This article was written by guest author Kathleen (67) from UK.
Sitting on the tube, a fragment of a dream from the night before came to mind. I was on a trampoline, flying up into the sky, manoeuvring a perfect turn at the point where my body was neither rising, nor falling, before coming back down with my arms raised straight and my back slightly arched. Truth to tell, I had probably never completed such a perfect somersault, but I could feel it in my body, in the same way that I can hear myself sing a song faultlessly.
For the most part, I have enjoyed my body. Not in an aesthetically pleasing, flawless sort of way that seems so fashionable now, but finding delight in the movement, strength and daring that I have at times experienced. As a child I climbed trees, leapt across walls fearlessly and jumped from heights. I knocked myself out leaping a garden wall, winded myself badly falling onto a bannister, had 11 stitches in my arm from climbing a washing pole and a bumpy nose from banging it whilst climbing up scaffolding. War wounds.
Having worked so long as a team, there is now some wrench between my mind and body, I am viewing ‘it’ quizzically, this body I took for granted. There is skin gathering around my midriff, a sort of puckering which doesn’t ease back, as it did after two births. It gathers over my knee and there is a slight drooping hang at the inside top of my thighs.
But most strange of all is the lines of rippling wrinkles that appears on the inside of my arm, as I lift it up to eye level. They stretch from wrist to elbow and elbow to arm pit. It saddens me, to have such thoughts and feelings about my body, like a betrayal of a good friend. I try to pretend that my experimentation with different arm positions isn’t because I want to conceal something that has become unsightly to me.
I talk to other women about these changes, the plumping fat that somehow disappears, leaving the skin hanging loose, the vaginal drying, the thinning hair. A surprising number offer denial but a greater number will relegate my words with a dismissive martyred acceptance, ‘ that’s old age for you’. Whilst there may be the odd beacon of what we can aspire to, for instance Helen Mirren, largely we are led to believe older age is something that has to be endured.
At this point, you may think that I will lay out all the benefits of getting older; being wiser and knowledgeable, so much more thoughtful in my work, knowing myself well and what I like, having had some wonderful relationships, journeys and adventures. These may all be true, and at some point in my life memories of this may be all I have.
But for now I will mourn the losses that I notice in my body, because it deserves to be marked, in the same way as I will continue to recognise; the great strength that remains in my body to walk, run, jump, climb, hug, love and, maybe, somersault.