Those of you who know me in real life know I have issues with aging—as in I couldn’t possibly be this old; this is my mother’s age. Resisting the truth is not making me any more comfortable in my crinkling skin. So, time to try something new—acknowledging, embracing. Because I’ve never written anything like this before, this first in a series will be a broad sweep, but my plan is to pause, like this, every year from now on. My appreciation to Lindsey Mead for the idea.
Besides, I was born in 1957 and now I’m 57. This is my year.
—originally published 4-9-2014
This is fifty-seven
57 is way more freedom than I had at 17 or 27 or 37 or 47. These days, each month I spend a week where I want to live—in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the very tip of Cape Cod, as far as you can go without falling into the sea. I had thought my place would be Nantucket—an island. But it turns out I would like to stay connected. In Provincetown, I feel at home in my skin. I let the bridge down rather than pull it up. I spread out rather than gather in.
57 is old—the number that is—but, like my grandmother before me, I don’t feel old. I feel just the same.
57 is not old—I’m not yet in my 60’s or 70’s or 80’s or 90’s. I’m not yet 100.
57 is 11 little bundles of sticks with 1 across the middle. It’s 2 sticks already in the next bundle.
57 is having lived 20,818 days. Which doesn’t seem like so many.
57 is having not as many days as I have lived still to live.
57 is beginning to run again. I want to see if I can learn to enjoy running. And to see if I can run 3 miles 3 times a week by the end of this year.
57 is walking at least 30 minutes every day.
57 is dry eyes and eye drops and reading glasses and distance glasses when I used to have twenty-twenty vision.
57 is 4 adult children—all off on their own. It’s realizing that for 31 of those 57 years, I had children at home. I had 23 years to myself before I had children. I’ve had 2 years to myself since they left.
57 is liking each of my children.
57 is 2 grandchildren. But I’m way way way too young to be a grandmother. I don’t think I look like a grandmother. My grandmother had gray hair and baked. I try to stay as far from the kitchen as I can. I get color on my hair every four weeks so that it will look the same as it’s always looked. The first thing Mack says to me when he gets to our house is, “CC, you want to go in your study and play?” Lily, in some karmic connection, waited to be born until after I finished my week in Provincetown.
57 is 29 years of marriage. It’s finding out we still like each other after the kids have gone. Actually, we like each other more.
57 is choosing an iPhone case that is not black.
57 is figuring out that shoes will never be my thing and to stop trying—after recently being talked into buying a pair of Valentino shoes one day and taking them back the next because I will never wear them. Purses and suitcases, yes. Shoes, no.
57 is adding the year to my birthday on my Facebook page.
57 is remembering seeing John Glenn orbit the earth on February 20, 1962, on a black and white plastic-shelled TV with rabbit ears. It’s remembering where I was a year and a half later when John Kennedy was shot—home from 1st grade, answering the phone in the room off the kitchen to hear my great aunt give me the news, then looking down the empty hallway for a grown-up.
57 is being a baby boomer and turning 57 this year along with Princess Caroline of Monaco, Caroline Kennedy (I had a Caroline Kennedy doll with a pink flowered playsuit), Martin Luther King, III (in my class at Spring Street Elementary School), B.K. Loren, Ray Romano, Katie Couric (with whom my husband once had a date), Vanna White, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Ethan Coen. Random.
57 is going back and forth between using, in this piece, the numeral 57 or the word fifty-seven and choosing 57 because it was more in my face, and if I kept repeating it, maybe I could make friends with it.
57 is going from black exercise pants to black pajama pants and back again—happily.
57 is spending my days doing what I want to.
57 is writing.
57 is never giving up.
57 is realizing I was never as smart as I thought I was.
57 is still trying to be the good girl and not understanding why. Really, why?
57 is having missed The Talking Heads the first time around. It’s loving music almost more than ever. Music can take me back so fast. Letting the days go by…
- “Daydream Believer” to Mobile, Alabama, the summer after 6th grade
- “Colour My World” to Atlanta, Georgia, the 8th grade Christmas dance
- “I Feel the Earth Move” to Ferrisburg, Vermont, the summer after 8th grade
- “I Believe When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever” to Davidson, North Carolina, freshman year
57 is 5 decades, almost 6.
57 is gratitude for each of those days in each of those years.
57 is taking baby steps, and next year maybe big steps or more little steps, toward acknowledging all the different strands that swirl together into me–like for example I’m so judgmental that on a silent meditation walk at a spa I found myself judging the way the other people walked. OMG.
57 is judging myself just as harshly.
57 is wanting to know who I was all those other years. It’s inviting all my different selves to show themselves—lining them up and trying to figure out what ties us together.
57 is being excited about the year ahead and the rest of the journey…which belongs to me.
She sees that she has before her an important task: to understand that all the things that happened in her life happened to her. That she is the same person who was born, was a child, a girl, a young woman, and now she is old. That there is some line running through her body like a wick.
–Mary Gordon, The Rest of Life
THIS IS 57