Confession: I find great satisfaction in seeing objects do the job for which they were created that I suspect is a little weird. I breathe a little deeper when I squeeze out the last drop of shampoo, when the soap sliver melds onto the new bar of soap, when the last q-tip comes out of the package. I smile to myself when the last teaspoon of baking soda is shaken out of the box and a new box shows up in the cupboard. Something in me senses a symmetry in the universe as these items complete the task for which they were created.
Which is why I am a little sad to be forty and to know that I’m done doing the task for which I was biologically created. Don’t get me wrong. I am ready to be done with raising babies and seeing how many ways I can mess up my children as they move to adulthood. There is a part of me, however, that found deep satisfaction in performing my biological imperative to conceive, grow, and nourish a human being inside the fantastic machine that is the female reproductive system. Eating had a purpose beyond fighting with my scale. Exercise was focused on keeping me fit for labor. And the belly that I have fought with every day since I was 12 fulfilled its destiny to expand and, in so doing, to be smiled at my strangers.
When I got into my car I thought about the distance between my belly and the steering wheel. I buckled my seat belt with a purpose. I walked carefully on ice knowing that a fall meant more than a bruised butt and ego.
This body still has work to do. I know that. I have children who still need to be cared for and parents who will one day need to be cared for. The world could probably find a use for another set of hands doing something more than texting or online shopping and there are students in whose life I still hope to make a difference, but those tasks are more amorphous, their outcomes less easily defined and the due dates much less clear. How do I know when I’ve completed my job raising my children, whether I have made a difference in the world outside my family? There’s no empty shampoo bottle to recycle to signal the task is complete and no clean hair to signal the job was well done.
I guess that is what growing up is about. The tasks become bigger and less clearly defined, the goals loftier, and success harder to measure.
That and getting wrinkly. Now wrinkles I can quantify.