What Does Aging Look Like?
Being at home for the duration of this pandemic catapulted my mid-life desire and action plan for personal growth and exploration to the top of my to-do list. I figured I’d go deep. I ended up with a new gardening addiction, needlepoint obsession, and to my small dog’s chagrin, a love of one-hour power walks, weather be damned. I started a blog about life after 50 in hopes of discovering the fountain of aging well!
I found that attacking my aging as if it were a level on a treadmill to surpass, my whole view intended to obliterate those old school notions. I certainly wasn’t just going to accept getting older, I was attacking it. It wasn’t until my social and self-inflicted hiatus from the hustle and bustle of life that I began to consider how my aging plan was going. I mean, I exercised, got micro-needling (before lockdown), became obsessive about sunscreen, socialized via zoom and phone, slept well, and from my pandemic activity list I’ve just shared, had a few goals. But as I paused to add a community food drive to my “to do” list, I thought for a split second, was this what aging looked like? I was doing all of this stuff that I thought would create my new “older” “newly actualized ideal” life. What I realized was that I had the time to dig a little deeper into my aging garden. The real question to ask myself was, was I aging well; was I growing?
Aging Gracefully, Really?
I can hear my perennially beautiful mother (of a subtly unidentifiable age) saying, “the key is to age gracefully.” That sounds so passive, so helpless, like “accept the gift and say thank you nicely, whether you like it or not.” Well, here’s the thing, I like a lot of things about getting older, some of which my and my friends and I already know. I like not caring about what other people think; I love having the life mission of doing what I want and not going into the tailspin of second-guessing. I totally get the gratitude thing—because I’m thrilled every morning my feet reach the floor as I get out of bed, and I have another day to explore, wade through and learn something, even fail…anything. It seems to me that the aging thing has two options fighting one’s age, be obscenely busy, act and look younger, work out two hours a day, go out religiously, and get everything botoxed and filled or — do the opposite, which is to surrender by completely slowing down entirely, abandoning activities you might have liked because they got harder, keeping all of the grey, the wrinkles, and forget the one hour walk and spin, what’s spin? Lately, I’m often dizzy swinging between the opposite ends of the aging spectrum.
When I think of aging gracefully, who do I think of? Audrey Hepburn, with her angelic grey streaks and fan-like laugh lines, tirelessly traveling the world for UNICEF. Or how about Jane Goodall, who at 86 crisscrosses the globe most of the year studying, speaking, and sharing her incredible knowledge and experience. I can’t get enough of listening to her. And I cannot leave any discussion about aging without mentioning Oprah, with her fantastic mane of hair crowning a face punctuated with the coolest glasses ever (a more recent signature trademark); I have grown up watching her, and now, I’m growing old with her model of total brainiac chic. With platinum hair and taught physique, how about Helen Mirren, who won her first Oscar at 61. And at 80, Martha Stewart never looked better and had more “cool,” There’s Shonda Rimes, Michelle Pfiefer, Janet Yellen, Sheila Johnson, just to start a massive list of beautifully aging women. They make the practice of aging intrinsically beautiful…Here’s the thing, I don’t think of these women as older, even old. They’re just women doing the incredible things they’ve always been doing (while looking like their gorgeous selves). I can only assume that they do it with the confidence and aplomb that only living can uncover. Try new things without fear, take on more or different challenges with excitement, and continue with what works for them well. Now, that to me is aging gracefully.
Every woman has her own road to take; what I find is that aging gracefully isn’t irreverence or complicity, or as I saw it at the beginning of my journey, doing everything possible to see what sticks. It’s showing yourself what you can do in the skin you’re in—and being comfortable with that space and different cadence age provides my life. Here’s where the growth comes. Take the time to repair relationships I may want to be better, try new things I’ve been curious about, and continue to expect the best from myself, whether physically, emotionally, or intellectually. Aging might mean that you continue as yourself, not necessarily a newly reimagined woman, but better, stronger and smarter one. And to continue to enjoy the drive, it doesn’t matter if it’s from the same vantage point; I simply know to enjoy it. Now, that’s perspective. I bet that’s the grace my Mom was talking about, I just had to live a little to get it.
Three Things to Age Gracefully:
- Own Your Age: Be yourself and don’t compare, your journey is yours
- Find or Build Your Community: Studies show happier people are part of a community, engage with those you love and want to get to know better
- Set Goals: What have you always wanted to do? Break it down into manageable bites and go for the small wins that lead up to your big one
What is aging gracefully for you? Send me your thoughts, I’d love to know!