There’s nothing quite like a little get away to restore the soul, and my recent one did just that. It was wonderful to escape the cold of Winter for a little while, and to have the chance to walk along a warm beach and enjoy colorful flowers in the middle of January. The stresses of the past few months melted away a little more with each passing day, and best of all, the cold that I’d been fighting off and on since November finally went away.
But all good things must come to an end, and my vacation was no exception. And since all the undone chores that were hanging over my head before I left were patiently waiting for me when I returned, I made a new “to do” list and started ticking them off, one by one. Things were going along rather well until I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for my new “Real ID” driver’s license.
I’d found a list of all the necessary documents online, but the wording was confusing. All I could tell for sure was that laminating my social security card had been a huge mistake, and that it was going to take a whole lot of paperwork for me to prove to the state of Missouri that I was indeed who I claimed to be. So I gathered all the documents I could find and trotted off to the DMV.
It turned out that I did have all the required paperwork, and everything was great until the woman behind the counter took my photo for my new license and made the mistake of showing it to me. “This okay?” she asked, raising her eyebrows skeptically as she held it up. I can’t tell you how much I regretted not asking for a retake, but I was too stunned to answer. The photo not only looked like a mug shot, it looked like a mug shot taken of a very old woman whose criminal past and misspent life has finally caught up with her.
I’m not a vain person. Even in the bloom of youth, I was solidly “average” in the looks department. So my problem wasn’t that the photo made me look decidedly unattractive. The problem was that the photo didn’t even remotely match the image of myself that I carry around in my head. And it wasn’t just because I’d rushed off that morning without bothering to apply make up or fix my hair. The photo showed a woman who looked much older than I than I secretly, but sincerely, believe myself to be.
I know that our looks change as we age, but I’m still surprised when I look in a mirror and see a face with droopy eyes and sagging chins looking back. I struggle sometimes to identify with the “old” person I have become in the physical sense. (It’s probably the reason why so many people choose to get a face-lift: they just want to keep on looking like themselves.)
Personally, I think the time has come when I need to accept that my physical appearance has changed and is going to keep on changing. (And not for the better.) But that doesn’t mean I have to think of myself as an old person, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to behave like one. Yes, my body is aging and it shows. But in my heart, I’m still the same person I’ve always been, and I have no intention of giving up that particular identity any time soon….