“Which, of all the goodbyes in your life has been the hardest so far?” Manda, my inquisitive 12-year-old niece, has asked the impossible.
Good grief. How do you tell a child, albeit an old soul, about the painful goodbye to lost youth?
How do you get the young to understand that all that lies between youth and old age is time? Time well spent, or time squandered or lost, it’s the same. One way or another getting from point A to point B involves the loss of youth along the ever-flowing river of time ~ until it opens into the vast ocean of death that awaits us all.
For saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest goodbye … so far. The transit to middle age a shock like none other as I realize that what time lies ahead is undoubtedly less than the length of life I’ve already lived.
Sure, I’ve said my farewells to the living and the dead; to a bad marriage (good riddance), to a self-absorbed parent and to those who’ve used and abused my trust and good faith. Many more glad goodbyes, than sad ones, to be honest. Nevertheless, all painful in the moment.
Still, the transition that has proved most troublesome; the goodbye that’s taken the longest and still haunts, is that bade to lost youth.
Where did it go?
I look in the mirror. When did the crevices deepen; the hair lighten; the skin get loose and lumpy?
As my outer aspect fades and the bones and sinews and flesh succumb to the ravages of gravity and wear and tear it is, at times, poor compensation to witness the joyous expansion of my inner landscape as it learns to embrace the new reality. As it endeavours to pull together the threads of my life into a woven tapestry that celebrates the path and not just the now ebbed youthful vitality of the mortal coil that walked it.
Why can’t I have both? And not through cosmetic surgery which proves a desperation to which I cannot cleave. No! Why can’t we have youthful beauty and mature wisdom at the same time, and by-pass the carping, and griping, and complaining about creaky joints, hair loss and exhaustion that plagues those of us who make it to the golden years? The years when society least appreciates our contributions and the wisdom we have gained through hard work and experience.
Youth forgets they will, one day, be one of us. Rejecting our wisdom, they must stumble into middle age and beyond like the rest of us who thought that day would never come. Eyes wide shut and feet wandering in an overwhelming wilderness of aging unknowns.
Youth forgets you cannot run from the past. That it is recorded in the deepest space of our inner knowing. And not just our past … that of those who have gone before. The corrupted lives that were not healed and passed their pain on down the generations. Youth forgets. Until they, too, are old.
The advantage of saying goodbye to lost youth is, of course, that we are not so easily manipulated. We do not bend, as before, to the will of those who abuse, so they no longer look to bend us. At best, they ignore us. At worst, they will try to break us.
As well, since as we grow older we tend to recognize more readily, and reject, the narcissists amongst us, we can gather to our bosom the will to heal the wounds they so selfishly inflicted.
“Goodbye, lost youth, goodbye,” she said with a sigh.
And though it has been the hardest goodbye, I would not go back there. I would not want to face the fears and trepidations of early life again; feel I am never good enough and must yield to a commercial standard of perfection which none can meet without the selling of their soul. The pain of being corrupted by lies is, perhaps, one of the greatest of all.
Saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest, yet I cannot linger in that space now dead. I embrace the new path. Not all make it this far … and who knows how much farther this path will take me.
Manda would not understand these things. She, who still has her whole life ahead of her does not need to hear about this hard goodbye.
“Manda, sweetie,” I ply her with a homemade chocolate chip cookie and wrap my arm lovingly around her shoulder. “Ask me another question. That one’s too hard for me today.”
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016