As I walked into the movies the other evening with my three boys, my eldest son commented about a movie which is being released about a woman who is stuck being 25 forever. I don’t know anything about the movie really, but according to my son, the woman is tortured by the fact that she CAN’T age. My son, who is 17 and more a man than a boy most days, can’t fathom the problem with this.
“25 is the perfect age. You have a job and can do what you want, but your not too old…” with a bit of a sideways glance at me. As much as I wanted to say, “I’m not old,” I didn’t, plus I don’t really think he thinks I’m a complete dinosaur. What I did say way, “I used to think 27 was the perfect age.”
I did. I thought at 27 I would’ve arrived.
And when I was 27 my life was good: a stay-home-mom with two kids, living in an idyllic neighborhood with swingsets, playdates, and friends right next door.
By the time I was 30, I’d had another baby and while life was hectic and full with three small boys running around, there was nothing my life lacked.
At least not that I knew.
Just last night I sat with two of those friends that lived right next door to me when I was 27. We no longer chat over the backyard fence while the kids dash to and fro. The kids are older and I have moved away. Life has soldiered on.
We talked about that neighborhood and those times and how much has happened since then.
Over dinner we didn’t talk about 3rd grade teachers and summer vacations anymore. Sure, we reminisced, but mostly we talked about the boatload of shit each of us has dug through (and are still digging though). We talked about the divorces, the deaths, the diseases, the failures, letting our children go, and the lack of control we have…
We confessed ways we each f*cked up our lives. And how others have inflicted pain on us.
Really uplifting topics, I know.
Life was easier at 27, but it lacked one thing: pain.
You’d think I’d long for that innocent time of ease. But I don’t.
These women sat before me with their sharp shards of pain and scars and yet, as I listened to them and as tears welled up in the corners of my eyes (and theirs), I couldn’t help but feel like we were gazing on some hidden beauty of life.
One that at 27 I didn’t know existed.
I don’t know if I have words to say what exactly that ‘hidden beauty’ is per se (this is a great frustration of being a writer – when words utterly fail to give rise to emotion), but I do know to have another woman gently hold fragments of my life that I can hardly look at with tenderness and compassion and see me as ‘good’ despite my brokenness is a glimmer of the grace in this otherwise highly glossed world. I do know that to have someone pay attention enough to know that life is not as idyllic as it looks from the swingset is one of the most honoring things you can do for another.
So, to my sons, while I do not wish upon you any of the pain that I have known in my life, nor any of the longings that my friends have known, nor any of the realizations that beyond 30 holds… I do know that you will not stay 12, 15, 17… or 25 forever. And I for that I am thankful. Because I know that you will grow to know more beauty and grace than you can see now.
You may not believe me. But give yourself 15 years or so and let’s chat.