Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Way I Was… (and still am!!!)

I was rummaging through some old pictures the other day and I found one taken when I was twenty years old. For a moment, I felt overwhelmed.

I have, of course, many pictures since I was a baby, a child, in school, etc., but this particular one, struck me almost to tears.

I find there is much youth in it, and the promise of a future that lies whole ahead, and then I think, "here I am, many years later, and what happened to all the dreams, all the hopes?"

Inside me, I am still that person of … years ago (I will not say how many!); I am still waiting for something big to happen; I'm still thinking that (most of) my life is in front of me.

That's until I look in the mirror and I see the little wrinkles at the corner of my eyes, and I realise that it’ll feel like a few days and another bunch of years will have passed, and then a few more days for plenty more, and the most difficult to grasp and deal with is this feeling that it seems as if I were twenty just a few days ago.

Strange animals we humans are…

On a more amusing note, it’s Groundhog’s day today, and, despite the gloomy predictions of Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, the two Canadian groundhog meteorologists, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, both predicted an early spring! Hurray!

The poor guys... woken from their hibernation... I just hope they weren't too confused...


ChristineEldin said...

Is that a clip from "The Way We Were?"
I will not watch that. I'll be bawling for weeks, and I'm not kidding. It's one of the saddest movies I've ever seen.

Is the photo in the upper right corner you? I always thought it was. That's why I nicknamed you sexychickwithaquill. If I were lesbian....

Not something you wanted to hear, but hey! You and Quoibler have the best legs in the blogosphere.

Okay, seriously...
I went through a tough period recently where I thought/felt in a similar way. My family is poor (I mean really poor) and I struggled my ass off to get a Master's degree and be independent. To what end? To follow my husband and referee fights between Thing 1 and Thing 2? This issue (and a couple more) almost caused us to get divorced.

My oldest son overheard one of our fights last year when I told DH that I'm wasting my life.
Every day, same thing. I felt even more depressed because I'd compare myself to the Oprah guests who I always thought were shallow.

My only advice would be to think about what is important to you *now* and not what *was* important to you at the age of 20. You have grown and are a different person. Do you really want the same things now that you did x number of years ago? If there are some things you still want but haven't achieved, can you work toward them a piece at a time? And be gentle with yourself because I'm sure you have many more commitments now than you did back then.

For me, when I thought about it like that, I realized that I didn't really want a career anymore, but I wanted to be doing something useful and creative. In fact, I see my friends who do work and they envy me and I feel sorry for them. What a twist.

I realize I'm rambling. Cyber hugs to you...


SzélsőFa said...

In Hungary, people are watching the brown bear in the zoo.
If there's sunshine, the bear gets frightened from his on shadow and returns to his cave (more winter to follow).
If it is cloudy, the bear sees no shadow and stays out. Winter is over.
Yesterday it was partly sunny, partly cloudy.

Re:picture. Wow, you look like a movie star. And yes, you have great legs :)

It is said that one is as old as one feels.
If you feel like almost 20, they you are almost twenty.
And why not a woman can feel at age 40 that so many things are still ahead?
Your wrinklets are not your essence, they do not define you.

I have been struggling with the issue of abandoned dreams lately as well.
Perhaps I don't need them anymore.

Lisa said...

Age is something people struggle so much with. I am 46 and yet, it feels like five minutes ago I was in my twenties. I think I felt the angst of wondering what happened to my life far more acutely when I turned 30 and realized I was not a girl anymore. Now in this second half of my life (yep, we live a lot longer now so conceivably I may be only halfway there) I have returned to pursuing my dreams. I don't look the way I did at 27, but that girl is still with me, only so much more confident and experienced. It is all good and I have no regrets. :)

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

That is a lovely picture of a very beautiful girl. The she that you were, still is. Nothing has changed for time isn't really linear.

Live life with no regrets, someone said to me once. And then I read, live in the moment, that way the past becomes another country and the future has yet to unfold for there is only, ever Now.

Those groundhogs look sooo cute!


Vesper said...

Christine, it's the song "The Way We Were", sung by Barbra Streisand, accompanying some images of hers and Redford's. You're right, the movie is very sad... but beautiful.

