I study myself in the mirror a lot lately. I haven't written about my weight loss journey in a while, although it is moving along at the slow but steady clip I expected it to. I promise pictures and an update; soon.
I just don't want to write about that tonight, though. That's another post.
Tonight I want to write about growing up. Growing old. The other journey I am taking, like it or not.
Last night I took care of a beautiful 87 year old lady. I triaged her from the stretcher, where the EMS crew had carefully moved her; treating her with the respect and dignity she deserved. I am passionate about our elderly patients. They are the ones that have paid into this ridiculous system their entire lives. Too often they are treated like castaways, and people are too busy to take the time to care about them. But I do. My friend Michael says that the elderly are "little pieces of history", which I think is brilliant. I have a love for old people that keeps me at my job when I would much rather walk out the door and never look back.
As part of my triage, I asked my beautiful patient how tall she was, pen poised to write the standard five foot six or so. When she replied "I am six feet tall", I paused and looked at her long legs hanging over the end of the stretcher and then looked her up and down. "I'm 145 pounds" she said, making me cringe at my goal weight number that I often feel I will never see again.
I stopped writing, put my pen in my pocket and said to her; "Miss P, you are a beautiful woman, have you always been six feet tall, or were you taller in your youth?" "Oh Baby," she said, "I was a dancer, I was six foot two inches, but age has robbed me of my full height.
Now I am getting shorter every year, and I just hate it."
Age, the great equalizer. Someone walking by this woman, regarding her as an old lady on a stretcher, would see just that. But someone that had the pleasure of a conversation received a gift - the vision of a young, graceful dancer with her head held high, legs extended, arms regally moving like water through a stream. I know this because I could see it in her eyes. They sparkled. They danced. And I fell in love with yet another elderly patient; a little piece of history. The thing that keeps me in the door of nursing.
My body is changing. From the surgery, and from the great equalizer of age. I could be a pessimist and focus on the sags, the etch a sketch screen of stretch marks, the lines on my face, the hair that I cannot bring myself to let go gray. But I am a more forgiving person now. I see stretch marks that brought me babies and lessons and skin that survived the period of my life that taught me to keep fighting. The lines in my face? They came from smiling, definitely from laughing, and from the contentment of the things I love. The ever present coin slot between my eyebrows that presents when I am concentrating, sagging in defeat, darkened by anger or moved to tears by the sound of my daughter's singing. My scars are art - the composition of everything I am. And I can live with that.
One of my favorite books is The Velveteen Rabbit. I believe that from reading it at a young age, I gained an understanding of what beauty really is. I want to share with you my favorite paragraph, because I believe it epitomizes the path to growing old and the reason you should find some peace in your lines and sags.
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Someday when I am old, I hope someone looks into my eyes and can see them dancing.