It was 4:50am...dark, quiet and cold in my bathroom.
Splashing water on my face, trying to get psyched for an early morning run, I looked up and she was standing in the hallway.
"Mama, do your fingernails get old too?" asked a half asleep, blondie Claire Bear, 6.
"Come here and give me a hug, what are you doing up?" I grab a hold of her while she puts her arms around my belly and looks up at my hair.
"Well, I just thought that since Miss Beth puts brown back in your hair, to make the old hair not look so old anymore, that maybe that's why you paint your fingernails red or pink or those other colors, to make them look new again?" she quizzically asks.
I tuck her back into bed, tie up my sneakers and ponder all of the things I do to make the worn out, tired me... feel new again.
My husband turns 40 in a few months, a few weeks after I turn 42. We joke that he's the last of our friends to make his way over the hill, while we both lament what it means to be officially middle aged.
On my run, I consider how good it feels to be able to run and to have meaningful perspective on what matters...which in many respects isn't what I thought did when I was 25 or even 35.
My mother frequently says that she would trade places with me any day. "Your early 40's...hell, that's a beautiful thing, you're just gettin started--with the benefit of real wisdom and the loss of the cheese dick attitude that never did anyone a bit of good."
I have to agree.
Forever in a day, I used to feel less than about the size of my abode, my street address, my non-membership to the Escalade or Cabo frequenting club. I wondered whether back burnering my career to stay home and raise children who whined and fought and rarely recognized my efforts was worthwhile. I questioned whether writing checks for Catholic school tuition and piano lessons and ballet classes was the way to go. I surrendered to the pain of not knowing my next move and sitting in uncertainty about the fate of my professional dreams or my family's next life stage.
And then, one morning I woke up and started teaching and building curriculum and pivoting in different directions and using my brain and body in different ways that felt clumsy and wonky and free and alive.
And now, as the days are long, and the years pass by in a blink, I know that the process of aging is inevitable. We're all dying and living in the same breath. We're all making choices to embrace the change or not. Our hair is indeed turning gray. Our finger nails are growing and being clipped off at the pass. We're getting up and running or we're not. The sun is setting and rising and the seasons are dying and being reborn.
All the while, no one knows what tomorrow will bring or if there will be a tomorrow. But what we do know as we're being made new again is that we have a choice to take the things we've learned about ourselves from yesterday and apply it to today and re-apply it again tomorrow.
We are indeed old and new, over and over and over and over again.
The morning that I ran, I saw an older couple on an overpass bridge. Holding hands with big coats and hats on, they smiled and said, "Good Morning!" Panting with my music blaring, I screamed, "Good Morning!" while we shared a slice of pleasantry.
I hope that I get at least another 42 years to roll around on this planet. In that time, I do plan to keep coloring my gray, painting my nails, running around the park, teaching my students and standing in awe trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be engaged.
While I stand in change, I'm not so afraid of the process. Aging is definitive. The decision to take the pieces that age and rebirth them is entirely voluntary. My hope is to keep trying.