| Musings |

Timeless

I’m learning to want what I get instead of getting what I want

Immediately after our recent move from Cleveland to Baltimore, we celebrated a significant anniversary. We deserved a medal.

Soon thereafter, I welcomed a milestone birthday. Another medal. I’ve always had a difficult time giving birth to decades and these were epic.

I’m young enough to still hope and dream, and old enough to reflect on the reality of what is — and what will never be. My patience may sometimes wear thin; my waistline not. My driving is great — my walking is another story. Maturity isn’t an automatic mile-marker on life’s timeline, and graceful aging (an oxymoron) is a practiced art. Getting older doesn’t necessarily guarantee the wisdom of our words, nor our actions. Ever watch some of us drive?

When I’m in the car with the older grandchildren, if I’m behind the wheel, I, much to their chagrin, go at the speed of their age. When they’re behind the wheel, they drive closer to mine. That’s when silent prayer comes in handy.

Are we ever realistic about what we, physically and mentally, can and cannot do? I don’t really bake anymore — there’s a part missing from my mixer. (Just don’t tell anyone that the missing part is me.)

Is there anything harder than facing the truth? I wish there was a guidebook I could access that would give me answers. The weakness of our bodies doesn’t define the strength of our character, and give and take often means learning how to lend an ear and hold a tongue. I’ve done both.

People, as well as relationships, don’t come with expected expiration dates. Too many of our family and friends are alone either by choice or by circumstance. Extending myself to them isn’t a kind gesture. It’s a responsibility. From the unsung heroes in my life, I’ve learned that the only one who guarantees my own happiness stares back at me from the mirror each and every day.

My list of annual Rosh Hashanah greeting cards and pre-Pesach calls is, sadly, getting shorter. It’s devastating to watch friends and family holding on by their fingernails to the daily routines, and to witness the fragile interpretations of their new realities.

I’m learning to want what I get instead of getting what I want. Time and circumstance whittle away at our former priorities. Life isn’t a contest. I think that statement should be carved in stone. You don’t win a prize for being the first girl or boy in the class to: (fill in the blank) get into the right playgroup/nursery/grade school/mesivta/high school/yeshivah/seminary/college/get engaged/married. No one hands you a gold star for the tallest husband/prettiest wife or the cleanest fridge.

And this preoccupation with getting into the correct institution or family doesn’t define who or what we are or what the measure of our success in life will be. Don’t we partner with the Ultimate Event Planner for that? The price of admission to life’s arena has to include focus, determination, consistency, drive, hope, and prayer — not necessarily in that order.

Rejection should not mean defeat nor can the only thing at which one excels be failure. Sometimes, rejection is actually a promise of a new and brighter future, and sometimes even a badge of courage. I wish I’d known that a long time ago. I wish I’d known a lot of things a long time ago.

I’ve got a crick in my neck from standing still while turning my head back and forth, switching from the past to the future. Lot’s wife would be jealous.

We were going to give our children all the things we felt we’d been denied — and here we are, nurturing an unrealistic generation of entitlement. I still limit the amount of mini-mandel in the soup — two tablespoons, you’re welcome. My children allow their own children to have as many spoonfuls as they wish. We didn’t make the same mistakes we thought our parents had made when they raised us. No, we got to make our own all by ourselves. Our children should be allowed to do the same.

I’m in the crosshairs of realizing how much smarter my parents became the older I got. This coming of age has taught me that though children are the center of our lives, we’re not the center of theirs. It’s a sobering thought.

I’ve become a “modern mama.” I can post a comment on a blog and create a group text with ease. You should see me open a zip file. My prowess knows no bounds. But when I ask a question or make a comment on the family WhatsApp, the responses are all cordial and polite.

I’m part of the What’sApp group that’s titled, “The one with Mommy in it.” As you can imagine, the real action happens on the other one. It’s a day and age when the art of communication has been reduced to the dexterity of thumbs on a too-small keypad. My offspring, on the other hand, are brilliant. It’s a real talent to eye roll and type at the same time. They practice.

Aging does not mean giving up or giving in, yet I’m still mired in the mundane — seeking the quick fix to life’s ordinary problems.

We meet friends we haven’t seen in decades, cheerfully tell them they haven’t changed a bit, and then we go home, look in the mirror and wonder, Did I get that old too? I’ve broken the speed limit going from good-looking to looking good. We find our way to the cosmetics counter and purchase any face cream that promises to reduce wrinkles and erase time, knowing full well these products will do neither, yet we leave the equivalent of a mortgage down payment on the counter anyway.

We play the same peek-a-boo game with ourselves that we play with the grandbabies except we do it by removing one or two of the bulbs above the bathroom mirror and rationalize that if we can’t see the age spots, no one else will either. No wonder we’re so often the victims of scams.

One becomes frightened by the tenuous nature of financial security. Yes, it’s important, but I have to keep reminding myself about all the things money cannot buy: healthy, happiness, the sheer joy of gratitude.

I try to keep fit. I exercise restraint and I have teeth marks on my tongue to prove it. I keep pumping my sense of humor and I practice heart swells by watching our children and grandchildren interacting with each other. The sum total of my aerobics consists of staying flexible and going with the flow. I’m not too good at that one.

Expending energies on pettiness depletes what I need to tackle the big stuff so I’ve raised the bar by lowering my expectations. It doesn’t change too much — it just makes the workout seem more convincing. It’s exhausting….

We tend to get lost in the details when getting ready for a grandchild’s wedding only to realize that we’re not the hosts and, after all the primping and fussing, the only one who really cares what we’re wearing are the other grandmothers.

How long can a childhood last? Some people just grow older and some are lucky enough to be young at any age by staying young at heart. For now, that’s who and what I want to be when I grow up.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 669)

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