“Don’t be afraid. Change is such a beautiful thing,” said the Butterfly.” ~ Sabrina Newby
The other day, my daughter and I approached an escalator at the same time as a woman of a certain age.
Very graciously, my daughter motioned for her to go first. We all exchanged smiles. The lady was missing her top teeth and was more than a mite disheveled.
“Age before beauty!” said she, soulful eyes twinkling. “I have to accept it, I am old and getting older.” She repeated this mantra five times, which made me wonder if she was still in the process of convincing herself of that belief.
I, on the other hand, do not accept getting older. I am in complete denial of the fact and refuse to make peace with my aging body.
Once, I thought that when my hair turned grey, I would let it grow into voluminous curls and bask in my Arctic blondness. I have a friend who rocks this! But my hair turned crispy and a somewhat unflattering pewter (accent on the pew!). So now I color it.
I’ll admit that I’ve always been vain—or what I assume to be vain. To me, my outwardness reflects my inner being, and I do obsess about it in fits and starts.
I have been an organic farmer, passionately advocated for the environment, mucked around with piglet, goat and chicken poo, wandered many a wet and scrubby forest and written volumes about a woman’s inherent essence as a goddess—so you’d think that I would embrace aging like one. But it’s just not evolving like I imagined it would.
My belly and waist—which have almost always been trim, muscular and as velvety as the skin of a newt—are no longer under my command, but do what they want under the mysterious call of menopause. Estrogen and I are no longer friends, as it fluctuates to its own drummer. I’m not impressed.
We all have ideas of how we’ll age, and what we’ll do to mitigate the process (if anything). I know intellectually that I must love my body in all its forms. Well, I do love it in principle—but not what it’s doing! Nobody sent a memo about changes like less collagen or muscle loss. I don’t remember signing a consent form.
I am rebelling worse than a 16-year-old against my current condition. I thought I wouldn’t rebel because that would mean admitting my age and bodily foibles. But then I changed my mind, because really, we’re all (of menopausal age) in the same boat and might as well just talk about it. I can’t apologize for not aging gracefully, because I don’t want to. I want to be honest about where I’m at, and that is approaching my 56th birthday kicking and screaming. I don’t like the number—and it doesn’t help to say, “the number doesn’t matter, it’s how you feel.” How I feel is that the number is like a stamp that somebody placed irreverently on my forehead, and it screams: “Over the proverbial hill!”
I’ll just say it out loud: I don’t want to age. Is that wrong of me?
I’m wiser than I used to be. I’m more compassionate, more open, more alive than ever before. That came with age and experience. But I don’t want to wear my reading spectacles, or look my age, or even face the reality of what is happening.
Because I’ve honored my health for so many years (alcohol, caffeine and smoking never did agree with me), and add in the usual health nut habits—hiking, yoga, organic diet, skin brushing, coconut oil pulling, juicing—you name it, I am blessed with the many benefits of self-care. I believe in respecting the physical container of my soul, and I do not consider my spirit self any more important than my bodily self. My mantra has always been to love all of myself in all ways.
So how did I end up at the plastic surgeon’s office for filler?
“What?!” asked a friend, in complete shock. “But you’re the holy grail of natural living!”
“I am,” I said. “And also, I’m sick of people asking me why I’m so tired when I’m not. I’m going to get filler under my eyes. Oh, and here, around my mouth.”
“Botox?! Have you lost your mind? You’ve been advocating against it all these years!”
I think I may have caused her some emotional trauma there. But no, not Botox—instead, a form of Hyaluronic acid which our body produces less of as time goes by, so that I can look on the outside how I feel on the inside. I just can’t bring myself to apologize for it to anyone. I’m not ready to look older than I feel.
So off I went, to a surgeon whom I trust with my life, and discussed what I wanted. She told me what I needed and refused me what I did not need. I left her office feeling like I’d done what was right for me.
In my estimation, it’s no different than the bikini waxing, or pedicures, or facials I go for. (Good lord, how much does this woman spend on her appearance?) It’s all just part of how I care for the body I was gifted—and it is a gift.
I know, it’s not so naturally goddess-like. I’ve always been an earth-mama with the intentions to age gracefully—I’m a practicing witch, for the love of all that’s sacred! How did I end up in this conundrum?
