I’m officially part of a movement to ‘change the world’! When my friend Susannah Conway invited me to take part in her ‘Changing the World‘ campaign and talk about the positive aspects of aging, I jumped at the chance! She turns 41 today — Happy Birthday Susannah! — and to celebrate she invited her female blogger friends in the 40+ crowd to write and post about their thoughts on the process of growing older. I responded to her email request with a resounding YES, as did so many other women. I thought, “This is going to be huge. Really huge. Empowering for so many women.” And the theme is a good match for Self-LoveFest as well!
What does it mean to age gracefully? I was curious to see what would happen if I did a Google search on the subject, to take the pulse of this topic, if you will. I live in a small town in Maine, USA in a bit of a bubble in the woods, so maybe I am out of touch on certain subjects. I did find some helpful, positive content that focused on staying active and healthy, which was encouraging, especially in a culture so afraid of the natural physical aspects of aging. I’m tired of seeing visuals of celebrity faces sporting desperate attempts to hold onto youth in the form of a frozen, smooth face and overly-plumped-up lips and cheeks. It looks unnatural, and frankly, scary. I’ll admit that I do care about my appearance, up to a point (and I’ll admit, in the hopes of not sounding hypocritical, that I’ve had what I consider to be minor aesthetic procedures myself, like having the hyperpigmentation on my face treated and a varicose vein in my leg dissolved after childbirth), but I do think this whole concern over looking youthful as we age has morphed into a kind of manic obsession for some people, and it seems to be more pervasive in certain parts of the world. I’m certainly not immune to being affected by all of this negative ‘noise,’ but I am happy and relieved to live in a small rural town in Maine where it is considered normal to go out in public without makeup or fancy clothes if you so choose; it’s a place where people generally don’t judge their neighbors based on physical appearance. Living in this kind of environment is going to be helpful as I age.
I think we would all benefit from turning off the “noise,” as none of us are completely immune to it, I think, and if you are, please do share your wisdom. We need to be focusing more on who we are on the inside and what we have to offer the world (I know that sounds trite, but it’s true), and defining/redefining for ourselves and others what it truly means to age with grace.
At its core, aging gracefully is really about loving being yourself.
I turned 42 this past Fall, and let’s be honest, yes, there are things about getting older that just plain suck. In my age range hormones start to go whacky, making for all kinds of challenging emotional and physical changes, you notice aches and stiffness that weren’t there before, the landscape of your body begins its transformation, silver strands appear in your hair. Wrinkles and sun spots become more pronounced, skin texture changes, all that fun stuff. It’s not easy to witness these transformations in the mirror and it takes some time and doing to assimilate them. I recently came across a quote via Pinterest on this very subject, by artist Kiki Smith. With wisdom she said, “One’s self is always shifting in relationship to beauty and you always have to be able to incorporate yourself or your new self into life. Like your skin starts hanging off your arms and stuff, and then you have to think, well that’s really beautiful too. It just isn’t beautiful in a way that I knew it was beautiful before.” I am starting to see something important as I begin this journey, when I look to my women friends in the 60+ crowd who are beautiful and thriving, and as I look inside and search/form my own thoughts on the process of aging. And what I am learning is BIG… …that getting older is not all depressing, in fact, just the opposite. As my body begins to change, I feel something magical stirring within — something strong, a wisdom, a knowing. And it makes me feel, well, very sexy!
If this is going to be the trade-off, I’m in! And dare I say, I’m beginning to feel excitement about the process. Two big changes in me that are developing:
I say what I think and feel, speaking my mind with much more ease than ever before. This is so liberating! Of course I always try to be impeccable with my word as I do this (which I learned from the book The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz many years ago), meaning, I always try to be sensitive to people’s situations and careful not to speak words of judgement or hurt (unless of course I am treated poorly, and in that case my response will be in direct proportion to the treatment — sometimes that means not saying a word and walking away). In conversations I notice my thoughts often just roll off my tongue and I’m left thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I just said that.” I surprise myself sometimes. And the liberating piece that goes along with uttering my thoughts with ease is this ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, which leads me to the next big thing I notice. I just don’t care as much about what people think of me (and this feeling seems to be increasing as the days go by). What does it matter what someone else thinks? What matters is what I think of me and the way in which I conduct my life, treat myself, and treat others I love and care about. And what I notice about this attitude is that it works like a magnet. It attracts the type of people I wish to interact with and be close to and keeps away a lot of negative people and those negative, annoying interactions that can be so draining. It cuts out the bullshit. It forges authentic, genuine connections that make for a positive life.
I’m a big maker of lists, and I’m feeling the need to make some right now — a list of things I notice and like about becoming a mature woman, a handful of favorite pertinent quotes, and a list of things I am committing to in order to age gracefully and better my chances for living a long, fulfilling life. Going for 100 baby!
Things I notice and things I like so far about becoming a more mature woman:
- I’m more selective with every aspect of my life — with my time, work, activities, circle of friends, the food I choose to eat (healthy most of the time and delicious all of the time). My house is tidy, but usually a little dusty with cat hair balls flying around. I can’t remember the last time I folded laundry — our laundry room is like one big closet of baskets of clothes to pick from. It works for our family and we can just close the door to that room. The thing is, those chores will always be there, but the people I love — my husband, kids, family, and close friends — time with them is measured, so that’s where I want to put my all.
