Worn-in versus worn-out…
A friend and music colleague celebrated birthday number 51 earlier this year, which is the same birthday I am about to observe. On social media, he posted that someone had told him that, at age 51, he was “officially on the downward slope of life”. Odds are, this is true, if one does the math and considers the law of averages. Still, while I know neither the context of the statement nor the person who made it, its tone sort of…crawled all over me!
Thoughts are like birds. Some of them fly overhead quickly and are gone. Some land on a person’s shoulder and stay a while. This thought about the downward slope landed on my head, brought in twigs and mud, and nested.
Our society is overly focused on beauty and youth, and usually the two are tied together. We don’t hear much about the beauty that comes with time, wisdom and, yes, age. I think we are cheating ourselves and the generation behind us when we tell ourselves and them that we lose beauty as we gain years.
All of this got me thinking about the many things in our lives that get better with age. My favorite jeans, sweaters and t-shirts are the ones that have been worn-in over years, sometimes decades. They are more comfortable, softer. When I lost all my weight and I was replacing my wardrobe, I made many eBay purchases, and I purposely looked for jeans that had been “pre-loved”.
I tend to gravitate toward things that show their marks. Again, after my weight loss, I bought some new cowboy boots, but I bought a pair with a “distressed” look to the leather. I wanted them to look a little beaten-up from the start, and I am enjoying the process of leaving more marks on them. I think cowboy boots look better the more worn-in they are…but maybe that’s just me.
I have always been a finger-tapper. It’s just a nervous habit, I guess, but I find myself tapping my rings on my work surfaces. As a result, my rings get little dings in them. When I was a new bride, the first time I “ding’ed” my wedding band broke my heart, and I felt like I’d ruined it. I realize now, though, that all those marks just tell its story. Gold frequently worn develops a mellow glow that new gold cannot replicate. I love and value every single scratch on my wedding ring, and on Mama’s chunky gold band, which bears both the marks of her decades of wear, and now the ones I have made on it.
Part of the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “patina” is as follows:
“The surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”.
I love that.
Last week I had the blessing of enjoying some time with a couple of different longtime girlfriends who are also around my age. As I sat with each of them, I appreciated the various paths down which we have traveled. Each journey is unique, leaving its marks behind, and we have all experienced both much joy and great heartache. And I appreciated the radiant softness in their faces, a kind of beauty that can only be built by years and experiences. Younger faces, younger hearts, lack the depth that only time can provide.
In a couple of days, I will no longer be simply 50. I will be IN MY 50’s. I look in the mirror sometimes and it scares me to death! My lines and spots bug me, and it seems like I see new ones every day.
Here’s the thing. I’ve never been “beautiful” in any conventional way, so losing my beauty is not my concern. Sure, I want to look as good as I can for as long as I can. But feeling healthy and strong, showing compassion, being open and tender with the people I love, singing with joy and gratitude to the God Who gave me my voice…those things are way more important. And the ability to do those things has come with time and experience. They are part of my unique patina.
More years of my life are indeed behind me than ahead of me. That’s fine. The fabric of my life is still being sewn, stitched into my body, my face…my heart. Like that ancient flannel blanket my Mamaw made, I pray my life will be remembered by those close to me, and that its patina leaves a soft warmth that envelops everyone I have loved.