Accepting Aging: Letting Go of the Younger Self That We’ve Left Behind
A friend of mine is limping into his 60s with a sense of loss. Loss of youth, energy and significance. I understand all of that and believe that most of us go through a passage where we grieve the younger life we’ve left behind.
As someone who has written for years about the transformative force of grief, I have to say that the threshold of loss is only the beginning of a remarkable journey. It is a journey that must be claimed for one’s self, lest we get stuck in the mourning of what once was.
Yes, your skin will never be as firm as it once was and your yaya, in spite of best effort exercise, is going to sag. The attractiveness of youth gives way, however, to a deep and unwavering acceptance of the circle of life.
Every single wrinkle and line has been earned, a face map that says where we’ve been and how we’ve weathered the journey. Aging invites us to grow into a deeper beauty: it’s no longer the smile on your face as much as it is the expression of your heart.
Energy and Priority
When I retired, every volunteer board within a 20-mile radius came at me like a heat seeking missile. I learned very quickly that I had to choose carefully what I invested in, because I cannot do it all.
A waning energy has helped me to prioritize what is truly important. The intentions of the heart are still as strong as ever, but the energy in the body is changing.
Just as a reminder, I recently purchased a magnet for my refrigerator that reads “Stop me before I volunteer again.” If you haven’t already, this is a good time to journal about what is truly important to you in this part of your life. Get clarity.
My list is short: time in nature, hiking with hubby and dog, writing every morning, and one great meal that utilizes as many fresh things from the garden as possible.
It’s true that we are not as valuable a consumer as we once were, but that’s the only significance that we lose. We reclaim our significance when we create a conscious vision for our 60s, 70s and beyond.
What gives us a sense of purpose? What is fulfilling and satisfying? What’s on the bucket list? What is truly important to you?
The Years of Wisdom
Just as I once came into my own as a woman, I now come into my own as a wise woman. Wisdom is earned over long years of experience. Attitude, balance and gratitude are all things that we can demonstrate to a younger generation, searching and struggling as we once did for how to live life fully.
The Power of Connection
Not enough can be said about the importance of community as we age, whether it’s in a coffee shop or at a book group. We need to interact with others so that we know we are not alone.
There is another connection, too, that asks for our attention. That is the connection of heart to spirit. The connection to the “Greater Than” to which we all one day return.
This connection is found in quiet moments of appreciation, of gratitude, in the early morning hours of reflection and prayer and in the deep breathing of yoga or meditation.
I have come to love and find humor in the aging process.
There is a place in each and every one of us that is wise. If you have lived this long to tell the tale, you have a great gift to share with the world. These are our wisdom years. Embrace them. Laugh. Celebrate. Walk in gratitude. Nothing is ever lost.
Have you found it difficult to say goodbye to your youth? What do you love most about getting older? Please share any strategy that has worked for you. Let’s have a chat!
Stephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.