It’s August. Soon the leaves will show signs that fall is approaching. They will turn red, gold, deep brown, and patent-leather shiny black. There is an autumn-smelling wind blowing over my back.
It won’t be long before I begin to rake leaves, go to football games, make soup, and celebrate harvest.
I’m not sure just how that happened. I never am. Where did the time go?
As any athletic competitor will affirm, Father Time is the only competitor who’s undefeated. Time makes life a blood sport.
Tempus fugit be danged. Time doesn’t fly. It hurtles.
Didn’t I just take down the Christmas decorations?
Wasn’t I just moaning about making New Year’s Resolutions?
I had another birthday. Hung one more up on the wall.
There are a lot of miles on the odometer.
Am I getting old? Ha! Forget the “getting.” I’ve lost all my muscle memory. I have muscle amnesia. More like muscle alzheimers. Unfortunately, I have ample “flab recall,” more’s the pity. I hold up my arms, and the skin falls in crepey folds and puddles at the crook of my elbows. I suppose if I counted the folds, like the rings on mighty tree trunks, it would be an accurate gauge of the years that have passed. It really is later than I think.
Recently, I went to Jackson Hole. I stayed in a lovely lodge that had every conceivable accoutrement…including an inordinately large magnifying mirror that revealed my reflection like an IMAX movie screen. I. WAS. HORRIFIED! Optics are tricky, but I looked like a biological oddity. A subcutaneous life form spawned in the primordial ooze of the LaBrea Tar Pits. A fossil. The Missing Link. My mouth dropped open in a silent gasp, and in the exaggeration of this glass of horrors, I had the bite radius of a great white. Oh, the hu-MAN-ity!
So I did what every woman does when confronted with vicious reality. I bellowed. I recoiled. I hissed. I brayed. I belched stentorian gorilla vocalizations. However, being straight-jacketed by my own morality, I did not give voice to the words that were being spawned in my throat. But those very obscenities were turning my saliva to magma on my tongue.
My horror festered.
WHAT HAPPENED??? I could not believe that was me in the mirror. My organs dropped into my shoes. When did I become Quasimodo? I’m sure it’s an immutable fact of the second principle of Thermodynamics, but I reeked of decomposition.
I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. Time is so predatory. It takes no prisoners.
Ah, but I digress. As I was saying, I became plagued by bodily confusion. What is it about our physical terrain that makes us crazy? And seeing every disgusting pore as a lunar crater with no possibility of restoration without a dump truck full of industrial strength mortician’s putty, can drive a woman to fall into her own footprint.
Oh, I’ve got skin in the game, all right. That’s just the problem. Mirrors are wicked. They shatter the illusion that one is a mass of feline grace. But is it wanton hubris, wild excess of self narcissism, to dread looking like an ancient Mongolian warrior monk? I hardly think so.
I cursed this mirror, ranting that magnifying mirrors are nothing but architectural deception. And yet, the evidence was glaringly undeniable. Wrinkles, heck. My skin is corrugated. I’m smothered in facial fault lines. One is the size of the Continental Divide. Another should be registered as a repeat offender.
My entire dermis sags and ripples. There are great hollows and gorges in a facial canyon. I am withered and wizened.
I hold these wrinkles to be self-evident. And that they are.
Needless to say, I was catapulted into depression. I became aggressively, aerobically, robustly inert. I couldn’t brain the whole day. I had the Dumb. I just wanted to sequester myself in a yert for the anatomically impaired, isolate my atoms, and feel the hurt. Where’s my dopamine?
And I realized for the first time, really, that I am a casualty of programmed obsolescence.
But this is preposterous. How revolting. You want torture? There is no terrorist more potent than a mirror that magnifies. Mother Nature has a demonic sense of humor.
I looked positively Cro-Magnon. My hands were clawed and shriveled. My teeth looked like they needed to be scoured by CLR. My skin was the color of Spam. I was a crustacean, a mollusk on steroids. And I haven’t even begun to go into the geriatric skin tags and nasal hair reforestation. Yeah, we’re talkin’ woolly mammoth meets Jabba the Hut.
Now, I know there are those who could distinguish between me and a prehistoric mastodon. But it’s a difference without a distinction.
Of course, I know that there are natural laws that are irrevocable, but why can’t there be exceptions once in a while? Would it violate some grand schematic cosmic order in the scrum of life if gravity didn’t ALWAYS cause our component body parts to crease, fold, dimple and mutate? And why, may I ask, is the trajectory always downward?
But what can be done that doesn’t necessitate a surgeon with a scalpel?
Where can I buy extinction insurance?
Oh, I suppose we all have blind spots regarding our own reflections. I, personally, am in flagrant denial of the face that confronts me each morning. I think it’s called “body dysmorphia.” Denial has its place in any beauty regimen. It is the opiate of women. I understand that. In fact, denial seems to be the chloroform of the masses. One has only to look at the current political climate for verification.
Perhaps the solution is simple: Stop looking in the mirror, and start looking out the window.
To be fair, I do have days spent in reckless celebration of defying all dread, days when the world seems perpetually blue-skied, and I am high on solar endorphins. Sometimes, the laws of gravity actually are suspended. Those days have no mirrors.
Yes, Time is predatory. But it is also elusive. Just when you think you can capture it, time evaporates.
Time is scarce. It is not so much an immutable force of nature, as it is a psychological phenomenon. Perhaps it is the EXPERIENCE of time that really matters. Time is a commodity to be invested. One would be wise to invest it in that which is of most worth, and has the greatest value.
I guess the reflections in the mirror teach me the things I must grow into. Every fold, every crevice, every irregularity, each laugh line is a vessel of history. They all bear silent, but undeniable, witness of the chronicle of my life, and all those who saturate my story. It is layered with loved ones, places, events, memories.
So, can I endure looking at myself under a microscope? Perhaps. But I just wish the reflection were as lovely as all the beautiful things that have imprinted my visage with such exquisite sweetness.