Tag Archives: aging gracefully

The New Aging Gracefully

I think it’s oddly intriguing I was inspired to write about aging gracefully on International Women’s Day, since there ain’t exactly a lot of women modelling how to age gracefully these days. Liposuction and tucks and Botox, oh my! But there you have it. Get over yourselves, girls.

I like getting older. I like it even better when I get told all the time that people think I’m 6-10 years younger than I am.

Probably from spending all those years protecting myself from the elements — sheltered on cushy sofas. No wind-battered face here, friends!

And now that I live much better than I did for a decade there, I guess that shows too.

Hallmark card character I LOVE.

But, aging? Yeah. I like it.

The big four-oh is still 2.4 years away, but I’m looking forward to aging and letting go of even more of the bullshit that mires one’s younger life.

I’m in a strange position in my life right now. Five years ago, I’d have been having a borderline nervous breakdown. Now I’m planning a dinner party for tomorrow, chilling, and erring on the side of faith.

There’s the old saying, “This too shall pass,” and I think around 40 is when we start really believing in what we can overcome and/or achieve. It varies, of course, depending on the crash-course life’s had each of us on.

Me, I got the lesson of “life’s tough, get a helmet” in the last decade, and now I feel like I’ve had the dress rehearsal, and I simply know at my core that every hard time I face is on a limited-life plan, and I’m more than likely to be the victor at the end of it.

“Face-palm and carry on,” as the new saying goes — the NEW Guide to Aging Gracefully.

It really comes down, I guess, to whether or not we’re willing to examine each lame-ass time for its growth lessons. I do. I can’t possibly imagine going through ALL that shit for NOTHING, man. If I’ve learned from it? Fucking A. I’ll take THAT for a dollar, Alex.

I still have more Zen Master schoolin’ to do. After all, I’m not even 40. I’m not nearly as chill as I’d like to be, but I’m surprising myself. Sure, I occasionally want to kill asshats on transit, but that’s not really indicative of me being high-stress, it’s more indicative of the erosion of intelligent life on Earth. I’m tryin’, man.

Honestly, I’m glad I was laid-off long-term. I’m glad I went through a lot of the shit in the last year that I have. I’m glad I had pneumonia. I’ve learned SO much about myself in the last year.

Was it hard? Yes. I even became depressed in the fall. (Not anymore.) I’m sort of back where I started, in a lot of ways, but as a completely different person. It grew a quiet confidence in me, and things I’m doing now will really amp that up. It’s confidence I had none of last spring, considering I was already in a depression and a financial hole before I even lost my job.

If the whole Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hours-to-master thing is for real, then the 5 years since my last unemployment has been mind-bogglingly insightful. My god, the lessons we learn through our trials.

Staying employed and stable and never taking risks, well, that might make for a nice comfortable life, but I guarantee you, you’ll be learning a fraction of what it is you’re capable of in life.

Age. With it comes that experience you just can’t buy. And when you’re 20 and you think “OH! Why don’t they take me seriously? Why don’t they think I understand?” well, it’s because they feel exactly like I do — that you can’t possibly know all the things that’ll bloom in you over the next two decades.

I like to sit back sometimes and reflect on who I was at specific ages, how full of shit I was, compared to me now.

And then I like to think of how I’ll feel about the same question in another two decades. How I’ll chuckle dryly at the age of 57 — the same age my mother was at her death — and think how I couldn’t possibly have known all that would come my way, how much life could pack in an hour, a day, a week, never mind a decade, and how much I’d learn about myself and the world around me as I lived through all of that.

That’s the beauty of the unknown.

And the beauty of aging is, we better know the vastness of that unknown, but we also come to learn the vastness of human potential. We see more. We understand.

Or, some of us do.

Aging: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

Next month is my birthday. I have about 6 weeks of being 36 left.

I’m told I look younger. This is good news, I like it.

Truth be told, I really don’t care about looking “36”. Not yet. I probably will. Likely when it starts to show. When I’m 42. Heh, heh.

But you know what?

A shot taken of me by my friend Rick Rake at an event on July 28th, 2010.

I’ve worked for that age. The sun damage my skin shows now is in stark contrast to the pasty-white well-hidden tubby non-outdoors girl I was for the majority of my life. When I was a kid, I was the fat kid who whined and lied about pretend injuries to get out of sports. Every hike I was supposed to do, I got out of.

I was so not a joiner. I was pudgy, pudgy, wheezy girl.

Not so much these days. I’m not where I need to be, but I’m better than I’ve been since I was 18, and there aren’t a lot of 36-year-olds who can attest to being healthier than they’ve ever been — than they’ve literally EVER been.

