As I get older I find myself getting softer and softer. I used to wear all black, smear a rough line of burgundy lipstick over my lips, and cover my eyes almost completely with kohl. The result had the effect of an older woman painted over a young one. At twenty one my lungs will full of hot red smoke and coal black tar; at thirty three my lungs are pink and clear, and I can hike for miles without a hint of strain or wheeze.
My mind was darker, too, so full of petty jealousy and careless want. I wanted everything I didn’t have. I wanted the sky to turn purple; I wanted flowers to wilt under my command. I wanted everyone to love me but I didn’t want to put forth the effort to love them back.
The softening started when I got married, at twenty-three. The ground beneath me stopped shaking and I was able to look at my life plainly and clearly see the one who had chosen me (and I him) to go through life together. We were young, we were in love, we were beautiful.
I softened more when my son was born. I melted, then. I started to write more. I found that all the jumbled thoughts that filled my head could be soothed when I wrote them out.
There are days when I feel as soft as feathers. I can look at pretty things for a long time, and not just forget myself but find myself reflected back. Since I was so often depressed and low during childhood and young adulthood, this mollifying and expansion of spirit has made me feel younger now than I did then. I used to infuse a sort of manic desperation into every relationship, every action, every new task and new love. Now I feel myself approaching it all with a rumble and a hum instead of a roar.
My first love was a lopsided one, because he didn’t love me back. My second love was a lopsided one, because I didn’t love him back. My third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh loves are all twisted up in my memory now, with not one standing out.
But my husband, he loved me before I was whole. He loved me when I was very young, and very stupid. It very well could have a lot to do with the long, slippery body I had back then, but let’s pretend it was something much deeper that pushed us toward one another. Something soft.