That Can’t Be Me!
I look at the mirror and I do not recognize the image I see.
That can’t be me.
The old lady with the 3 cm of gray peeking through the parting in her hair. The one with the lines under the eyes magnified 3 fold under the 3.5 reading glasses. The one for whom men who look even older offer a seat to in a crowded tram. The one who is shuffled to the Senior Citizens line at the immigration counter.
No, that can’t be me. I’m the one who bought first line standing tickets (by accident in a moment of sheer excitement) for the Justine Timberlake concert at the Ziggodome. I am the one who’s wide awake at 7am checking my email and phone for messages, making breakfast for 2 or 8, rushing to dance class, then back home for lunch in time to prepare for a remedial class, give the class, make dinner for 2, then go out to play 3 hours of bridge and finally coming home to catch the last bits of the 11pm news.
The reflection I see in the mirror is my mother. That can’t be me.
But the hands tell a different story. The blue green veins embossed on the thinning and ever dry skin. The wrinkles that the best hand cream cannot erase. The tendonitis creeping at the wrist and making its way all through the elbow and upper arm.
All right then, it must be true. The lady in the mirror with this hand … is me.
Yes, it does take getting used to. Acceptance is a hard pill to swallow. But the only way to get through this transition from middle age to senior age is to actually go through it. To live it every single day.
Yes, I am living the third act of my life. This is the part of the play where the character is more defined. We know what has happened in the past and we know that the ending is inevitable. The question is: what will the denouement be?
Who knows? It will come, when it will.
Jane Fonda and all the other women who write about this third act of life are right. There is a sense of empowerment in being 65 plus. And it feels good! I can now choose to let some things go, relying on my sense of empathy and compassion. My mothering instinct magnified by the grandmotherly one.
I can also choose to confront and say exactly what’s on my mind. Like telling a man in my bridge club that I had had enough of his comments. They were unnecessary and unkind. To which he responded with an apology. It was just a joke, he claimed. Really? My 40-year old self would have meekly left the table and cried in the bathroom. Not at 65! I can now move from doormat to feisty. And, yes … it does feel good.
I look back at the years behind me and I know what I have accomplished. I can say in all honesty, that there are many reasons to be proud. I also recognize the mistakes I have made. The regrets and the what-ifs. But they are few and by now, immaterial.
I am moving on and living the third act of my life. There is still so much to accomplish and so little to give up. If only, I looked the way I feel. The mirror image is a constant reminder. But the spirit will triumph. That 40-something woman is alive and well. Stronger. Enriched by all the years and experiences amassed in her lifetime. Ready to rise to every occasion.
In-between naps, of course!
Here's an easy-to-prepare recipe that can be a starter, an extra dish in an Asian theme dinner or a spicy chicken burger sandwich!
Thai-style Chicken Patties
Preparation time : 10 -15 minutes!
500 gm. minced chicken
1 tsp – 1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste (depends on how spicy you want this to be)
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. fresh coriander, chopped fine
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs or 1 slice of white or brown bread, softened in water
1 egg, beaten
Oil for shallow frying.
Procedure and other suggestions :
Mix all of the above and form into small patties. I usually fry a little bit of the mixture to see if the seasonings are enough. If not, add more fish sauce or salt according to your taste.
This recipe makes at least 12 good sized patties. They can be shaped, frozen and fried when you're ready to serve them.
A simple Mango Salad, inspired by my friend, Alma, gives this dish an extra kick!
1 mango, peeled and sliced into julienne strips
1 tbsp. lime juice
1-2 tbsp. fresh coriander, chopped fine
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 fresh red chili, sliced or a pinch of red chili powder (optional)
a dash of sugar
Mix all of the above. Chill and serve with the patties!