I've been re-reading Patti Smith's Just Kids, a memoir about her early years in New York when she and Robert Mapplethorpe were growing into a sense of themselves as artists. The insecurity of that process strikes a chord with me-the idea of not being sure who you are or where you are headed. We don't always know where our choices will lead us--but that shouldn't lead us to entropy, should it? The memoir reminds me that art often comes from doubt, that the artist wills herself into existence.
Life is so unpredictable. We are capable of transformation at any moment. I love this passage from a Mary Oliver poem, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Sometimes, we assign questions like that to the young. . . but I've been thinking about how--no matter what age we are--that question still applies. We still have choices about what we will do with the rest of our lives, no matter how many years remain.
I've been known to be critical of those who try (unsuccessfully) to defy the aging process. I've been judgmental, yes, I think that's the right word, judgmental of people who get botox injections or plastic surgery . . . or elderly women who wear clothing that conflicts with their age or older men who date younger women in a transparent attempt to feel youthful. It's been easy to be so critical, since I've looked rather younger than my age (thanks for your good genes, Mom and Dad). I was at a party the other night, and someone kept saying to me "You don't have any wrinkles" in an accusatory manner. I pointed out my crow's feet, but that didn't seem to matter.
Still, over the last few months, I've seen my body start to change. In spite of my intense bouts on the treadmill and the weight lifting, I'm gaining weight. Even though I've started taking B Vitamins intravenously (kidding), my hair has started to thin. The other night while waiting to drift off to sleep, I came to the happy realization that if I lose my hair, I can start wearing wigs . . . beautiful wigs with thick hair in whatever color I choose.
I live in a society where older women can get overlooked. I see myself doing that sometimes, much to my dismay. At the same time, I have older female friends who are gutsy, independent, and absolutely vibrant. As of this moment, I'm committing to defy not aging but diminishment.
I plan to be a loud, smart-a**, feisty old woman who travels the world and doesn't care what anyone else thinks of me. I'll study new languages and become an expert in all kinds of unexpected things. I'll wear patterns with patterns and doc martens that look like motorcycle boots. I'll have a different wig for different moods, and I'll keep listening to alt-rock until the day I die.
When that day comes, cremate me in my docs and scatter my ashes in the wind. A box won't be able to contain the energy I release.