When I was 19 I drove around in my first car, empty Mountain Dew cans rolling around in the back seat, smoking menthol cigarettes, sleeping 6 hours running on stimulants at 120 lbs of furious energy. I was tiny and intense. Like a thin wire vibrating with current.
Before I get in bed I try to remember to smear a thin layer of vaseline over my eyes so this tiny spot of rogue eyelid eczema doesn’t reappear. It’s not on both eyes but why tempt fate. The non-steroid medication I have from the dermatologist makes my skin burn like it’s on fire from the inside. It’s a great sensation so close to your eyes. Eyes that randomly water, so once every few weeks I’m holding a steaming hot washcloth to my eyeball to make sure my tear ducts do what they’re supposed to. Maybe it’s the lasik? Or hey, apparently the warm memory I have of my grandfather always carrying around a handkerchief was not because it was a classic gentleman thing to keep in your pocket but was, in part, because he had perpetually watering eyes. I wonder if no one told him about the washcloth trick. I remember he and my Grandma used to sit on the floor with us, I’ve seen it in old family VHS tapes. I wonder if he ever got old enough for that to be too hard. He died right after his 65th birthday so I hope not.
Suddenly 65 seems so young I want to grasp my entire life with both hands and never let go.
Waking up every day knowing that some part of this body will ail me, a twinge in my neck, a slightly upset stomach, an aching knee. Never anything intolerable but like a quiet pulse of mortality. My body is wearing, irreversibly. Another day older and closer to death. Is it fucking scary to read that? Sure it is. But only because it’s like a bucket of ugly truth water in your face. We are dying. By tiny degrees. Slower, less efficient. The peak of your physicality behind you, it’s where that lovely sardonic expression “youth is wasted on the young” comes from. That learned knowledge of just how fleeting and ephemeral everything about being human is. You change the oil and maintain the tire pressure and wax the whole thing but it’s still going to fall apart, require tune ups, eventually be a still hulking rusted shell. Parked.
I try to drink 2 liters of water every day. Sometimes that water comes from coffee, or kombucha or flavored mineral water. If I’m being evil it’s ginger ale or strong sugary tea but that’s rare. Alcohol in anything more than tame dinner party quantities has the potential to eat into both the quality or mere existence of the next day. An actual hangover is a punishing and frustrating affair that feels like throwing my precious and most valuable commodity into the toilet, my free time. The relief only truly arriving after 24 hours of “system” processing and another round of blissful sleep.
Sometimes I have issues with sciatica, usually if I’ve forgone exercise for too long. I’ve had the same knee surgically repaired twice, by and large it feels good. Sometimes I really miss soccer but the prospect of yet another surgery and the trauma of 6 months of rehab is just too significant of a hurdle, it’s humbling to realize that something you once enjoyed is beyond your reach. I guess age does equal wisdom in this instance, thinking about a third major ligament injury feels like inviting long term disaster. I like hiking and walking and running and generally being able to use my legs. I take the stairs whenever I can, two stints of crutches really drive home an appreciation for mobility that I try to be mindful of.
Mercifully I still sleep well and without difficulty. Camping in insane weather with my beloved but loud-snoring spouse notwithstanding I can sleep when I want to and insomnia is a demon that has never visited it’s suffering upon me.
When I’m outside exposed I coat my entire body in sunscreen, repeatedly. Skin cancer is not an obscure punchline anymore. I’m glad my forays into the land of the tanning bed were short lived, now my idea of color is just more tattoos. As my skin texture changes the incentive to decorate grows, it’s my party and I’ll color it if I want to.
Before I go to bed every night I eat two biotin gummies, who knows if it’s working but they’re like candy and I like having thicker hair, my nails are an afterthought because I’m always hacking them off to keep them out of my way on the pottery wheel. I dissolve a sublingual b-12 under my tongue and swallow: a capsule of turmeric, probiotic, vitamin d, fish oil and just introduced magnesium into the mix. If I add anything else I don’t think I’ll be able to get the whole lot down in a single mouthful.
Last month I finally had a troublesome tooth dealt with: root canal, temporary crown, permanent crown. It was creepy to feel that tooth ground down to a little nub and the permanent crown is this smooth alien object in my mouth, like a polished stone that I can tell is foreign when I run my tongue over it. My original equipment has started with small failings. It made me uneasy when I thought too hard about it … but like most changes it’s already faded to a footnote in the larger narrative of living.
When I wake up the idea of leaving the house without concealer is no longer an option. Being told you look tired gets really old after the 4th or 5th polite inference. I get it. Thanks. So I shower and shave and pluck and moisturize and perfume. Generally unless it’s freezing or special I don’t bother to blowdry. Special leave in conditioner for my hair so it’s not a scratchy pile of hay and now I’m up to three products to fill in my thinning eyebrows so I don’t look like a sleepy mole-faced ghost.
Beauty is fleeting and time consuming. And less and less meaningful. The chase is on. Hopefully with age the appetite for vanity wanes and my gaze shifts farther outwards and inwards. To what’s inside and to everyone else. House of cards, castle on sand, etc… No sense is driving yourself into frustration for a thing that will be increasingly elusive. Appearance pales in favor of function.
I just want to FEEL well and BE HERE and holy hell FUCK ALL THE REST. I know so many beautiful unhappy people. I just want to be engrossed and enlightened and engaged. How I look doing that is a currency I don’t want to spend too much time managing.