“The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Once when my older boy was small, I tousled his hair and felt a tick lurking behind his ear. Black and swollen with my son’s blood, it sat there dumbly.
Revulsion washed over me, and I summoned my husband, who calmly pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. I put it in a plastic bag in case a doctor needed to know the type of tick. A quick Internet search assured me it was harmless, and I thought that was the end of it, a routine part of raising boys who play in the woods.
Then a funny thing happened. My son carried the bag around with him and called the tick his pet. The little tick would walk around on the bag’s slippery walls, searching for a next victim that it would never find. Day by day, Ticky got smaller and smaller, digesting the blood it had stolen from my child.
My son reported to us at twelve-hour intervals how his little pal was doing. And it was clear to us that it wasn’t doing well.
When the tick died, my son’s sadness reached me, and I felt compassion for the little creature stuck starving in a bag, the same creature I had felt revulsion for a few days before.
As I approach my 50s, I have my own little shrinking tics. Problems that sucked the life out of me in my 20s — insecurity, pettiness, timidity, a junk food diet and couch potato lifestyle — have all shrunk in the last two decades. I am discovering the beauty of something I had heard and not believed when I was young, that life gets better as you mature and grow into yourself.
As my faults lessen and my confidence grows, though, I realize I’ll always have those old inclinations. I might have traveled alone and ziplined like Superman, but I’ll always hesitate before I enter a room filled with people. Adventure mixed with fear. It’s a permanent part of me. And that’s okay.
My tics are shrinking, but they’ll never disappear, and if they did, would I be sad to see them go?