THE OTHER NIGHT, not long after Tim had gone to bed but long enough for him to be soundly asleep (60 seconds give or take)–I tiptoed in to join him. My own teeth brushed, my face washed and layer upon layer of promised youth moisturizer applied, I slipped between the covers then reached to turn off the lamp and settle into one of my favorite moments of the day: the calm and relief of a dark room that’s quiet; the gentle mist of a diffuser; the soft smell of lavender, floating through the air. I took a long, slow breath, exhaled, and readied my body for sleep.
Then I remembered: Temperatures were dropping. We’d had a spurt of warm weather lately and I had removed the quilt beneath our spread. Now there was a return to winter which meant no matter how much I wanted to convince myself otherwise, the odds were 100% I’d wake up during the night and I would realize I was cold and I would not fall back to sleep until I was warm.
And so I got up, fumbled around in the dark to locate the quilt, and gingerly, so gingerly, spread it across the bed.
I got back in.
I nestled. My pillow wasn’t quite right, so I reached back to adjust it. This is more difficult than it sounds, there being a pillow sweet spot that on rare occasion will allow just the right amount of support in just the right places for a back sleeper to actually fall asleep on his or her back, eureka. But it is elusive, and to be clear, I would rather sleep on my stomach, or my side, or really in any position but on my back WHICH I HATE but which I am truly giving the old college try these days as it is better for your body, experts say, and your spine, and your face which otherwise bunches up and pooches and wrinkles, SO THEY SAY.
(Also medical professionals have told me this back sleeping is a really important thing for me given previous shoulder surgery.)
So. I get the pillow almost right when I realize I do not have the corresponding smaller pillow that goes under the knees to minimize undo pressure that can compromise one’s lower back.
I get up, find the damn thing, get back in bed, struggle to get it properly positioned under my knees, rework the head pillow which is not in the exact perfect spot but is close enough and I close my eyes.
I squeeze them shut.
Then I remember the mouthguard that bless it is right there on the night stand but once I reach for it and return to this exact spot my back will nevertheless require all the repositioning once again.
My arm goes out. My hand hits my glasses that bang against the pretty tray I keep them on at night, which wakes up Tim, who says in a faraway sleepy voice, Babe. Everything all right over there?
I might have cussed, and I for certain made a pointed comment about how frustrating it is to be getting older and to have so much to take care of, about how glorious it was to be young when we just frigging got in bed. He didn’t agree or disagree but simply rolled to his other side, where within 30 seconds this time, he snored.
Oh, I was worked up.
I was lying there in the dark worked up, as happens when you get something on your mind in the night and it takes on monstrous proportions, I was lying there in the dark worked up and thinking about ALL THE THINGS like how fast time flies and how the body ages and how–given all that–right at this very moment I was actually the youngest I would ever be, ever again. I was thinking about the realities of being 60 and how it feels to me like I am 16 or 28 or maybe, on a bad day, 40–even if my body insists otherwise.
Yes I was quite worked up, and a little sad, and more than a little bit mystified by it all.
THE FEELING LINGERED when I arose the next morning. I am not proud of this, as I am a healthy human and I hold a deep awareness that of all the gifts, good health is the one to be most grateful for. And in the bright of daylight I also held a very clear understanding that health and aging are two different things, even if they are inextricably linked and often wound tight around each other.
And the truth is: I am healthy.
(The truth is also: I am aging.)
I hate even writing that.
AND THEN I WENT to my computer to begin my workday, and right there in my inbox these words from Ann Voscamp were waiting to greet me.
Every single day has a bit of its own now-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not just the life crises that are traumatic. The mirror can be traumatic — and time and aging and life can be traumatic for us who are made to breathe eternity.
But maybe: The point is that your life is meant to be spent.
The point is that your life is meant to be used up and every wrinkle means you are wringing out the good of the wonder of this thing called life.
I thought of that a thousand times that day, and in the days since.
YOUR LIFE IS MEANT TO BE SPENT.
It’s a beautiful thought, comforting, reassuring even if it doesn’t do one thing to change the realities of how difficult it is to age.
How difficult it is to accept aging.
But I am clinging to Ann’s words, nonetheless, believing that if I live my life this way, if I “spend out,” at least I will have lived more worthy of the gift.
Which is the point, anyway.
I mean, it is the point. I know this.
(Still it doesn’t do one dang thing about the realities of confronting that stranger in the mirror.)
ps: I should tell you this story is not “mostly” true. It’s all true. It’s all embarrassingly true.