Despite that health, I’m caught with fatigue a lot of the time. I just deal with it. My friend who’s 42 tells me she was always tired for a few years in her 30s. I’m assuming that’s where I’m at. I eat fairly well, exercise 6 or more hours a week. What more can you ask, right?

Honestly? My newly-appearing wrinkles give me pause. I’m not sure I’m wild about them just yet. I do, however, like the “character” they give my grin these days and the way they highlight the twinkle in my eyes.

I think I wear the few wrinkles I have well. I know my mother wore her age fantastically, like a perfect-fitting pair of jeans.

People were devastated when my mother died. She was a sexy-as-hell redhead at 57 when cancer took her 11 years ago this week. She looked fantastic. Dead? How ironic.

I’m thinking a lot about her this week. Maybe it’s part of my reclusiveness of late. 11 years. Wow. Mind-boggling. Can’t help but reflect on anniversaries, and I’m not thinking so much about the loss of her this year as I am about the woman I’m becoming on my own life journey, and if it parallels my mother’s. Wish I could ask.

I think a woman’s 36th year is pretty pivotal in who she is. She’s now out of the “targeted demographic” most coveted by marketers, she’s starting to pay attention to wrinkle creams and thinking biological-clock type thoughts if she’s not already a mother. It’s the beginning of the transition from “breeder” to “matriarch”, a different kind of role that women seem to play when they hit early middle ages.

One day we’re the chick next door that the guy wants to hang out with and tries to sleep with, the next we’ve become Mrs. Robinson and anyone we chase under our age begets us a label of “cougar”. It’s a quicker transition than you might think.

I’m not sure if I’ve hit that stage yet, since friends still think I look 28, so I might be able to get away with more.

That youthful appearance may not linger a lot longer, as the greys and wrinkles begin to mount.

I both like and loathe the greys I have now, even if few in number. They multiply.

Today, I’m thinking about getting a punk-rock haircut again and embracing the salt-n-pepper look that’s coming on. There’s something tasty about edgy prematurely-greying people. Very, very tasty. I can pull that off. Not like I’ll be all grey tomorrow anyhow.

Age, I guess, really is a state of mind. I know some folks at 36 who look like they’re in their 40s. How you live really starts to show through in a hurry, and it’s your choice. This is the age that your lifestyle becomes visibly apparent to everyone.

Because of that, getting older doesn’t scare me. It’s probably to do with decent genetics (that come with a ticking time bomb but sure look pretty) and probably because I feel like I’ve been through enough in life already that whatever’s coming down the pipes is something I know I’ll just handle. Scared? Who’s scared?

No, I ultimately like my age. I’d rather be turning 37 than 22 again. You couldn’t give me enough money in the world to relive my 20s. My 30s ain’t been no walk in the park, either, but from 35 on? Yeah. I like it. Liking it more all the time, the further I get from my past and the more progress I make on this vision of who I always cheated myself out of being.

Some of us SURVIVED our 20s. Some of us kind of defied an awful lot of odds to get past where we were. Some of us really fucking love coming into our older, more comfortable selves.

I wish the media could understand that. I wish marketers got it. My age is almost like a battle-wound scar. Like that scene in the movie Jaws, where Quint, Brody, and Hooper are shooting the shit about old scars:

Brody[pointing at Quint’s tattoo scar] What’s that one?
Quint: Oh, that’s a tattoo. I got that removed.
Hooper: Let me guess. “Mother!” [laughs]
Quint: Hooper, that’s the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
[Hooper’s face drops]
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail.

As far as some of us are concerned, we probably shouldn’t even be alive. Enough’s gone on that, y’know, our survival’s really by the grace of God or whoever else was in the kitchen. Signs of age, to some of us, are like proof of getting to The Other Side.

At this point, I don’t see myself changing my hair to hide the greys. I’ll never be slowly salt-and-peppering again in my life, I want to enjoy the awkward and cute transition.

I also don’t see myself trying to hide wrinkles with Botox, ‘cos I never thought my face would be thin enough to have wrinkles — I thought it’d be unhealthily fat and smooth for decades yet. Wrinkles? SERIOUSLY? Okay, bring ’em.

There’s something satisfying about slowly becoming my mother’s daughter. I’m one size away from being the same size as her before her death, even if I’m 40-50 pounds heavier. Muscle tone!

Every now and then, I look in the mirror, and a woman who sort of reflects the mother I had as a wee little lass is the woman staring back at me. I still can’t believe that’s who I’m becoming. When I was 5 going on 6, Mom was the age I am now.

I never saw myself being here, now, looking more and more like her as she was then, every day.

But I’m starting to really, really like it.