The upside of wrinkles

I used to be obsessive about a wrinkle that carved a permanent home on the left side of my chin. The wrinkle, one of many now, is in the shape of a thin crescent moon whose open side faces down as if to mimic gravity’s pull. It’s now become part of a network of smaller lines and squiggles that double in numbers when I laugh and smile.


I said I used to obsess about this wrinkle, and I did. But, I’ve moved on. Lately, I’ve asked myself this question: What are the upsides of wrinkles? I want a positive slant on this aging process, a reason to celebrate the change from smooth surface to lines and deep folds.

My first true wrinkle began its existence as a mere shadow. Slowly, the wrinkle progressed, and in spite of its quiet debut it appeared to gain precious facial territory – like  the armies of Alexander the Great they spread across my globe.


The reality though, is quite the opposite. This wrinkle, like any other wrinkle, had developed through loss. Fat that once plumped up the area beneath my eyes, and around my cheek bones, diminished. As my estrogen levels dropped, elasticity gave way, and my facial landscape yielded to interconnected microscopic forces.

My skin’s loss, however, has been my gain.

In the same time it took the wrinkle to form it’s uneven little timeline, I’d run through fields of tall grass and splashed through creek beds, annoyed teachers as I daydreamed my way through classes, loved more than one pet, married twice, lost one child early on, watched the other three grow up, and started writing. As I see it, the disparity between my wrinkle and I is staggering.


It was difficult to visualize the difference at first. As a child, I was taught that wrinkles would define my limits. So, year after year I watched for the signs of those boundaries closing in on me, and on occasion they have. But, I believe those walls are created out of fear, and speak volumes about those who tend them. Eventually, I’ve discovered, all walls crumble and fall.

Deep within its cell walls, the wrinkle is privy to a life lived. They are chronological markings – patterns that don’t judge. Ultimately, out of its loss the wrinkle tells a story of a life lived.


Yesterday I bumped into my daughter’s mother-in-law on a sun-filled bay side path in San Francisco’s East Bay. She was taking our five month old grandson, Isaac, for a stroll, while I was walking with my dog, Kunie. Isaac was sound asleep. He’d probably been lulled to that happy snooze space by the constant rhythm of the wheels rolling along the pavement, the soft breezes off the water and the lapping of the tiny waves on the shore.

We stopped for a few minutes and commented on the warm, sunny weather. I told her how fortunate I felt to be able to walk this path with such an incredible view, knowing that every step that I took would bring me closer to a day when it wouldn’t be possible. Fleeting.

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This wasn’t the only time I’ve felt that sense of impermanence. It happens unexpectedly, with a multitude of visual cues. The feeling itself isn’t one of despair, rather it’s recognizing or appreciating the significance of the moment or the thing in my life, in someone else’s life, in society or in nature.

Whether I’m correct about the moment’s relationship is unimportant, and I have no idea why this fleeting sense happens. I’m guessing here: maybe it brings me closer to the world at large – because the world and all that it entails is so vast that I’m overwhelmed at times and feel disconnected. The recognition of the fleeting moment draws me in, brings me closer and makes me feel included in the grand scheme of things.

Yesterday, I watched Joann’s wavy, greying hair fly softly about her face as she stood talking to me and I thought to myself: her hair will not be that length or that color when I see her next.

Now that may, or may not be true. But for a moment, I felt connected to Joann, to the scenery, to the place more than any amount of conversation.

I’ve heard people say that they love it when friends feel comfortable enough to have silences while they’re together. I wonder what’s happening? Are they getting the sense of fleeting?

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Fear Fall


It, held me back so many times. It, being the fear of failure. Not actual failure though, or the probability of failure, but the mere possibility of failure – a delusional whisper that haunted my potential.

I’m not sure how I acquired, It. Perhaps It wandered into my life like a stray dog and became family. Problem is, no one can shed family members that easily, if ever.

This fear of mine didn’t discriminate. It, showed up on any occasion. Like the time It showed up for the class play. I’d memorized my lines, everyone else’s lines, and every supporting nuance. I loved to practice at home in front of the mirror. And then, the big day came. However, so certain that I might make a mistake, I walked away from the little production. Fear made it easy.

As long as I can remember, fear has been my constant companion. Over time, I learned to walk away from a multitude of situations leaving a trail of baggage behind me. I never planned any return trips.

My writing never went beyond a few thoughts, and an occasional page or two, before It snapped at my heels. In passage after passage, the characters I’d envisioned, and the stories they inhabited, somehow seemed dark, trivial and pointless. Once again, I was ready to abandon something I truly loved. And, that’s when it struck me: fear wasn’t the theme in my work, it was the master.

I began to reread my own work at that point, only to find that I’d provided my protagonists with the very thing that seemed to elude me – the ability to struggle. Their struggles, no matter how small, seemed anything but trivial. It’s what drove their character development. I got the concept. Now, I had to apply it to my own life.

It took me almost a lifetime to understand what it means to struggle – how to embrace the possibility of failure like a tiny imperfection in an otherwise beautiful gem. All those years I’d walked away from a struggle left the stone dull, flat and lifeless.

The first step was the hardest. That’s so cliché, but so right! Soon though, I realized that the fear of the possibility of failure may be in sight, but it doesn’t have to be the focus. The discomfort fear creates is worth the outcome.

Recall that stray I took in all those years ago? It still barks on occasion. When it does, we walk side by side to a point, and from there, I let go – my potential unleashed.