Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Aging Gratefully by Angie Ledbetter

There's nothing in my face that speaks of beauty or youthfulness as I get closer and closer to the 5 decade mark, but on the inside, there is much I really like about myself. I am almost the person I want to be, doing what it is I was put here to do. How many people can feel confident saying that? Even as I wonder who that wrinkly, saggy, lumpy frumpy person is in my mirror some mornings, I eventually remember life has put the mileage on me through a huge variety of experiences, and then I am grateful for that person reflected back to me. And since I'm not Hollywood bound, I don't have to worry so much about my physical looks.

Being older means I've had more time to amass wonderful friends and to watch my children grow. Life memories are stacking up. The books I've read and music I've enjoyed are many. Age does indeed have its benefits, and one of the best is that I've learned to be gentler with myself. I've learned to quash the inner critic who wants to constantly remind me that my youth is past, like that's a terrible thing. I won't fuss at myself as often for eating an extra cookie or for my less-than-perfect housekeeping, or even the garage sale doodad I think looks so wonderful in my living room. Instead, I am grateful for the joy these things and realizations bring me. Being kinder in my self-analysis, I remind myself I'm entitled to a few of these goodies.

I do not wish to leave this life before I fully understand the great freedom and beauty of being older. That has happened to some I know, and it is sad. I don't want to have regrets and what-ifs hanging over me. Yes, I might well look crazy wearing an elf or Santa costume at my age or any age, but what if I'd cared more about what others thought? I've have missed so many opportunities to let loose, to laugh with abandon. Not caring so much is another benefit of age, and I want to embrace it daily.

Soon, I plan to don a bathing suit, something that has produced nightmares in the past, and jump into a lake or sun myself for a bit on the beach. I'm getting there in my "not caring" age, and can't wait. I know when I do that young faces will show disapproval, but so what? They will age too, and I wish for them the freedom to abandon self-consciousness when they reach midlife in order to more fully enjoy as they please.

My heart has been broken and tears have dampened my pillowcase, but the sadness I experience also means I have loved and I have given my heart to others to break. I know without doubt this is a better choice than holding on to it greedily so as not to be hurt. Disappointments are much better than regrets. Tears also soften the heart, make one understanding and compassionate toward those who hurt. So even bad times serve a bigger better purpose when we look past the present.

Today I realize the gifts of my wrinkles, of the gray in my hair, of the jiggly bat wings attached to my upper arms, for it is possible to buy some measure of youthful looks, but not the beauty of experiences and years which naturally age us, and I wouldn't pick differently if given the chance. See...it's just easier being positive when you have some age on you. You know the broken date for this weekend is not fatal. You realize a little cellulite will not ruin your life. You know if a friend hurts you, it's not the end of the world because you have others to spend time with and you know you'll work things out eventually. Being older doesn't mean you are always right, but it does mean you have perspective and a better ability to apologize when you are wrong.

I like getting older and the person I'm becoming. Knowing I am no longer an immortal teenager or youngish adult, I don't waste as much time or take dangerous chances. Age has taught me not to look back in regret or spend too much time worrying about what will be. I look forward, literally, to what's to come and what is now, and I am thankful.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The real trick is to "realize" that your old. Only then, can you truly embrace it. I, in my all too soon to be 49 years STILL think that I am still that kid on the ball field, running down fly balls and stealing bases. While you look at your self in the mirror and are embracing the lines of a life well lived and battles fought and one. I just don't look in the mirror. I just can't disengage the embrace that "Pan" has on me!! Lovage. You are my role model (sorta). :)

Mary Ann said...

Angie,
A beautiful, Zen-like post. You have taken away that bit of guilt in me as I just return from "having a bit of work done," as the saying goes. I chose to begin Lasering away those dark moons, freckled tundras, red who-knows-whats this morning. I feel worthy and deserving. Your decision to be kinder to yourself is one to be applauded. Because this "work" makes me feel better inside, I'm going to be gentle with myself concerning it. I made a good decision. Thanks for the validation, though on the surface my action seems to be just the opposite of your post. Actually, it's the same: We both are old enough to give ourselves permission to be who we wish to be, at long last. And since I'm a decade older than you, I get more permission! Ha! Isn't it lovely not to care what the famous "they" think, at last? Isn't it love to find compassion from hurt, as you do.
Thank you.

Love,
MA

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