The image in the right corner is not me though it resembles me quite a lot. It's a painting by the Scottish painter Jack Vettriano, titled "Her Secret Life". And the legs... well, I wish they were mine. I heard that, at the time, they had been insured for one million dollars. They are Marlene Dietrich's from "Morocco" - at the end of this wonderful movie she leaves everything behind to follow her love (Gary Cooper) through the desert.

I thank you from my heart for your wonderful thoughts, for sharing your experiences, and for the advice.

I also got my Master's degree, and I go to work everyday, and then I work at home everyday, and then I find that, even though I have a good life, with a good husband, and two absolutely wonderful daughters, I am more and more frustrated every day because I am not allowed to have a personal time. What I really want, at this point, is to write. Of course, I do it in bits and pieces, every time I get two minutes, but that's not what I mean. This is not an automated task that can be done in any conditions. I feel that I have the potential and that I owe it to myself to try and reach this potential. Hence my frustration and my inner struggles...

But hey, it helps so much to see that I am not alone and your cyber hugs are more than welcome. Many more back to you! :-)


Szelsofa, thank you for your very nice and very wise words. Yes, I think it's very important how we feel inside... Please read the answer I wrote for Christine about the source of my torments. Some dreams, yes, we can safely abandon (I like the way you say that perhaps you don't need them anymore), but for me writing is definitely not one of them.

So, it's the same as here just that you're using a bear. I hope he's not too upset when they wake him up.:-)

Lisa, thank you so much for your thoughts. You're right: that girl is still inside us and will always be even when we're 80. You've returned to pursuing your dreams - you wrote about it so nicely on your blog and I'm very, very glad for you. I think that's what I'm trying to do. It's encouraging to see how you're succeeding in doing it! :-)

Thank you so much, Vanilla, for everything! Wow, how beautifully you say it - the past and the future do not really exist and all we have is the NOW. Oh, yes, that's it!!! I will remember this. (A much better version of the carpe diem that we keep forgetting - with deeper nuances.) This is something that could improve things a lot. Thank you!:-)
Yes, they're cute, especially the albino...

SzélsőFa said...

Oh yes, you absolutely should not give up writing.

Aine said...

This seems to be a theme in blogland recently (or is it just that I'm noticing everyone's "midlife introspection" posts because it is resonating strongly for me?)

I often wonder if women who lived in earlier times had such struggles. They had far fewer choices. Perhaps they found happiness easier to achieve.

Chris' comment, "I realized that I didn't really want a career anymore, but I wanted to be doing something useful and creative," made me rethink my roles. Motherhood and marital roles are very loose and undefined in American culture (perhaps all of western culture?) right now. It makes it very difficult for us to define success and happiness. I envy creative people who can find meaning in activities that can be accomplished at home while caring for children. I'm a healthcare professional (therapist), so I can't work from home.

On a side note, I can't believe that the picture in the corner is a painting!? The one with the woman on the phone? I just assumed that was you. Wow.

Bernita said...

My dear, let me remind you that you grow even more lovely on the inside with each year.

Vesper said...

Aine, thank you very much for your thoughts. I think that we, women, have gained and, at the same time, have lost a lot through our emancipation. It is true that we have the “right” to a career but no man, or very few, is willing to share or take upon himself the “privilege” of taking care of a household and/or of the children. Thus, instead of being liberated, we have now more tasks thrown at us and a lot less time to fulfil all of them. What place is there left for the being inside of us looking for an accomplishment to call her own, for her own soul, not measured according to someone else’s or society’s? Not much…
As for why many people are voicing their age related concerns, an answer might be found in an article from “The Globe and Mail” – the most prominent Canadian newspaper. I found it interesting, and, in a way, reassuring…

A friend is telling me that the woman in the painting looks very much like me. Take a look at others of Vettriano’s works – I like them very much.

Ah, Bernita, true wisdom! Thank you! You've made my day! :-) :-) :-)

Emperor Ropi said...

I have a lot pictures about me as a baby but the older I am the less photo was taken about me.

Taffiny said...

Beautiful photo.

I feel that way too.
On the one hand I am so grateful and amazed at everything I have, on the other I wonder why I didn't ask for, didn't reach for more?
(I don't mean material stuff).