Aging is not graceful in many ways. It is frustrating, scary and unfair. And it’s murder on self-esteem.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~ Mark Twain
I was raised with: “It doesn’t matter how you look, it matters who you are on the inside. God does not care how you look.”
I disagree. I think that it matters who I am on the inside and the outside, and I would not think of neglecting either. To the best of my ability, I will care for all aspects of myself.
Do women spend time judging each other and comparing themselves to others? You betcha. Is it right? I don’t know, it just happens. We are all growing emotionally as best as we can. I’m sure that some will judge me for how I choose to age, while others won’t care one bit. The thing is, we must honor our inner voice when it tells us something, and honor the inner voice of every other woman. It’s a tough world, so the least we can do is support each other in our authenticity.
My partner is aging gracefully. He’s always had a boyish look, an athlete’s body and a youthful mindset. He loves me no matter what. But I have to climb into bed naked beside him every night, and my pride is as alive as it ever was. I want him to like how I look. But more than that, I want to like how I look.
“I want. I do not accept. I refuse.” Not words associated with the spiritual practices I adhere to. And yet, when it comes to my body and face, this is where I’m at. I have thought about what I would do to keep on looking relatively young-ish. You won’t catch me in classic cougar mode, it’s just not my style. Nor will I opt for the full lips of a 20-year-old—but I might opt for a small nip and tuck around my eyes one day, or acupuncture for releasing emotions held in the face. (Yes, such a thing exists!) Or I might not. But I’ll keep on being honest with myself about where I’m at.
I can say it: I’m beautiful. I know that I am. I’ve consciously and deliberately worked on who I am, inside and out. I know that when I’m gone it won’t matter whether I looked good for my age or not, but right now it does matter to me.
And it might matter to you—or perhaps not. And whether it does or doesn’t, I encourage you to face how you’re feeling about aging honestly. And it’s okay to not be okay with it.
As much as I repeat my mantra about not resisting what is—if I’m not there, I’m not there. I’ll let go of this sometime…maybe. Or maybe I will always hate that aging is a part of life.
I’ve heard this a hundred times: “At my age those things don’t matter anymore; you know, wrinkles, Buddha bellies, thinning hair, sex.”
“We ‘should’ be progressing towards our wisdom, and leave those things behind.”
Why? Sure, I wish to be wise and have a youthful heart…and to have regular romps in bed and not think to myself that now I must give up on “all those things.” Please Goddess, I just don’t want to think in those terms. I’ll just do yoga more often, and keep building those muscles that keep threatening to sag, so they’re strong.
I had a special encounter with a beautiful elderly mystic once. She was maybe in her 80s, I’m not sure, but she kept herself beautifully—dressing to suit her mood, always well-groomed, wrinkled and grey and full of laughter. I told her that I admired her for how she accepted the aging process. She almost flew out of her paper-thin skin!
“What are you talking about?” she said. “I hate it. I would gladly trade something valuable for looking young again. Just because I look so good for my age (cackle, cackle), doesn’t mean I like looking old. Nobody whistles at me anymore.”
I was dumbfounded. “But you seem like you have that part all together.”
“That’s bullsh*t. Nobody likes it. When I think of aging, I think of moldy cheese and spidery cellars of wine.”
“But people say they are looking forward to it…”
“People say that when they’re still relatively young!” More cackling.
I was 40 then. I used to think I would look forward to aging, and being wiser and wrinkled, and wondering who that person is in the mirror. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of myself as I walk past one, and literally stop to observe the woman in the mirror—I usually stick my tongue out at her.
I wasn’t going to share all this, because I knew it would force me into introspection. But being who I am, a storyteller who values what is shared around a women’s circle, I found the courage to let my insecurities out.
I hope this is of benefit. Not only to those of us who are already examining the vulnerability we face as we age, but also those who are far away from it. When I was younger, I listened to women who are now my age speaking out about their struggles, and it opened my heart to their struggles. I didn’t understand it, and I bet many women never do talk about it, because aging has been somewhat shrouded with shame.
But maybe if we tell each other within a sacred space—that yes, we love it; or no, we hate it; or we had a face-lift, or we would never—then we are honoring what is real and necessary to speak out loud.
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Author: Monika Carless
Image: Instagram @missreneeonlife; author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina