The Good News about Aging
The good news is – I am turning 50 this year. In America it seems almost sinful to age, but also sinful to die before turning old. Which one is it? Do you want to live or die? I’ll take living! I’ve never had issues in telling people my age or my weight – they are all just numbers, and truly do not define me. I don’t know what the big deal is about aging – I think it is cool to be turning 50.
Besides – I’m getting better with age. I continue to stay fit and try to take care of myself physically. I also continue to grow spiritually and emotionally with the help of spiritual friends and professional helpers. I am old enough to have friendships that span decades, and some of these friends know me well enough to tell me the truth about myself when I can’t bear to uncover it alone. And I listen. I talk a lot too, but I listen more than I ever have, and I continue to change. I even enjoy being surprised by the changes in myself and those around me. Changes used to scare me when I was younger and needed to control myself and others. I continue to let go – not completely – but I’m heading in the right direction.
Why don’t we focus on these aspects of aging instead of continuously fighting the physical properties of the aging process. We are instructed to cover the grey, get a shot of Botox, a tummy tuck here, a neck lift there, and then we will be beautiful, satisfied, happy. Yeah right! A few years ago I began asking myself if getting____________ would make me more lovable to my family and friends. You can fill in the blank with – whiter teeth, Botox, being thinner, tanning, dying my hair, wearing more make-up, etc, etc. If the answer was no, than why would I get it?
When I was younger – I tried changing the outside stuff in order to be happy, and I am now wise enough to know it does not work! Those of us that are lucky enough to grow old will witness our hair turning grey (or losing our hair) and our skin will begin to droop. Why do we have to hide this process – why are we expected to hide this process? We should celebrate these things – they are all proof that we are still alive!
When I was 44 my dad died. This was my first significant loss, and it had a profound, and yet wonderful impact on me. I had a twinge of guilt about not being available enough to my dad. Instead of letting this eat at me, I decided to live differently going forward in respecting my dad’s life. I tried to “show up” for people more often. A few weeks after his death an old friend of mine wanted to get together for lunch; we stumbled upon a crack in our busy schedules, when I noticed I had an appointment to get my hair dyed that day. I chose to have lunch instead. I remember thinking I had recently hosted a wealth of friends and family at my dad’s viewing. I felt like an adult; a rite of passage had taken place. I earned this grey hair.
It is very difficult to let your hair grow out! Very difficult! It looks pretty dreadful for awhile, but I have an awesome friend who has been doing my hair for over 20 years – she was fabulous! My mom and my sister were horrified. They said – you are younger than us – if you go grey everyone will know we are really grey too! I ran into a male acquaintance at a gas station who was taller than me who was looking down onto my head and asked, “What is going on with your hair?” This from a grey-haired, slightly chubby biker dude who was just an acquaintance! I said, “I am letting it go – going natural.” He proceeded to tell me to look around – women all over were dying their hair and I should too. It was amazing and fired me up even more to let my hair go grey. Lots of women then and now still say things like, “If I had pretty hair like yours, I would grow mine out too.” I didn’t know my hair was going to look this fab until I actually let it grow out, so they don’t know either.
We live in a culture that devalues aging. I have 2 teen daughters, so I have been in a few dermatologist offices over the years. If the ads there don’t make you feel worthless if you aren’t getting some “work” done – nothing will. I don’t actually like taking my kids there either – they have enough issues trying to live up to the standards of beauty in America. My older daughter has near perfect teeth, but began asking at 13 if she could get her teeth whitened! Whitened? What the heck! She is now 17, and has learned to live with her near perfect teeth; as she herself ages and becomes wiser, she realizes that nothing is perfect except the unique (perfect) imperfections that we all bring to the world.
This isn’t to say I’m totally opposed to hair dye and make-up. It was fun to experiment with hair color and make-up in my youth. It was only when I felt I needed to get hair dyed or wear make-up to look younger or wear make-up before being seen in public that it got ugly. A part of becoming wiser is giving myself the freedom to wear or not wear make-up, but to do it or not do it on my terms, and not to please a man or a woman or to “one up” the neighbor or the ex’s current girlfriend.
Yes, I’m getting older. I am sometimes more tired or forgetful or tearful. But I am also less tied to social mores and societal standards of dress. I choose which commitments I want to attend; I no longer go to be with the cool kids or because I don’t want to miss something, and never because I “should!” (Aging has taught me not to “should” on myself). All of this has taken years of practice, and I’m still not perfect. So . . .I hope to live a lot longer, get a lot older, and get a ton more wrinkles, so I can become freer and more comfortable in my own skin with each passing year. I wish you all the same.