The tiny hair of half mustache above my lip has turned grey and my face is shaped differently. It’s … squished…. Not sure how else to describe it. People who see me as looking young, simultaneously think I look tired all the time. My face is just squished.
Part of the change is my muscles and skin giving way to gravity. Another part of it is the ever-so-slight palsy in my left eye-lid, which the doctors never see – it’s mostly visible in pictures, my fatigue showing along with my stiff smile (my resting bitch face, apparently).
A car accident, which synchronously took place shortly after my 40th birthday, pushed me over an edge, you see. The vehicle that hit me stopped in time before he did any major damage, but, looking back at the year that followed, during my recovery period, I was confused, depressed and angry. My mind was not working and I was despondent. In each moment of that year, I stood strong as I’ve been taught to do, pushing through to survive as best I could. I knew I was struggling and was challenged, but now that I’ve recovered in in most ways, I am amazed that I didn’t give up. I accomplished nothing for an entire year, earned almost no money and cared about very little. I didn’t want to end my life (I’ll never be that sad), but felt the pointlessness of being alive time and time again.
That year, 2012, made me old. It squashed me into such a small space that I could barely see. Senseless memories of being launched into the air, the absurdity of yelling “Oh My God” as my body arced up into the air, muscles completely flaccid, then down hard into first avenue, hips, shoulder, head. Red wine everywhere. No cuts. Some bruises. Connective tissues torn in hip and shoulder. Whiplash and a cervical spine looking like a slinky that had been stretched out too far, never to find its correct spiral again.
Before the accident, people would look at me incredulously when I told them I was 40 years old. Almost always, they’d place me at 29 or 30. Now at 43, they get confused, unsure how old I look. They say I don’t look my age, but when they try to tell me how old I look, they can’t answer. It’s interesting.
I’m not whining about my bad luck in this post. Instead I’m expressing my curiosity about myself. My face is warping into a new person, faster now than it had been throughout my thirties. My teeth are staining more easily and there’s a strange polyp on the back of my mouth. My left eye itches constantly and gets bloodshot after 10 hours of being awake. The hair at my temples is turning grey. My cheeks occasionally become ruddy-red and itchy, strange new smells emanate from my orifices and my hips and neck always ache.
All this and yet, being on this side of a fence I’d always been curious about has been positive. Men no longer hiss at me in the street, nor do their brains shut down when I try to have a normal conversation with them. I’m no longer given accolades on anything except my own accomplishments (pretty girls get compliments no matter how they’ve messed something up). I’m no longer on a pedestal being congratulated for my level of attractiveness (while my ass still receives compliments from many, its shape no longer precedes my personality). I’ve not turned ugly because of a car accident, but something ineffable and wonderful changed that I’ve not been able to identify. I now feel free to be myself and grow on an intelligent level without resistance or shallow judgement.
Oddly, I still feel young in many ways. I enjoyed my 30s thoroughly, and, because of that, I identify myself by what experiences I had during that decade.
So, yes, my body’s been acting unfamiliar to me, but these new doors that have opened are bright ones that are offering new paths, which I can take with a beginner’s mind, refreshed and anew. Young again. Squished into a new shape with which I can do many new things.