It never occurred to me that I wasn’t immortal. In strength and beauty I played and danced, laughed and played, drank and ran flippantly in the wisdom that I would always be thus. So it is strange to see the skin around my knees relinquishing softly to gravity.
The taut, glowing peaches and cream I have always worn since I was a child never had a blemish. Freckles gracefully scattered along nose and limb in an attractive and comedic way hiding the secret they would one day expand into a muddied complexion along my cheeks and shoulders. My mother scolded me for picking at my chicken pox stating I would regret it when I had a scar on my nose at sixteen. I would rather she had explained to me that it was important to cherish the bloom and possibility of youth, stretching the boundaries of my physical world and documenting and reveling in the succulence and firmness and promise I took for granted. I doubt she had a moment to consider these things for herself with five children and her own youth evaporating in the heat of struggle.
If I had a daughter, I would encourage her spend her time exploring her own feelings, desires, intuitions and ideas. I would advise her to photograph her favorite parts of the rented beauty we all own so briefly for the joy of reminiscing when her eyes were older.
It isn’t that I put value in a youthful appearance beyond healthy perspective. It’s only I didn’t fully realize that there was an expiration date as odd as that sounds. Or maybe I didn’t think it would come so soon.
As a child, I was always growing towards womanhood. There wasn’t a sense of permanence in any stage. Change was expected. Graduating college, I had become. I was, in my own mind, the woman I would be. Strong, fast, lovely, and every new day was just another day as myself. The days ahead I presumed would be the same. I have an attachment to the physical picture I have of myself at twenty five . That is the image with which I associate my self. That is Heidi. But she has changed and she is changing.
I don’t know when I turned the corner and was surprised at my own body or face. It wasn’t at the thirty year milestone at which most people begin to face their mortality. I felt beautiful and resilient at thirty. I was in full bloom. Perhaps it was when I lost a large part of my own identity when I was robbed of regular running by a bad chiropractic adjustment which injured the soft tissue in my right knee from which I have never fully recovered. I couldn’t run for almost two years. My hard muscles softened, my angles became curves. I didn’t look like my internal picture of myself and my clothing didn’t fit the same. The most painful loss was the part of my day when I would tie my shoes, bare my skin, and dance along pavement or trails rejoicing in movement.
There I am! In the front at the National Track and Field Meet!
I can run some here and there if I take precautions, but it isn’t with the same freedom, strength, or speed. I don’t feel the same inside my body. It doesn’t adapt, firming quickly and reshaping itself through intense exercise. A short break in running in my twenties was irrelevant to my shape or speed. I could run ten miles after missing a few months and my measurements shrank immediately when I resumed. Now, my movements are heavier and my figure is resistant. It holds onto pounds like a stingy child in places that were always smooth. I am no longer fast. I have had to let go of chasing my younger self or fall into depression.
I expected to be in the peak of my running in my mid thirties. I wish I had known during that last year I was fast and able so I could celebrate inside that body and give it a proper send off. I wish I could have raced my heart out and run myself into the ground so that I knew I had done the best of which I would ever be capable. Then I could have let go more gracefully. It is harder when something you love is torn from you or stolen. There is always the hope it will return…and the fear it is gone forever. Not knowing is hard.
These are morbid and sad thoughts but they are true ones. Every day I wane, we all do those of us past twenty five. Although it takes work, I don’t find myself less beautiful, just different. I don’t know that I will ever be able to run like the gazelle I once was but I will evolve and find new ways to move and gain strength when I need to.
For me, there is discomfort in knowing that everything is always changing. I like to depend on things. I am investigating the idea of permanent changing. Inside this perspective is in the obvious revelation that anything taken for granted is wasted. So I am putting on a frilly, pastel vintage formal and I am going to dance with myself alone, moving in the celebration and the sorrow of being human. Today is the only day I have. If I am lucky enough to have tomorrow, the same will be true. So I will celebrate in my own way and cherish what I have.