I disappear a little every day. I fade into the background as if my importance has diminished. My face begins to tell my history through crow’s feet and sagging eyelids. I am now a woman with curves, ridges and my grandmother’s breasts. I am no longer twiggy-like with bones protruding and progesterone filled skin that rebounds and presents itself wrinkle-less and porcelain smooth. I feel that I have finally grown into myself. I have reached an age of understanding. But even as I feel this sense of settling in; this sense of finally living in the present, I find that my age has set me apart. And, suddenly, I am fighting against a tide of irrelevance.
I remember in my twenties walking like I owned the street. I strutted my skinny ass around in miniskirts, braless halter-tops and spiked heels. I thought I knew where I was going, what I wanted. If you didn’t like anything I did, said or wore, who cared? Certainly not me. But I am weighed down by gravity now. I have seen many things, lost many things and it shows on my face, in my eyes. My gait seems to show weakness, tiredness, or surrender. They think I have become vulnerable. Make no mistake this is not what you are seeing. Life has taught me resilience, steadfastness, and the redemption of survival. I stand strong because of the battles waged, not always won, but always a battle endured. Each limp with my cane is a survivor’s limp. It doesn’t speak of the loss, it speaks of the endurance that gets me up, out of bed, and on my feet everyday.
I have reached the age beyond which I am identified by my relationships. I am no longer Mill’s daughter, plagued by family line expectations that have nothing to do with who I am. I am no longer Jim’s stepdaughter, always trying to find the thing that will bind us. Nor am I Eddie, Nicky, Jimmy, or Michael’s sister, who thought that loyalty and trust trumped anything else in our lives. I have moved beyond the responsibilities of Tara’s mother. I have given her the tools to move forward with her own assurance and wisdom and she has created her own life with her children. I am relinquished of those duties, worries, and daily responses to her life. I don’t have the burden of problem solving and worries like when they were younger and lived with me and I stood in the hallway listening to them cry themselves to sleep because of the nasty divorce that tossed them back and forth like weightless paper.
I have just begun to get my bearings in this world. I have moved out of the circle of responsibility by relation and into the idea that I can accomplish what I had set out to do. I now have the time to search out what I have tucked away for later, for another time, for when I grew older. That time is finally here. I rummage through dusty shelves stacked with boxes of poems, stories, and journals where I recorded everything that I could not say. I find pieces of me nestled inside notes and sentences jotted down so long ago I don’t even remember writing them. They are speaking faintly like a small, dry, and withered voice. But my words are coming alive for me again. And I realize it is me who has been stuffed into these boxes. I have been hidden away within lines of unspoken stories and left over remnants of when I danced on the edge of knives without fear.
I am not only this age, weight, height, bra size or hair color. I have moved beyond myself. The world sees grandchildren, menopause, and now a limping woman with a cane. My skin and sinew turns translucent, bone becomes shadow, and I become a little more invisible in the day-to-day dealings in my life. Even though I am only now coming alive in my own life. I feel the pressure to dye my hair, get botox injections, order Spanx so my curves can be reduced and concealed. We are a society of bone thin androgyny and wrinkle free faces. And I feel the pull to hide my age, pretend I am not who I am. I am embarrassed by the lines suddenly appearing on my face and apologetic about the use of the cane, as if these things define who I have become. As if my weight, eyesight, or failing left leg has anything to do with what I have accomplished or have yet to accomplish. I have saved so much until now. There is so much tucked away in those boxes and notebooks that still needs to be said.
I refuse to be invisible. I refuse to step aside, give up my place; move along. I have waited for the bad marriages to end. I have waited for parents to pass on so that the patterns and boundaries could change. I looked forward to this time of my own to take the words buried within me and toss them like scrabble tiles until they cluster together into sentences that tell how, why, and where. I have waited for it all to make some kind of sense so that I could retell it. Pass it on. Give it away. I have things I want to say. Need to say. Stories to tell that make me laugh, cry, and get angry. Stories that punctuate who I have become.
I will not walk slowly away and accept that my time is up with my hands filled with regret and lost opportunities spilling out in a trail behind me as I exit quietly and assume my expected role of transparency. I will fight for my voice as I always have. This cane, these crows’ feet, these bugling breasts and hips are badges I have earned from the battles I have won and lost. I have survived in spite of it. And that’s what matters. The survival, not the wounds. I have decided that I will wear these badges proudly. I will stand in my relevance as a survivor and simply refuse to be invisible.
- ► 2011 (11)