Has the Aging Process Got You Down? Consider the Options!
Some months ago, I wrote an article about aging well which garnered some intriguing responses. One woman wrote, not without some wry humor, that she had gotten encouragement because she “simply HATED being 67.”
I thought, but didn’t write back, “Well, consider the options.”
We in the western world – and in those cultures that also drink our collective Kool-Aid – believe that aging is a sin, and to develop wrinkles, sagging skin and grey hair is a crime against society.
On one hand, this tactic most assuredly sells lotions, potions, makeup, plastic surgery and a host of other products based our apologetic insecurities about what we cannot possibly prevent – getting older. However, there are a lot of magnificent advantages to hitting our stride in our 60s and beyond.
I’m not going to try to convince you to like all of what comes with age. I don’t like the outdoor rug that has exploded out of my nostrils any more than the next gal.
A part of me isn’t exactly thrilled with the bits and pieces which have either fallen off entirely, disappeared or receded out of view, which happens to include a large portion of my eyebrows.
But I digress.
What Would You Say to Your Younger Self?
I read an article about a 30-something fellow military peep who interviewed other people – clearly, learned sages in their early 30s – what they would say to their ‘younger selves’ at 25. After I picked myself up from the floor where I lay gasping with laughter, I gave this some serious thought.
One piece that arose was a book I had read in my 20s when I was struggling with my weight. The novel featured a character who had “thighs of steel” from being a lifelong skier. Can’t tell you the novel or the author, but that description has stayed with me forever.
When I later found myself in 1970s Vail, I was stunned by the beauty of the gilded, rich women whose legs were indeed steely, in their black ski tights. I believed with all my heart that if I had those legs, that body, then all my problems would melt away – like my awful fat. The world would be my oyster indeed.
That, of course, didn’t happen, but I did drop 80 pounds at 31. I did indeed turn myself into an athlete.
The Life Lessons of a Weight Battle
Nothing else changed but for one simple fact: the hard-won discipline that I subjected myself to in order to get that weight off, and keep it off for decades, taught me a lot about my perseverance. I translated those lessons to other parts of my life as well.
When, in 2015, I was in Iceland for three weeks of riding, I found a store in Reykjavik which specialized in riding gear. When I tried on their black riding tights I was stunned to see a 62-year-old woman with a Vail skier’s body. Thighs of steel. It was a revelation. (I, of course, promptly bought two pairs.)
The other night, my BF complimented me on my increasingly shapely legs. Having committed to climbing Mt. Kenya in November, I had leapt into a full-steam training program. Since July, I’ve hiked or run more than 70,000 stairs at 6200 feet. Run 70 miles. Hit endless weights.
You bet my legs are muscular. They had better be.
However, here’s the piece to consider: the BF wouldn’t be around if I were a self-obsessed, selfish, self-centered and deeply insecure woman completely dominated by my looks, a fear of aging and terrified of every wrinkle.
At nearly 66, my skin sags, my teeth come out at night, my face is a road map. Doesn’t bother the BF. Because that’s not what matters. My character does.
Do I appreciate the compliment? You bet I do.
Learning How to Be in Life
My body, which has in many ways been my crucible, taught me how to focus, how to be disciplined, how to learn to be healthy. It’s the same life lesson that earning a degree teaches us: how to research, ask great questions and achieve a big goal. We learn how to be in life.
It’s never about the weight. It was about the journey. We have to be on the journey long enough to be able to see this, because by now we’ve lived it. This is part of what makes us so beautiful at this age.
As I ponder approaching 70, and I revel in how my body so readily responds to hard exercise and discipline, I can also appreciate the lessons of patience and process it taught me.
That our physicality is fleeting, but the lessons we learn aren’t. That the emotional muscles of my inner world continue to need constant exercise, constant challenges, constant encouragement.
We can live in a lifelong prison fearing fat, fearing aging, fearing what is inevitable.
Or we can revel in the reality that we’ve made it this far. We’ve earned the bodies we have, the wrinkles we sport, the stories we’ve lived.
Young folks don’t tend to possess that kind of gravitas. We do.
What would I tell my younger self at 25? Relax and enjoy the journey. It really can get better and better with age.
Besides, consider the options.
What would you tell your younger self? What life lessons have given you a greater appreciation of who you are today? What are you most grateful for as a woman in your 60s and beyond? Please share in the comments below.