Tomorrow I turn 43. Here I am, trying to look happy about it, and not too old. I've been depressed all day, hell, all week. It's hard to grow older in the So Cal culture; I'm supposed to look 25 well into my 60s, and that is hard to do. Not only is it an impossible task, it requires relentless selfishness and extreme vanity. I admit that I am vain. I confess that I post this picture in the hope that you won't think I look my age, because looking my age is terrifying and unacceptable, somehow.
I know that I am espousing false values, that believing I have some obligation to myself and my spectators to continue this farce is a soul-draining exercise in futility. I am also acutely aware how this kind of vanity takes one away from the world and discourages selfless behavior, obliterates the desire to act for the betterment of the most wretched and needy among us. I try to remind myself that my age doesn't matter, and indeed, is a distraction from what is truly important and significant. And yet . . . it does matter, for it signals another move closer to death, another step forward in my mortality. This makes me wonder how I am supposed to live the rest of my life, for no matter what a cliche it has become to affirm this, my time is limited. I do not have forever to become the person I wish to be, or to make the changes in my community and environment that I wish to make. To grow older is to force yourself to define what your priorities are, to understand yourself on a deeper level so that you can "become the change you wish to see in the world".
The problem is, much of the time I feel exactly the way I did 20 years ago; in fact, I am often shocked to look in the mirror and not see the old me looking back (the old me, of course, was the young me, 'the child is the father of the man'). My heart and my head are the same, with some tweaking and maturation, yet essentially I don't see the huge difference that I am supposed to see by now--I thought in my twenties that by the time I reached my forties I would be DIFFERENT. I didn't know how, I hadn't defined what I meant by that, but I assumed that I would have some wise perspective on life that would negate my need to battle wrinkles and struggle with the softening of my jaw line. It was impossible, then, that I would ever face 40, much less 43; and it's still impossible. Yet here I am, a child stuck with an adult's body and an adult's responsibilities.
I don't know what to do about that. Everything I thought would happen by now has not happened. Everything I believed would be clear, is totally unclear. The wisdom I expected to enjoy never showed up. I just continue on, myself, Kirsten, in an older body with an older face. I used to believe in constant progression and transformation, taking for granted that I would undergo such intense changes that my inner self would match my aging outer shell; I wouldn't care what I looked like, since I would be so much closer to Enlightenment.
I feel cheated; either by myself, or by my circumstances, I don't know which. I know that I have to change, I have to let go of the child, the adolescent, the young girl. She has to grow up, somehow, or her disillusionment and anger will poison the rest of my adult life. What I don't know, have never known, is how to move on with grace and enthusiasm to the next stage. I am hanging onto something by my fingernails, desperately trying to keep from falling over the cliff, yet I will fall.
I am falling. I just hope that whatever catches me is soft, warm, and understanding.