A couple of weeks ago, I read a wonderful article by Catherine at Segullah. Her quote from Sandra Cisnero's short story, "Eleven," explains the premise of her thoughts, and they are well worth reading:
“What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you are––underneath the year that makes you eleven.
"Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.”
What better way to explain age and aging? My husband will be 60 in April, my son-in-law 35, my son 30, my sister 52, my brother-in-law a certain age (diplomacy is alive and well in this family), and my mother 83. Another son will turn 28 in May, right before I hit the magical milestone of 58. Birthdays are on my mind, and I am realizing more and more that I carry, catalogued within me, the indelible print of every year I've lived on the earth...a collection of selves that can be accessed at any time (for good or for ill) depending upon need, attitude, and circumstances. What an interesting reflection this is!
In gospel doctrine class the other day, our teacher asked someone to stand up who was 40. I nearly rose to my feet, because all I could think of was that I am 40, and 41, and 42...that I am, in fact, every age I've ever experienced...for I hold the essence of that age carefully in my heart and spirit. I hope I can remember to be as humble as my 1-year-old self, as playful as the 4-year-old version, as pure as the 8-year-old, as hopeful as the 12-year-old, as feisty as the 16-year-old, as enthused as the 20-year-old and so on. I hope I can forgive myself when I'm as willful as the 2-year-old or lazy as the 14-year-old. I want to be as wise as the 44-year-old, as patient as the 52-year-old, and as available to serve my family as the soon-to-be-58-year-old.
I'd like to reach back into my history and find all of the good that is there, because it occurs to me that, while I have gained wisdom with my years, every year along the way holds its own virtues and merits that were and are unique to that particular phase or stage of my life. I need to be sure that, as time passes, I don't lose sight of those lessons learned, feelings felt, or spiritual connections made just because the hours and days and years have moved me away from them.
I am, after all, every age that I have ever been. I am free to embrace and take hold of every moment of my life and put it to good use, past and present.
“The way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one" (Sandra Cisnero, Eleven).
Thanks, Catherine, for helping me see the onion. And inspiring me to peel it...
and peel it again...