Go find a full-length mirror, stand in front of it and close your eyes. Wait--that’s not gonna work because then you can’t read this. OK, go find a mirror and turn away from it and read this THEN close your eyes and clear your mind of the clutter of the day, the week, the year so far. Forget about the payments on that thing that you can’t believe broke down. Don’t worry about the upcoming bill for keeping the heat on full blast all month. Forget about that new knocking sound you’ve been hearing since the car went over that chuckhole this morning. Forget the refrigerator that needs restocked, the dog that has to get to the vet and the gift you need to get for your mother-in-law who always says, “Don’t get me anything!”
Think back to a time before you were ever taking any medication; when your stomach, head, back, knees and neck never bothered you; when you could eat cold pizza for breakfast, wash it down with a Coke and not even hear a gurgle from your gut through the morning. A time when you slept through the whole night and only went to the bathroom after a full eight hours of restful, undisturbed sleep. A time when you practically launched out of bed in the morning waiting to take on a new day and snickered at your elders who were grumbling along in their day looking puffy, moody and miserable.
The time when your body was hard and firm and you still weren’t sure if you needed glasses. When you didn’t really have a doctor you just sometimes went to your parent’s doctor if you had a sore throat or rash or something like that.
OK--Do you see that picture of yourself? Man, you look good, no? Breathe in deeply. Feel that lung capacity? Look at you! The person you always wanted be and planned to remain. You--at the top of your game! ow spin around and open your eyes!
What the heck happened and who is that?
That’s not me! That’s my father! It’s at the very least some older cousin or brother that has been away for 30 years, right?
No, my sober friend. That’s you. What do you think of the new version but older vintage picture of you? Are you able to comb your hair with a towel now? Are your hips forming a rain gutter for your waist? Is it snowing in here or is your hair just plain white? Maybe the changes are more subtle and you just look like an advanced version of your old self. Maybe you’ve aged well and don’t regret a moment of getting older. If so--good for you and please know in your heart of hearts that we all hate you.
It really doesn’t seem right does it? I mean we still have dreams, right? There are things we are striving for and goals we still want to chase, right? Right, guys? Hey! Hey are you asleep? Come on! Follow along here, man!
Listen up and look into that mirror. Take a good hard look in your eyes. See? You’re still in there. The fire’s still burning, you’re just a little tired. Whoever thought progress would take this long, huh? So is your success measurable? Are your failures all over your face? They shouldn’t be because you now know we learn from both but of the two, the failures leave much stronger lessons. The losses, the shortfalls, the sure-things that turned out to be not so sure ... We all had them and as we gaze at our slumped shoulders and tired bodies, it’s hard to gauge whether or not we have gained anything. But see the thing that has been gained isn’t so visible. Sure our bodies might have paid the price but the wisdom, the knowledge, the lessons--these are the gifts we end up with and these are the things we are obliged to pass along to the ones we love.
Yeah--our physical being took the toll. Those tired eyes sat through midnight feedings, nights at the hospital and school plays that you knew the lines to better than your kid. Your ears that don’t quite pick up every sound now were once razor sharp. You could hear the tumblers roll in the door lock when your kids “snuck” in an hour later at night than they should have been while you lay there awake waiting to be sure they were home safe. The hands that washed a million dishes, the backs that lifted furniture in and out of dormitories, apartments, houses and sometimes back home again. The knees that climbed countless stairs on the way in and out of schools and churches for weddings and funerals and holiday services. The laugh lines around your mouth for a thousand smiles. The crow’s feet around your eyes for a thousand tears. The arthritis from the children and grandchildren you’ve rocked and cradled. The unkempt hair because grandma just didn’t have time to get to the parlor since she had to watch your kids while you worked the late shift to make enough for a Merry Christmas. I could go on and on but I think the point is made.
Yeah my friend--that’s you in the mirror. And unlike the dreamer of once upon a time, you are the realist of today who put your dreams aside to serve the ones you love. The parents that needed you, the children you made, the friends at work and church that counted on you when they had nothing left; the person of character, grit and integrity that now has the wisdom to understand what it was all about.
Look deeply at what you have become. I think you’re beautiful!
Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.