This is an excerpt from my novel, which has been long in coming to birth and written entirely out of order, depending on where my muse decides to deposit me. Youth is cruel. And full of judgment, arrogance.
When you are young and healthy and your nerves still stay inside your skin and your body does what you want it to with out creaking or aching you look at older people and know, not just promise, but know, that will never be you. You will never have back fat leaping over your bra. You will never take pills for depression or anxiety. You will never drink too much to soften the pain. You will always be productive and healthy and have the right attitude.
But then you get older. Little by little the round belly that was so easy to keep at bay stubbornly refuses to retract. Your eyesight is just a little blurry. When you cannot read the tiny print in the magazine, you hear yourself speak the same complaint your grandmother did so long ago.
And that pain, that anxiety, that anger, that someone as healthy and level headed as you, find you need a pill, need a drink, need someone to talk to because life is just not working out the way you had planned. And for some infuriating reason you find it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. You cannot sleep through the night and there is this vague weight pressing down on you so breathing is a little more difficult, but the doctor says there is nothing wrong with your lungs.
Then one day you look in the mirror and you see your mother. You understand that by the time you thought you could complain and judge her, you have become her. And then you are sorry and wish you could talk with her, but she is gone. So you pray. Pray all the time, waking sleeping driving, you pray all the time. Then you realize that you are grateful for all the prayers you had to memorize as a child because they come to your aid when you have no other words; they are your plea.
Somewhere along the line you realize that if you lost as much as your mother did, you would not be able to move or function or keep it together either. You’d try, but you’d realize that you have joined a club that has been acquiring members since Adam and Eve. The adult club where loss and pain and suffering are the price of admission. They were kicked out of the garden and suffered the loss of their darling child Abel. You know that these losses were what entitled them to become adults. O happy fault! O necessary fall of man!! Easter Vigil finally makes sense.
You know, like the rising of the dawn, you know that these pains of life, these sins that happen to you and by you, are somehow necessary. They bring you to your knees. And that’s, later, you hope, later, you will realize that your knees is the proper place to be. The only place to get perspective and the grace to carry on. Not despite the pain, but because of the pain.
It dawns on you that all the programs you watched on how to stay young and defy the laws of nature are comical. To stay young is to stay immature, to stay childish. But still, you apply that cream of great promise each night and roll a serum under your eyes each morning. You understand that this is a joke. This is a lie. But you do it anyway. And know that the wrinkles on your soul and the graying of your once fresh, pink, glowing baby soul cannot be reached by creams in a jar.
And that’s okay. And that’s okay. You think it should be a surprise, but you are pleased that it is not. That you always knew that this graying, this wrinkling and battering of the soul are what have to happen. Then you can move on. And be kinder to yourself. And be kinder to your parents. And to all who have hurt you. And then you can thank them. Yes, thank them. And this is not as much of a surprise at you thought it might be when you read that kind of thing in sappy articles in magazines with angels on the cover.
Little by little, you come to realize that this is the miracle you prayed for in such utter desolation and pain. This understanding, this grace, to accept and then be grateful for the pain. And to abide; not analyze or dissect or even understand. Just abide.