fear. Then, each time without fail, I have seen the flourishing that follows. I have experienced the redefinition and the resurrection of love.
My hip pings as I shift in my chair. Suddenly the mist shifts, just a bit.
And I can almost smell the peonies.