I feel for you on the time alone issue, if I get two days lumped in a row without any alone time, I start disliking everyone, and feeling mistreated. I just don't function well, unless I get time to regroup alone. When my son was little, that aspect of motherhood was really hard on me, we were together 24/7, he even slept in our bed at night. Thank God for school. I felt little waves of sanity coming back to me. I wish Bob's job had more regular hours. And I hope I don't get tossed into the working world any time soon, I fear the loss of any alone time will be my unraveling.

Oh yes, it is very true what you say, many women I know who work outside the home (earning money), also work inside the home (doing almost everything) and don't seem to earn even respect for all of this work. Yes, their workload has more than doubled, because there is a standard now of ideal mother, which is impossible, plus ideal of physical beauty, toned thighs. Smart, funny, beautiful, good career, awesome mother, beautiful tidy warm home, happy well adjusted kids. And the issues, and advice on what to feed people, and how to have happy well adjusted kids, seems to keep changing, or is unclear, or is the exact opposite of anything, you can get any of them to eat, or do.
Ugh, I sit on my untoned keister, and throw my hands up.
I don't want to play anymore.
But still part of me forever keeps track of all the ways I don't measure up, even though I have declared, I am out of the game, and will chose my own rules, still some nasty little scorecard keeps tally. And feelings of guilt, and words like loser, must be endured. Still I am working on it, the way to be an authentic me who does good things for herself and her family, but who is not falsely manipulated my some external ideal I am being sold, at way too high a cost.

Vesper, I hope as time moves on, things can be worked out, so you do have more time for you. It sucks to not find one's ownself in one's day.

Vesper said...

Ropi, that's what happens all the time. A new baby is soemthing very exciting but then, gradually, the parents loose interest... :-) :-) :-) It's even worse with a second child! :-)

Taff, thank you so much for your words of appreciation and encouragement. To know that I'm not alone going through these throes of finding my identity, my comfortable self, and a time for me alone, gives me strength to "fight" more. Thank you, girlfriend! :-)
"Smart, funny, beautiful, good career, awesome mother, beautiful tidy warm home, happy well adjusted kids." - these are the artificial qualities imposed on us by a mindless mass media. But, Taff, you are smart, and beautiful, and an awesome mother (I don't know of many who do such nice things as you do with Cheese), and I'm sure funny too, although you appear somewhat melancholic from your writings, and certainly extremely talented. So, don't let those "external ideas" manipulate you. You are great! And so are we all! :-)

Anonymous said...

I imagine the context of the photo is power force for you also. A quietly intense, hopeful time.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

Taffiny said...

and so are we all
so say we all

Thanks for the pep

I didn't realize I sound melancholic. But I am not surprised. I do find lots of stuff funny though, including myself.

Ello said...

What a lovely photo! And I understand the feeling you have addressed here. It is of youth lost and time wasted. I share it. But we can still make what we want happen. We can still hope. I shall hope until the day I die.

Vesper said...

Anytime, Taffiny! :-)

Thanks, Ello! "I shall hope until the day I die" - absolutely, me too! :-) There's no other way...

Shameless said...

Nice post, Vesper. One thing that comforts me in this whole "growing older" thing is the fact that we are all in the same boat. As I grow older, so do all my friends and family. I'm not alone with this. I also look back and see how I'm "much better in my skin", as the French say. :-)

Vesper said...

You know, Seamus, I too find comfort in that thought. Thank you for reminding me of it... :-)

Sarah Hina said...

I know I'm late to this post, but I just saw it, and boy, did it ring true.

First, that is a beautiful picture. And not just a little beautiful. Stunning.

Second, I feel the same strain of melancholy you describe. There is never enough time to pursue our dreams. I may have had the time at twenty, but my dreams were frothier affairs. Now that I have the right dreams, the situation is not wrong exactly, but tricky.

The weird part is that I honestly believe I'm happier now than I was at twenty. And yet that nostalgia for the past, for the blush of youth, prevails. I suppose it's very human.

Anyway. I didn't add much that was very original to this thread, but I did really relate to all these thoughts and angst. ;)

And I'm sure you're even more beautiful today. :)

Vesper said...

Sarah, I've just discovered your comment. Thank you for your thoughts, and words, and compliments!
You've expressed very well what probably most of us feel at some point in our lives.
It's very comforting, in a way, to see how much we are all the same...