No matter what we do, we’ll never be younger than we are right now. As long as any of us believe younger is decidedly preferable, we’ll suffer. The only answer is to stop comparing ourselves. And by that, I mean to one another and to our younger selves.
When I turned thirty years-old, I remember voicing to a co-worker how old I felt. She turned her stern, weathered brown eyes on me, looking down her sharp nose through her bifocal glasses at my full, lineless face.
“Each year that passes offers new knowledge, and wisdom. But time is fair. As currency for these offerings, we exchange young skin for skin more reflective of our experiences. Hair that thins and greys. Joints that are quicker to rebel against our harsh treatments. And organs that don’t recover as speedily as they once did.”
Eloquently, she basically told me to shut my trap, stop whining, and enjoy my youth. It was not obvious to me then, but looking back I cringe at my lack of awareness and ridiculous attitude. Now, I’m the middle-aged woman who listens to young women lament their age. And I look ahead to women older than I, admiring both their fierce commitment to living the fullest life, and acceptance that they can’t look thirty forever.
When I was thirty, it depressed me that my skin still broke out as often as a hormonal teenager. I couldn’t look at my face and appreciate it’s youth. Instead, I felt irritated about still being carded to buy wine. At thirty, I saw real adulthood as a hazy dream waiting at the end of a very long, foggy, and winding road, one I could barely make out.
I dated men I knew I’d never have a future with. My career contributed to feelings of frustration, insecurity, and a passionless existence. Several of my friends weren’t always kind to me, and gossiped about me to others. I gossiped too, and thought nothing of it other than hope my toxic words wouldn’t reach the ears of those whom I judged. The value I placed on things was too high. Beauty was more important than substance. Experiences couldn’t be fully enjoyed because the focus was always on what I didn’t yet have versus how fortunate I was to have all that I did.
Now, at forty-five, it’s certainly not the case that all my vanity and entitlement has vanished. Grey hairs are quickly plucked if observed. I’m distracted by the prominent veins in my hands, a few on my legs, and new lines taking residence on my face. Anti-aging products interest me far too much. But only at forty-five am I able to feel this relaxed about who I am, and clear on what I want. It wouldn’t be possible to know what I know without having gone through each year, experience, and every mistake and celebration.
There are countless articles about how to ‘age gracefully’, yet fight the aging process. One could spend all day researching creams that boost collagen, supplements that stop free radicals, and all the benefits of probiotics. I’ve spent more time than I’m comfortable admitting down the World Wide Web’s rabbit hole chasing promises of younger everything. We can also make gratitude lists, mentor others, take a yoga class, enjoy our long-term relationships, cook healthy meals that truly feed our bodies, and sit with how incredible our lives really are.
As with everything else, there is a balance to it all. If we take good care of ourselves, it will be outwardly reflected. I was a hot mess at thirty-five. I wouldn’t go back for anything. And it’s this I need to remember on the days my thinking is mediocre, and entitlements roar in my ears, louder than common sense or gratitude.
In conclusion, I’ll share my process for feeling as good as I can about everything in my life, including my age. Each day, my morning begins with a forward bend. It reminds me to consider my perspective, and change it if I’m suffering unkind thoughts. Also, my body receives a needed stretch and a brief reprieve from gravity’s pull. It’s a needed reminder of something my body can do, and may not be able to always. I look around my living space, thanking each thing for existing for my convenience, and acknowledging my ability to provide myself with all I need. And next, I sit quietly and write at least ten things I’m grateful for. It’s easy to dismiss such a simple process, and decide it won’t do anything to provide us feelings we like, maybe even love. You’ve got nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain.
By Lara Falberg
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