It's My Birthday Today and I'm reflecting on Aging, Metamorphosis, and Wonder
I turn 35 today, officially closer to 40 than 30 now. Another ring added to the girth of my short life. My mom texted earlier and reminded me how close I now live to my birth place—La Habra, California—a city I left so early I have no recollection of it. But here I am, back in the land of my birth. The land of my first living. Currently eating an almond croissant while sitting on a drizzly patio, pondering the complexities and nuances of a life. How we are born. How we are continually metamorphosizing. How age can make us indifferent to the wonders of the world.
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Recently I read the metamorphosing of a butterfly is a destructive transformation. A caterpillar doesn’t just grow wings. The process of enveloping itself in a cocoon leads to a sort of rotting obliteration. Atmos Magazine quotes Pat Barker who said,“the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.” The “liquid goo” of a disintegrating caterpillar is the fertilizer that fuels the evolution of everything that comes next. “A new being begins to form.”
The process of aging is both beautiful and grievous. Our own transformations may not be as physically violent as a butterfly’s. But to live this life is to morph from being to being. Facebook reminded me that 15 years ago today I posted, “in 10 years I’ll be 30.” I couldn’t fathom being “so old.” I certainly couldn’t imagine what 15 years would do to the self I thought I knew. A self that was in the process of a transformation that would take 15 years. And today, I have the lived experience to recognize the ongoing nature of growth. I’m nowhere near doneness. But goodness, how far I have come.
There’s a scene in the Disney movie The Kid I think about often. Bruce Willis’s character Russ is visited by his lost childhood self. In a conversation with a friend, he asks what she would say if she came face-to-face with her younger self. She says, “I would say, baby, everything’s going to be just fine.” I don’t know why this scene makes me weep. There’s an innate desire in me to comfort the different eras of myself that buried sadness, struggled with people-pleasing, feared asking questions, and mimicked inherited beliefs.
I wish I could tell my 20 year old self that not only would everything (eventually) be ok. But that she would also grow. And heal. And believe in her own belovedness.
Can I tell you something?
I think wonder saved me. I think a renewed zeal for the wondrous good of this world restored me. I am 35 and feel the natural things every body feels when they stand before a mirror and realize they no longer look 20. But I also revere this body as good for the first time in my life. Wonder did that for me, allowed me to marvel at her adaptation and resiliency. Everything is going to be just fine not because life isn’t hard and age isn’t painful. Not because I haven’t known grief and won’t know it again. But because even in the fucking chaos and pain, there is still resplendent goodness. Beauty emerges from the goop of our own metamorphosis.
There are people who know my name,
Days that are crisp and cool,
Pastries made by hand,
Coffee ground with care;
There are flavors to taste,
And mountains to marvel at,
And cold oceans to dip toes into,
There are beliefs to discard,
And news ones to consider,
And there is time to wander and wonder,
To remain uncertain,
And finally accept
Love will meet us wherever we land,
Love has been here all along.