Joy Collector: Ode to AgingGwen Witherspoon
I just saw this HuffPost Black Voices video on Facebook featuring Tracee Ellis Ross, and it struck me when she said, “…really listen. Not just to what’s happening outside of you, but inside of you. Be who we are in a very full and beautiful way…”
My mind flashed through the honest truth that I feel more beautiful, capable, confident, and fulfilled than ever…today…right now. As I approach my 53rd birthday in just over a month…just as quickly, I cringed a little when I thought about what’s happening to me physically on the outside. Seeing myself age is difficult. There is a “pretty” that is escaping, and it’s being replaced with a person I don’t recognize at times. This is not a ploy for compliments. It’s just an acknowledgement of what happens to us all, if we are blessed with length of days…and I am blessed and grateful for it.
If only I’d had the strength of character and genuine joy in my being as a younger woman.
When I look at pictures of myself from 10, 20, 30 years ago–along with the wonderful memories and amazing life they represent–I think, “I thought I was fat.” Yep. Fat. I wasted so much time limiting what I wore–not because I was modest. Because I thought I was fat. Intellectually, I recognize that that’s ridiculous, but that belief was there from high school through most of my adult life. And I know I’m not alone. What if all women could take Tracee’s advice and “Be who we are in a very full and beautiful way…” every day at every weight at every age? What if we all lived as Joy Collectors?
ODE TO AGING
I am beginning to view my naked form’s reflection
As a classic painter’s goddess
Just call me Boticelli’s Venus
My renaissance began before
The earth was called Mother
And my eyes started looking tired
When I see the veins popping out of my hands
I recognize that
A river of life flows through them
The failure that once clouded my vision
I understand was my proving
And I now celebrate it as my resurrection
Now climbing the stairs and hearing
The lyric of my heavy breathing and heart beating
Sings to me of dancing to be done
I have no need for plastic surgery
Because those lines around my eyes
Are more like the impurities in raw silk
Or brush strokes of a fine portrait
Mona Lisa ain’t the only one smiling
Mine is a beauty eternal
So you see, with all the heartache I’ve felt
The blows that been dealt
The youth I’ve lost at great cost
There’s more that I gained
With pure joy unfeigned
And the Jeopardy answer I’ve got
Even my wrinkles are hot!
© 2005 Gwendolyn Faye. All rights reserved. Duplication is strictly prohibited.