Aging has been a topic on my mind a lot recently, because…well…it’s happening, even as I type.
It’s happening to all of us, all the time, albeit in such incremental steps that it tends to creep up on us, unnoticed, until one day we catch a glimpse of ourselves reflected in a storefront window, and think “Who the heck is that?”
When I was younger, I naively thought I might be (at least partially) immune to being sensitive about the changes aging brings on in our looks. I rationalized all the crap that popular culture tries to sell us: “Age is just a number”, “40 is the new 30”, “50 is the new 40”, etc. Mind over matter and all that.
And, since I have always primarily lived in my mind, rather than solely focused on my body, I thought maybe I would be spared some of the insecurity about appearance that aging often brings.
I was wrong.
Lately, I find myself bothered by the inevitable march of time. Just this morning, I wasted an hour searching Amazon for “best anti-wrinkle cream”; a precious hour of my life that I can never recover.
Although there is some truth that we perhaps have (at least partial) control over our looks through diet, exercise, clothes, hairstyles, and the myriad anti-aging and beauty products filling the shelves vying for our money and our hope, I fully realize that the bottom line is: I am never going to look the same now as I did in my 30’s.
I could slather 10,000 ounces of the finest anti-wrinkle cream on myself, and guess what? I would still not look 30. Or ~ who am I kidding? ~ not even 40! I would look like a well-moisturized version of my current age.
I am quite obviously not at the acceptance phase of aging yet, and I strongly suspect that it will be an ongoing process with newly discovered issues cropping up on a regular basis.
But: I am in the process of accepting some facts about my age. I have accepted, for instance, that I now have to work out twice as long to get half the results. I have (almost) accepted that I will need to work my ass off (pun intended) for the rest of my life to maintain a healthy weight, particularly since I battle with hypothyroidism. I have not yet accepted the fact that I will need to eat less and drink less than everyone else at the table to maintain a healthy weight; but I now can at least acknowledge the truth in that statement, which is the first step to acceptance.
It helps me to have a supportive partner, who loves me unconditionally and who likes to eat healthy and to also work out herself. It helps to have a partner who helps me cognitively process that everyone is bound, in varying degrees, by the societal “gender straitjacket” which, among other things, dictates our subconscious opinions of attractive/unattractive, and my partner helps me to always question and challenge all underlying beliefs.
It also helps to constantly realize that aging is certainly better than the alternative. My friend Debra died when we were only 32 ~ long before it was time to worry about wrinkles. From many conversations with her in the couple years of her illness prior to her death, I know for a fact that if fate had given her the choice, she would have chosen wrinkles over death.
So, I am now trying to focus on the benefits of aging, while simultaneously trying to accept and make the best of the drawbacks.
The best benefit of aging, so far, is my ever-increasing willingness to say what I actually think, rather than walking on eggshells all the time, trying to mollycoddle people’s feelings.
And that is one Hell of a benefit ~ one that I would not trade for the dewy skin of youth.