Are we grown up yet?

Straighten up
Why can’t you straighten up?
I’ve heard you tell me this
So many times
It doesn’t even stick

I am staring down at my feet. There is a dusky white scuffing across the top of my blue-nyloned foot.

I have no idea how it got there.

I don’t even know what it is.

I pull my foot out of my shoe to examine it. The tissues I have crammed into the toe of my new blue pumps spill out.

Oh, I forgot about those.

The heels that fit so well in the store were slipping off when the brittle air demanded winter stockings. And after hobbling around the office for half the morning and quite literally tripping over my own feet, I finally shoved two extra soft Kleenex tissues into the toe of my left pump.

The slipping stopped.

But looking at a scuff I could not explain and the bright white tissue remnants clinging to my toes, in this moment, I feel like I’m eight years old.

Do we ever outgrow these moments?

I had a birthday recently and am getting to that age… that age where we think about age.  And I am recognizing such moments more frequently – these moments when I am instantly transported back to somewhere between the second and fifth grade, and the world is new and wondrous and worth exploring. And at the same time, I am stumbling about and suddenly asking myself, “where did that bruise come from?” and “how did that scratch get there?”

I think I feel eight years old more often now than I did when I was eight.  At least when I was actually eight, I didn’t know better and thought myself older and smarter.  But now, now when I am supposed to actually be older and smarter, I find myself in naked moments of childness.  Not childish. Not child-like. Childness.

I have scuffs on my nylons and tissue bits clinging to my toes.

I look up in the mirror of the ladies’ room. My cheek sports an inch-long turquoise gash. I look down at my hands. Clearly, my turquoise ink pen leaked in my laptop bag and smeared on my hands when I pulled out my computer and power cord.  And I touched my face while the ink was still fresh. That would have been… two hour ago?  I was just noticing the now dry ink on my hands and face now.

No one in the office had said anything.

So I stare at my reflection in the mirror, in judgement of myself.

The Liz Phair lyrics float through my mind:

Straighten up
Why can’t you straighten up?

There is a temptation to berate myself. To be frustrated with the ill-fitting heels and white flaky bits on my stockings. To be irritated that I had to shove tissues inside my left shoe to minimize a semi-limping gait and not lose my heel altogether stumbling through the middle of the office. To be embarrassed by the bright inkiness of my hands and face, and astonished that for over two hours, I didn’t even notice it.

I should feel shame. Or at least a bit mortified at my evident, and quite vast, lack of perfection.

I am somewhat startled to realize that I am not: not mortified, not ashamed. I am ok. I am ok with feeling eight, or ten, or even eleven, at random points in the day. I am ok with the tissue bits and the ink and the inexplicable bruise on my right forearm that’s an ugly yellowy green. I am ok because my self-awareness in those childness moments brings me to a few realizations that I can only have at 49, rather than eight:

  1. We are never fully in control. It’s an adult illusion to think that’s possible
  2. The odd, unexpected, ridiculous moments in life that happen are going to happen no matter what. It’s how you respond that determines the happiness levels in your life.
  3. You CAN control how you respond.  And you should.
  4. We all sometimes wonder about someone else, “How do they manage to put their pants on in the morning?”  Well, someone is wondering that about us as well. Deal with it.
  5. Eight-year-old me was a creative problem solver who cared very little about what others thought of her. She did care about having adventures and getting things done. I rather like her. I am ok if I have more moments channeling her. Ink stains and all.

And with that final thought, I shoved my linty toes back into the tissue-crammed pump and awkwardly bob my way back to my office.  I stopped in the kitchen for a cup of coffee with too much cream and too much sugar before sitting at my desk to get back to my adult work.

I am sometimes still a little bit bewildered at my periods of unconsciousness. I’d like to say I’m so focused on some other compelling activity that the small things, like food stains on my clothing and unexplained bruises, are just unimportant. But truthfully, I am unconscious in those moments so I don’t know if that’s true.

I would give some thought to it
If I thought that it might do me
Some good

Liz Phair had it right. I’d think about “straightening up” more, growing up more, if I thought it would do me any good. But the truth is, this is all part of who I am. And I am having fun.

Are you?

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