Wednesday, October 3, 2001
I See You - To LTF
Different subject. My mother and I were doing errands yesterday [I got her out! Maybe it's easier for "mothers" to get mothers out than it is for daughters to get mothers out.], talking a lot, generally having a good time, and something happened that triggered a realization for me. She has a life-long habit of checking herself in the passenger side mirror off and on throughout any trip. She was amusingly vain when she was much younger, before I got to know the aspects of her that weren't my mother which, I think, happened when I was pretty young because she worked and since she was a teacher I often saw her at work. One of her perpetual comments when she looks in the passenger mirror is "Look at all the wrinkles I'm getting!" She isn't getting any more, nor, I think, are the ones she has getting any deeper. But hearing her say this today set me to thinking about how we all imagine ourselves. I was wandering the topic of self-image, specifically what might happen to one's self-image as one becomes much, much older, and why, and I stumbled across this: I think it might be a boon to many people of advanced age to have caretakers or close, attentive relatives who remember what they were like at several different stages of their life. We all imagine ourselves differently than others image (purposeful change in word form) us. But when there are people in our lives whose image of us includes large stretches of time and many changes our sense of who we are remains much more elastic and encompassing than if we are surrounded by people who only know us as "old". I realize that in some cases these long term relationships, emotionally volatile as they are, can also be restricting and that the people who are involved in them can inadvertently refuse to recognize who we are now to our detriment. But when long term relationships like this work for the old, I think it may be because there is a fullness to the unspoken images surrounding us that allows us more movement in any direction. Not that "new" relationships aren't good for the old. They have extraordinary value in that I think they allow wider present movement. I see this, often, when my mother is relating to her hairdressers, to people she's only known as an older adult, to strangers in the supermarket, etc. I think, though, there is immense value in being surrounded often by benevolent people who project onto one a range of years of identity fluctuation.