Two weeks ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday.
I’m fifty years old.
Is it odd that I cannot say that the age that I am is equal to the age that I feel?
I look in the mirror and see an aging woman. I feel my body aging much faster than I would like. I have the gray hair, the progressive lenses, the cane in my car – granted, my body is much older than the average 50-year old.
I have four children – three of them grown.
I have a grandbaby.
I’ve been married for 25 years.
The evidence of my age is all there.
I’m fifty; and yet, I thought this milestone would come with an inner sense of grown … one that I’ve never been able to grasp, but hoped would come with the passing of each decade.
Maybe at 30.
Or when I hit 40.
Now that I’m 50.
But instead, in contrast to the aging happening on the outside, I still often feel very much like a child on the inside.
Oh, I can adult up, if you will. I can parent; I can wife; I can friend; I can counsel. I can do the things for the people.
Until I can’t.
Because the thing is, when you spend your life as a child being the adult in the room, it’s hard to be the adult in the room feeling like a child.
So, in honor of my 50th birthday, and as part of my ongoing effort to let my child self know I see her and am trying to make peace with her, I made a couple of “unique to me” grownup decisions for myself.
First, I did this.
This is probably the most not-at-all me and yet the most totally me thing I’ve ever done. I absolutely love it and appreciate the daily reminder it is to me of this journey I’m on toward healing and wholeness, and the growing hope that I have that there will be something redemptive birthed from it in the end.
I have to admit that I love the badassness of it quite a bit, too.
Second, I did this.
I have had one ear double-pierced since I was 18-years old. I desperately wanted to double pierce my ears as a teen, but my father vehemently forbade it. When I turned 18, however, my grownup friend, Cheryl, offered to do it for me because … EIGHTEEN.
Right? I mean, what was dad going to do? I was an independent woman at 18 years of age. It was time to exert myself and live my own life, dammit.
Pierce. My. Ears.
So, Cheryl proceeded to ice my left ear, needled it and put the earring in. I loved it! The problem was, she had to get to work after we finished the first ear. I don’t know, maybe it hurt more than I thought it was going to hurt and so it took longer than we thought it was going to take. It was a long time ago, okay? I really don’t remember. Anyhoo, she had to go to work, so I had to go home with one ear double pierced. We planned to finish up later.
You can guess where we’re heading with this story, right?
My father, whose awareness level as to the needs of his family was somewhere close to nil, somehow was immediately aware of the single gold post in my left ear.
And he lost his ever-loving mind.
It wasn’t a good day for me. It’s way worse to think you’re your own person and then realize you’re not, than to never think you were at all. It’s like getting a gulp of fresh air before the window is slammed shut to a suffocatingly hot room where the air barely moves. That gulp of fresh air is just not enough. How could it be?
I never got the other ear pierced. I considered doing it a hundred different times over the years, but I think I just wasn’t able to make peace with the 18-year old who couldn’t stand up to her drunk, deadbeat father who needed her to help make the mortgage payments, but wouldn’t let her get her ears pierced.
Lately, though, I’ve been trying to come to terms with this girl. It’s not my favorite work, I’ll be honest. I’m not loving the process. There’s a lot about her that makes me uncomfortable, but I’m getting some new perspective as I do this, and I know it’s important that I learn to see her with new insight and understanding.
Besides, my therapist is making me do it.
So on the day I turned 50, I went to Claire’s with my grown daughter and my 9-month old grandson, sat on that stool like a brave girl (though I was trembling on the inside, tbh), and let the crabby store clerk pierce my right ear.
And then silently vowed to never willingly pay another person to cause me pain unless she can do it with a blasted smile on her face.
I am now evenly pierced; balanced, if you will. And not just in my ears.
I feel like I closed a loop.
Maybe it’s in the closing of the loops and in making peace with the child in me that I’ll finally be able to know myself as a real grownup.