At sixty-three, I seem to have developed a cowlick. I’ve always had pretty boring hair. It sat where you combed it. And over the last twenty years, I’ve slowly lost much of what I had, with most of what remains on the sides and back, calmly settling into middle age.
But if this is any indication, old age is going to be a bit unruly. I can wet it. It pops right back up like some cartoon character from the forties. I even have tried some of my wife’s mousse. A first for me who had never put anything but shampoo on my hair for my sixty some odd years. The cowlick just laughed as it sproinged back up.
What do I do if the rest of my hair gets ideas and follows suit? I’ll look like some kind of manic bozo. My kids have always poked fun at me and my “convertible hair” after a long trip with the car’s top down. Now I am beginning to look like that every day.
It’s not just my hair. A few years ago, my eyebrows began the rebellion.
My eyebrows have always been thin, brown and perfectly mannerly. Somewhere along the way they began to get thick, white (as in brazenly white, none of this salt and pepper grow old gracefully stuff.) and wiry. One by one they transformed and twisted and turned like snakes on crack, reaching every which away. I cut them short now so I don’t pick up radio Moscow with the things, but I forget for a few days and I am a sight to behold, Such is aging. You expect weirdness when you are lucky enough to age a bit. And I wasn’t exactly Cary Grant to start with.
One thing I did not expect was the return of the baggage.
You know baggage, We all have it. That psychological stuff that we carry around from the drop kicks life has dealt us. I have more than my share, and I accumulated more when my divorce hit me. It piled up like a Rockefeller at the Ritz for the next month. Piles and piles of the stuff.
To wade through it I spent years in therapy. I am a huge advocate for therapy, even though at times it is painful (assuming you are honest with yourself and your therapist as you go through it,). But it’s worth the time and work. I came out way better. And if I wasn’t baggage free, I had most of it packed away in the proper closet.
The trouble is that the baggage is alive. And it sits in the closet, for years, even decades, and then at some point, it climbs out. And it’s pretty angry. Imagine a steamer trunk with teeth, pissed off at being locked away. Unruly as the cowlick, and mean as a junkyard dog.
Yep, that’s what has happened recently.
I’ll deal with it. Unlike the cowlick, I have beaten this back once and I will beat it back again. Maybe I can even cut it back like my white wiry brows. For a while. Silly me used to believe I could just fix things and move on. But what I’ve learned is that what I am really doing at this stage of life is living in the ruins.
Nearly a decade ago I went to Pompei. Truly one of the most astonishing places I have ever been. Ruins everywhere reclaimed from the ashes to reveal this vibrant city destroyed by ash and heat.
I had a chance to talk to one of the caretakers who set me straight on the work there. “People think the restoration work was done when the city was dug out and put on display. But it’s not. Things fall apart. (one of my favorite phrases of poetry, by W. B. Yeats.). Things fall apart. And life in the ruins is a constant act of preservation.
That’s life at my age, and the age to come. I may not be all I once was. In fact, I have been known to tell the woman I love that I wish I was all that I once was for her. I’m not. I have cowlicks and angry baggage that refuses to behave.
So I not. That’s my life. But dang it, I can be the best, most magnificent ruin ever. With work and with help and just because I am a stubborn cuss.
A lot like my eyebrows
Be well. Travel wisely,