Today I discovered my third gray hair. One would think that a mere three gray hairs would be of no consequence, but God saw fit to bless my head with long, dark strands that make such silvery strands ever so obvious within a sea of brown.
I am 32-years-old. In just over a month’s time, I’ll be 33. In just under 3 months’ time, I’ll welcome my second child into the world. And as I begin to notice the not-so-subtle differences of my age, I find myself looking a little closer in the mirror and paying just a little more attention to how my body feels.
Why? Why can I not just accept that this is indeed a normal part of the life cycle and that I, as all those before me, will continue to age until one day my aging body will say, “Okay, I’ve had enough,” and throw in the towel?
As Ethan was bathing tonight, I was looking closely in the mirror at the fine lines and creases that are beginning to take up permanent residence on my facial features. And I thought, “what in the world will these look like ten years from now? How old will my face be?” And all of a sudden I hate the years I chose not to wear sunglasses in the sun because by not doing so, I invariably squinted my eyes against the glare on the water as we spent many a summer day on the water. I hate the years I chose to smoke because instead of thinking of the future consequences, I was only concerned with instant gratification. I hate the lack of skin care I participated in because I let my skin remain dry and flaky, depriving it of valuable nutrients it needed to maintain its elasticity that I so long to cherish now.
And as these thoughts ran through my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would want a do-over when I reach an even older age. Would I long for the days when my skin and my body were young? Would I wish I could turn back time and do it all over again? I certainly hope not. I would like to think that by the time I, hopefully, reach a ripe old age, that I can look back on my life with fondness and fulfillment.
However, at even the young age of 32, I can honestly say I wish I knew then what I know now. It’s so cliché, yes, but it’s also so very apt. I wish I would’ve realized when I was a teen just how beautiful I was. My awkwardness and gangly feelings were just that….feelings.
I wish that I would have spent less time in my 20s obsessing over a tiny hump in my stomach or a slight bulge on my love handle region when wearing a swimsuit. I look back at those pictures now and wonder how my body was so toned, so muscular. So put together. Because no matter how hard I work out, no matter how long I spend getting my body into shape, I will never ever look like I did then.
I know it’s vain. I know it shouldn’t matter. But the differences are obvious. Even if I do remove the cellulite growing by the day on my hips and thighs, I will always have the scars of carrying not one, but two children within me. I will always be just a little more stretched out than I used to be. We just don’t realize what we have at the time. We don’t look in the mirror as a young 20-something and say, “Wow! I’m going to look back at myself in 10 years and be damned impressed!”
And that’s really the point. Right now, it’s so hard to look at myself and not see the growing cells of fat being stored as I create another life. It’s so hard not to focus on how long it took with baby #1 to get back into my clothes. And yet, I know with certainty that I’m gaining no more than I should and I’m healthy, and for a pregnant woman, I look pretty damn good. It’s learning how to look in mirror and remember that.
And then there’s what will happen afterward. Even after I lose all the baby fat. Even after I get back into the best shape I can get back into. I fear I will still look upon myself with a critical eye that’s so attuned to focusing in the flaws and I’ll miss the beauty that’s there. I won’t realize that those lines around my eyes are exactly the thing that make them sparkle when I smile. I won’t realize how fortunate I am to be 33 (this is the future, remember) and have so few gray hairs. I won’t realize how fortunate I am to be as healthy as I’ve become. I hope that I can keep a sound perspective on it all, and that as I continue to walk the walk that so many women before me have walked, I will learn to embrace my age and my looks. Most of all, I hope that I can embrace my experiences, wisdom, and knowledge that can only come from having lived a good life.