It is not easy to pole vault over the aging process. You can run, you can hide, and you can fight … but time stops for no woman. Unknown obstacles await us as we plod through life, and despite our best efforts with predictive text and ads that can read our minds, as humans our expiration date remains a secret.
All of us are on the same journey, wandering into the unknown, without an inkling how we will fare physically or mentally, as we age. It’s not like we have a road map to what awaits us or how we’ll arrive at our sweet rewards. Sure, we can look to our parents, siblings, and others to what aging may be like, but no doubt, you’ll tell yourself “That’ll never be me!” until that dreaded remark or phrase comes right out of your very own mouth and you panic, “Gawd, NO! I’ve become my mother!”
When you think about it, during our lifetime we are and have always been identified by our age. It is a permanent stamp, duly recorded as we are discharged from the womb. Anytime we are mentioned in the media or identified in any way that involves us personally, that big, huge number font appears right after our name…called “AGE.”
Fueling the problem of ageism is how children spontaneously ask “How old are you?” at an early age (I like to tell them, “Old as a dinosaur”) and magazines readily offer us “Outfits for Every Decade,” but are there really age limits on hemlines? Ageism is not just about older adults; it is a word that immediately produces negativity and defensiveness in some, but to others reminds them of the real discrimination they’ve faced. Those little evil reminders envelope us daily and can be quite daunting. From the purely cosmetic: an extra wrinkle, knees not looking so smooth; to the wistful: the long-gone flirtatious glances from strangers; to the enraging: clients acting like you don’t understand the technology or casually requesting an account manager with more “relevant” industry knowledge. We seem to disappear, crinkled and smushed down, like that single Kleenex at the bottom of our handbags. So, to grapple with this loss in our lives, we must acknowledge that aging is a natural thing. First and most importantly we know we are capable, functioning adults! Plus, we do not have to rush around like a fly on LSD … we are confident and deliberate in our actions. We don’t have to pander to arrogant bosses or fret quietly over an ill-prepared meal at a restaurant. We know how to politely but assertively stand up for ourselves! What a true blessing is coming you’re your own! Yes, being ignored is where I feel your and my pain. But, now’s the time to bring out the big guns and recognize that while some overlook you at first, when you speak up, you know how to get the attention you deserve.
Once you appreciate your voice’s maturity, then you can appreciate your body’s! Before deciding to have a head transplant (cutting, shifting, inserting, pulling, lifting and tightening a face) look in the mirror and see what other people see. Could it be those incredible eyes or your delicious smile or your contagious sense of humor? The ammunition you can use to celebrate your body is exercise, eating well (you are what you eat and tell you what, Cheetos won’t give you those shiny eyes), staying out the sun, stretching your beautiful limbs, and spending time with quality people. People that don’t even care what is on the outside of a person. That is who you want to hang with.
Aging is surviving. Focus on the here and now of every situation, try new things you were previously afraid of, and challenge yourself to think in new ways. You can allow yourself to step or tip-toe outside the box if you wish. Don’t fret about changing your style and being different. Grab those leopard tights with a black T-shirt and stunning costume jewelry and throw caution to the wind. The more you do this, the more apt you are to feel better about yourself. Give those sweatpants to Goodwill. Well, maybe keep a spare, they are so damn comfortable… but when you go out, give yourself time and permission to take up space and make a statement.
When you feel good inside, your confidence glows, and it travels straight through the pores of your face. If you have physical/medical issues, don’t give up and resign yourself to defeat. You can try restorative yoga, join a support group, or power walk in the mall – you know, all the things your youthful pride wouldn’t allow you to do before. Chat with like-minded people, because connecting over an idea or shared hobby makes you forget about being youthful. Heck, you can even go online and make friends. You may never meet them but I have met some wonderful people just being pen pals and through words. It is all about human-to-human chemistry and how we make each other feel – bonds that transcend location and yes, age!
No matter how you feel about your birthdate, just remember that each day is worth savoring. Feeling the good, the pain, the sun, and the rain. Don’t deny the experience or wish your current reality away. You’ve never been as you as you are today! So, forget running out to Walgreens and buy that wrinkle cream. Not only will it not work, but you can’t get a refund anyway. Feeling good inside delivers your confidence to the world and will help you rebuff and reject the ageist messages the world sends our way.