Catherine Anaya

With cracks comes wisdom

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“Do I have something in my eye?” I asked my then 5-year-old son, as I squinted and blinked profusely during breakfast one morning.

“Hmm,” he mumbled as he studiously examined my pupil. Or so I thought.

“Nope!” he exclaimed, “but you do have cracks in your skin,” he announced with complete innocence and pride in discovering something he seemed to think I hadn’t noticed yet.

“Actually, those are wrinkles,” I gently explained.

“Oh, because you’re 40?” he asked.

I sighed, thinking, Leave it to my child to cut to the chase.

“Oh no,” I jokingly corrected him. “I’m 25!”

He didn’t quite get the humor in my response. He crinkled his face in confusion and asked, “But I thought you were 40?”

I fessed up. “Yes, sweetie, I’m 40. But you can tell everyone I’m 25, okay?” I replied with my tongue firmly planted in cheek. He laughed, but I wasn’t completely convinced he got the joke.

That was two years ago and I still smile when I retell that little exchange. It kept me in stitches all day.

Cracks in my skin …

A few years before, I would’ve panicked at the thought of my skin betraying my youthful energy. I recalled the conversation with my son hours later that day, staring into my magnifying mirror.

I studied those “cracks” in my skin, the crow’s feet around my eyes, the fine lines on my forehead. Each one of them told a story. Some were marks of struggle. Some represented stress. Some were reminders of sleepless nights. Others connected me to heartache, tears and loss. But most, I thought, were genuine reminders of a mid-life filled with years of smiles, laughter and the sincere belief that the best is
yet to come.

I had already come to realize that with wrinkles comes wisdom, the wisdom to recognize what a defining moment it was when I actually learned to embrace my age.

It’s been a handful of years since I’ve entertained the thought of trading places with a 20-something-year-old. Remember those feelings of insecurity about everything from relationships to body image? Wondering how we’d ever measure up to whatever idealistic view of life we grew up wanting? I’m happy to be rid of those.

It wasn’t until I turned 35 that I truly felt like I might actually have an idea of who I am, what I want and what direction I was going to head to find it. In the years between 35 and 40 I had my second child, divorced, and discovered that true passion in my work doesn’t come from coveting what I don’t have but from nurturing what I do have, and I took control of my body realizing that being fit isn’t just physical but a mental state of mind.

When I took up running five years ago, I was a 38-year-old who hadn’t run more than 5 miles. Since then, I’ve run seven marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2007. I vowed to hang up my marathon shoes after that. But this past September, I got the bug again. I ran five races in three months, placing top five in my age group in nearly every one of them.

I ran another marathon this past January with a goal of qualifying for Boston again. I succeeded, yet found the most pleasure in crossing that finish line with my age, 42, proudly emblazoned on my back – proving age is just a number.

To truly embrace it is to know that with every year and every “crack” we gain priceless experience.

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