Remembering, Seeing, and Appreciating all the Pieces of Ourselves
When I look into the mirror these days, I see an older face. Lined, sagging, dimpled (and not in a cute way). And I see how it may be easy to put myself into a category. Older woman, Aging woman And how easy it may be to forget all the other pieces and parts of me that are still there inside me.
If I can fall into this, how much more easily can others fall into this trap? I too, when younger especially, have not always seen all that is contained in another’s face, another’s body. Especially when they were older. I would see an older man or woman and fit them into that category in my mind. And not wonder about the pieces of them that might not be so visible initially. Who they might have been earlier. What and who that they might have loved. What their life and passions have been. Who they are in totality.
And here I am now, also perhaps easily categorized by others.
I have the little girl that I was inside me still. She who loved to draw, to go on the carousel, who learned to find solace in her room alone as an only child. She who was the young daughter of immigrants who would sometimes serve as a translator. She who felt like she had to prove her worth along with all the generations before her.
I have the adolescent inside me still. She who didn’t know where to put all the conflicting feelings and emotions bubbling up inside of her at times. She who was unable to truly participate in much of after school social life, as her parents were very old world, strict, protective. She who was shy and felt unattractive and not good enough. She who felt like she never really belonged.
I have the young woman inside me. She who fought to go to college, to get some freedom. She who said “no” to her father announcing that they would be moving to Sicily and that she could go to school there, and that he had, in fact, begun inquiries into that without even talking with her. She who learned to survive and managed to take care of herself when her parents no longer supported her financially.
I have the young woman inside me who walked down the aisle to get married, having reconciled enough with her parents at that point, so they both walked her down together. She who had dreams of eternal love. She who looked forward to a future of having someone by her side.
I have the somewhat older, but still young, woman inside me going through a divorce and the pain of that. Not really understanding what happened. Not really understanding relationships and how to make them work. Still trying to define herself without having to use someone else to do that.
I have the social worker retired now, who worked from her heart as much as possible, until that was no longer really valued in the medical field where her job for the last 15 years of her career was, where it became all about numbers and productivity.
I have the artist inside me, finally able to come out and paint now that I have time to devote to that which has been dormant and set aside all these years.
I have the writer inside me that longs to express herself, also having been quieted all these years while trying to make a living and support myself.
I have the sensual part of me still here, although perhaps not recognized or validated, but still very much here.
I have the retired person, retired from work, but not from my life.
I see others around me who are also on the aging path and can better hear their stories now that I am among them. The cafe owner who used to be in the Navy for years and proudly displays photos of herself during that time in her life. The gentleman who sits outside the cafe daily socializing. His strong body still shows the hard work that he has done in his life. His features still show the beauty of his face, now and as it was then.
I have, in my career, (the most recent job as a social worker in a nursing facility) also been graced enough to learn to see the totality of patients who were now paralyzed, perhaps disfigured from life tragedies. To hear their stories of who they have been. To see photos of what they may have looked like before. To hear the parts of them that were still there inside of them that others no longer could see.
I even observe how we don’t see the totality of other beings, of creatures that we share this planet with. As a volunteer at our local zoo, I see how most guests spend perhaps two minutes at each exhibit, hurriedly trying to see all the animals in whatever time that they are there. I can understand wanting to see it all, and yet am so aware of how much can be missed in being with these fellow creatures for only a few minutes. I spend several hours each week observing the elephants, and that has become a sacred time for me. I have learned, and am still learning, to quiet myself and simply be with them , there in that momen in time. To share that moment together with these majestic creatures.
We each carry so many pieces of ourselves. Our history. All that we have been, have learned. All that we still desire and feel. We are more than the individual pieces that may be evident at first glance. We contain a world and lifetime of experience. We can learn to see each other, to hear each other’s stories.
And, more importantly, I remind myself to look in the mirror and see more than the current reflection that is there. I am so much more than that. I want to remember the whole mosaic of who I am. Appreciate all that I have been, am now, and may be in the future, however long that I am graced enough to live.