We are sitting in a glass-walled restaurant when we notice an older woman across from us enjoying a piece of birthday cake. She looks fantastic, and the conversation turns to aging. Or rather stopping the effects of aging--cosmetically.
Most of my sisters' friends are dabbling in invasive skin care: botox, eye or face lifts, or the newest technique. She's starting to feel like the only woman who's aging.
Perhaps I am naive, but I don't think my friends have started down that vortex of sequence, neither do I think I am ready for such folly. Or perhaps, they all look great, and since friends of the same age are often our mirror, I don't see myself aging--when I really am. Perhaps they have started down that vortex of sequence.
Definition: vortex of sequence. A vortex is a mass of spinning air or liquid that pulls things into its center. A vortex of sequence is triggered by the first move in a sequence which often isn't expected to be a sequence. For example, if I were to paint my bedroom, the fresh paint would make the carpet look old; after replacing the carpet, the furniture would look shabby; after buying new furniture, I would surely notice the light fixtures are outdated. Vortex of sequence: being pulled into an unexpected sequence of needed change. As for aging, the results of a chemical peel would emphasize sagging eyelids. Once the eyelids were lifted, the patient would notice her sagging neck--the vortex of sequence would suck the woman into realizing her breasts also needed a lift, her tummy a tuck, and so forth.
"Jane looks fabulous, and everyone knows she's had plastic surgery, but no one is supposed to know," my sister refers to a friend. "Talking to Jane about plastic surgery is taboo." At least to Jane's face. I'm several circles removed from Jane's friendship, but now, I even know.
My sister references another friend by touching the back of her ears, "She has tiny scars behind her ears where they pulled the skin." The references follow their own vortex of sequence--they descend into gory, macabre procedures of cutting and rolling.
By the time lunch is set before us, I've lost my appetite.
When my daughter was in her teens, she suffered from a bout with acne. With the help of a dermatologist, we were able to get her skin cleared up, but it took time. In that time, she suffered. In that time, she heard an inspirational speaker who gave some advice to young women around the world. The woman said, Before you leave the house, do everything you can to present yourself well. Fix your hair, dress beautifully, be clean and be neat. Take care in putting on your make-up. Check the mirror to make sure your clothes fit well, and you are presenting your best self...but once you walk out the door of your home, forget yourself. Entirely. Focus on others. Smile, show concern, be genuine.
My daughter took the advice to heart, and later, while writing her college essays, she included this story and realized that forgetting her looks and focusing on others' happiness, had saved her.
What worked for a teenager, could surely work for an aging woman.
I step in to the lunch conversation, "Well, here is my approach," I tell my sister and Mom, my daughter's story. I repeat the advice, but apply it to myself. "I'll do my best to make my aging self presentable, but once I leave the house-- I'll forget myself, my wrinkles, my sags. It's my time to forget how I look and focus on others."
I'll be content in my own vortex of happiness.