- Although I love being with people, I equally love being alone with myself. Being a self-employed artist/photographer, author and instructor is big on this list because I love having the freedom to define what my work will look like. I also make room for ‘me’ time and I cherish this quiet, alone space. I like to read, nap, make things, talk to myself and spirits I feel around me (no I’m not crazy), garden, go thrift shopping, dress up in costume and make my iPhone pieces, go on photo walks with my DSLR, explore the city of Portland, Maine, sit still and pay attention to my thoughts, exercise and do yoga.
- Listening to what other people have to say and asking questions about their lives becomes way more important and interesting than talking about myself.
- I am learning to say ‘no’ to requests that don’t work for me, without having to give reasons as to why or why not.
- The impulse to pass judgement on others disappears. Passing judgement is usually about lacking confidence in oneself anyhow, and it’s a total waste of time.
- Putting myself out there in terms of my work is no longer difficult. I’ve developed quite the thick skin over the years between being a professionally-trained flutist (getting grilled by professors, audition processes, and orchestra conductors), getting messages at a young age that I wasn’t good enough, to receiving the occasional nasty feedback (I’m not referring to constructive criticism, which can be helpful) over at Amazon on my published books that I’ve poured my entire being into. Once you’ve been picked apart like that, there’s nothing left to pick at and you realize it all boils down to a choice. Do you choose to believe those naysayers or do you decide for yourself? It really is a choice.
- Eye tests with good results take on a whole new meaning when you’re 40+!
- Women say the word ‘sorry’ way too much. “Sorry I’m in your way.” is the one I tend to hear the most, and it’s something I have to be mindful of not saying myself — I think it becomes ingrained at a very young age. Let’s only use the word ‘sorry’ when it actually makes sense to do so.
- We really do need a team of women to reinvent the mammogram machine. WTF!?
- I am grateful to all the positive role models that made and continue to make a difference in my life, especially when I was younger and impressionable, and now I want to be that for other people. Don’t underestimate yourself — your words and/or actions can have a powerful impact on someone’s life and may just be their saving grace.
- I’ve made mistakes and I’m going to make more. I will strive to have the grace to own them, apologize, and do better next time. It is especially important to me that my kids see this side of me, as my actions teach more strongly than anything wise I could ever say to them.
- I am proud to be a feminist and proud to be married to my husband who is also one.
- Sometimes I now hear myself asking, “Is this really me, or is it my hormones?”
- Has anyone else noticed how awesome sex gets at this age!?
- I love to dance and rotate my hips often.
- When it comes to applying makeup to a maturing face, less is best.
- Hats and sunscreen are a must.
- I notice that what makes an aging person beautiful has very little to do with the way she looks, and everything to do with the way in which she carries herself — the subtle movements unique to her, her stride, eye contact, an energy that reveals she is comfortable in her own skin, having a personal style, an ability to reach out with her words and actions and touch in a way that shows she has not been defeated by life’s disappointments. There is a twinkle in her eyes that is instantly recognizable, accompanied by an unabashed smile. I think I may have the startings of this twinkle and I am going to give my all to cultivating it.
- A good hairdresser is important. And I don’t necessarily mean to imply you should cover up the silver, white and gray tones. They can be beautiful when you embrace them.
- I am becoming a huge fan of soft front lighting.
- I am truly beginning to understand what ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ really means.
- Stay curious. Learn new things. This year I am committing to learning how to speak French — something I’ve been wanting to learn and eventually put into practice — perhaps on our second trip to Paris!
- The healing power of laughter is underestimated. Adults need to do more of it.
- Finding balance is all about deciding what my priorities are.
- If you feel good, you look good.
- I love telling other people why I think they are beautiful.
- My creative work, my passion, gives me just what I need to feel good and whole inside. Living a creative life daily is one of the keys to aging gracefully I think.
- Embracing imperfection is way more beautiful, becoming, and satisfying than striving for perfection.
Quotes I love:
- “There is no beauty without some strangeness.” ~Poe
- “Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being.” ~Saint Francis de Sales
- “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” Polish proverb
- “Wherever you are, be all there.” ~Jim Elliot
- “I love the person I’ve become, because I’ve fought to become her.” ~Kaci Diane
- “I’m the hero of the story, Don’t need to be saved.” ~Regina Spektor
- “You can do anything, but not everything.” ~David Allen
- “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.” ~Bob Bitchin
- “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” ~E.E. Cummings
- “Don’t be delicate. Be vast and brilliant.” ~a quote from Shinedown’s album Amaryllis
- “Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?” ~Maya Angelou
What I’m committing to, to better my chances for a long, active, healthy, happy, and vibrant life:
- doing what I love
- connecting with my family every day, in meaningful ways
- surrounding myself with positive people
- healthy food choices daily
- working with my doctor (who embraces both Western and Eastern practices of medicine) to keep me healthy diet-wise, supplement-wise, all that
- daily exercise and yoga (it doesn’t take much to make a difference)
- drinking more water, less coffee, less wine
- plenty of sleep
- time for self
Yes I’m getting older, but in many ways my life is just beginning! I always want to be curious, learn new things, make discoveries, wonder, go on adventures, create! I never want to feel like I’ve reached all my goals. Otherwise what do I have left? There’s always something more out there to help me grow into my Best Self. Always.