Recently I shared a few minutes in the company of a gentleman with a hip website based in London. He reminded me of a mix between Rod Stewart and David Beckham in street clothes, and he pronounced his name “Pet-Ah”. As he greeted me with two delightful kisses on each cheek, I surprised myself when I considered stubble adorable. When I tried to explain to “Pet-Ah” that I am probably outside of the target demographic for his cool website, he seemed confused; and then surprised when I disclosed my approaching-forty to his twenty-seven year old ears.
In between thoughts of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, I tried to explain to my new friend how wonderful aging really is, and that there truly is comfort in becoming grounded and grown up.
“What do you miss about your twenties? Honest.”, he asked. Hmmm.
It’s probably a good thing this weighty discussion ended abruptly, because my friend’s youth may not have appreciated my honest answer.
Its not what you think, Pet-Ah, and I don’t mean to depress you. I miss my dad. I miss the child I lost. I miss the time before cancer took my friend’s life. I miss life before grief.
In my early twenties, an old boyfriend took me to see Les Miserables in San Francisco’s Curran Theatre, and I think I surprised us both as I sobbed through the second half of the show.
While empathizing with these humble characters, surrounded by darkness and music, I think I realized something inside me was beginning to fundamentally change.
I sat alone in a room full of strangers in the heart of an unfamiliar city, and I felt protected. Perhaps it was my dad, my lost baby boy, and who knows what other angels sheltering and consoling me during those tearful but glorious moments.
“You’re going to be OK, you’re not alone”, the angels told me. Words I couldn’t hear, but words that I have felt surrounding me ever since.
No longer supporting the self-absorbed kid, my heart was preparing itself to be shared and to be broken.
My heart has broken, but it has also grown. As I began to realize and accept human flaws, I learned to forgive and to apologize. When I recognized that every day my kids look to me for guidance, I sought to become authentic and thoughtful in ordinary tasks. As I felt my dad’s life escape his body, I discovered that death is beautiful.
Like Eponine from Les Miserables, things haven’t always been flawless as I have tried to grow up. But her words have followed me, and I have endured: when it rains, I look to the pavement and it shines like silver, and in the darkness, the trees I see are full of starlight. And its those moments when I hear my angels singing to me. I am aging, but I am not alone.
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