I first noticed it a few years ago.
It was a woman I have loved since we were children… All of a sudden she looked old.
It wasn’t really all of a sudden. What with her busy life and my busy life, I hadn’t seen her in a few years. My initial reaction was shock and dismay.
But as I thought about it, I realized that those years had been particularly difficult. She had walked through deep griefs – the kind that are not only unbearably sad, but make you stop and evaluate your whole direction and way of life.
So I kept looking, and as we went through the process of getting to know each other again, my view changed entirely. She has come through her grief and remained whole. I don’t mean entirely complete – we have lost too much to be entirely complete in this lifetime. But the kind of wholeness that has experienced life-altering pain, and not given up on love and hope. The marks of her journey are unmistakable, they are written over her face; over her whole body.
She is one of the most beautiful women I know.
I’ve seen the changes in my own looks over the last few years. I’m very proud of the grey streak in my hair. I saw the lines starting around my eyes, and thought “maybe I should start using night cream?” And then I laughed and laughed, and wondered where that thought even came from. (Products I own beyond ones used to wash are pretty much limited to deodorant and lip balm.)
I’ve seen it when I come on this blog, and see the fresh face on the banner picture above. That wasn’t that long ago, but the years are showing like dog years. Some of it is just the age that I am, some of it is the months without sleep, and some of it is less physical – the suffering I have seen, and been a part of.
I’ve seen other women whose pain is written plain for any to see who might look. Their trauma has made them old before their years, and it is not beautiful, it is distressing and painful to be with them – because you cannot be with them without being faced with their suffering and brokenness.
This year can’t help but be etched deeply into the way I look. I’m hoping pain makes me softer (emotionally, not physically), kinder, more patient, compassionate, loving, and hopeful. I know I am looking older, but I think that these characteristics will be visible as well.