Age is a funny thing. Kids can’t wait to tell you how old they are, and they’ll even cheat a bit by rounding up to the next number. Teenagers can’t wait to be older. I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received as a 16 year old was being told, ‘really? You look at least 19!’
But somewhere in the mid twenties, things start to change. Suddenly we aren’t so keen on telling people how old we are anymore.
When I was a small child I had a doll named Johnny. He and I were inseparable. I carried him with me everywhere and when he wasn’t with me I cried. I loved him to the moon and back. Last year while helping my mother unpack her belongings in a new apartment she’d recently moved into I opened up a box marked winter clothes. There inside was Johnny. “I found him up in the attic and thought you’d like to have him,” she said. “You were given lots of pretty dolls when you were a little girl but they just sat on the shelf while you played with Johnny.” I picked him up and looked at his worn, plastic face. His stuffing, once tightly fitted in crisp yellow flannel pajamas was now lumpy and sparse. His body was now worn and tired; two fingers appeared to have been slightly chewed – signs of a child trying to break herself from the habit of sucking her thumb.
I thought about what my mother said about the other dolls in my room, all waiting to be played with while instead, I clung to Johnny. Most of them had long flowing hair, perfectly smooth skin and frilly pressed dresses. My baldheaded doll-baby may not have been the prettiest thing to carry around but I can assure you that he was the envy of all the other toys in my room – we went places, he and I: vacations, car rides, grocery store outings, restaurants, you name it. He’d been dragged though the snow, sat in the dirt, left out in the rain and if I remember correctly, vomited on a couple of times but truthfully, as I held him that day at my Mom’s apartment he still looked pretty good for being over four decades old.
Today is my birthday and I have no reservations whatsoever about telling you how old I am (forty-four). As I reflect on what this new age represents, I guess I’m kind of feeling like my childhood doll: some places are looking a bit worn (wrinkles around the eyes), the stuffing is now a bit sparse in some key locations (slightly droopy breasts) and a few chewed up areas (some pretty impressive scars). Recently I was scouting for a quote to pair with one of my paintings and came across one that I really connected with; I put it in a little notebook that I keep handy so I will always remember it:
I don’t want another girl’s body. I want my body – happy, healthy and strong.
How true this statement is for me. Sure, there’s still that tiny part of me that wishes I had beautiful, long hair or lean and perfectly toned arms but at the end of the day I’m just grateful for the things my body does for me. It’s likely that all this wisdom has something to do with the aging process and feeling more comfortable in my own skin; it’s positively true that I’ve learned to appreciate my body through the practice of yoga. I’m just feeling pretty darned lucky to be here I guess; that’s a feeling I never intend on taking for granted.