I recently had a birthday. I am squarely in my forties, and I have decided that I love getting older. Of course, there are some days I don’t like it. Some days I notice myself looking differently than I did when I was younger, and I miss aspects of my youthful appearance.
This is little Shelly getting into Mom’s paints. (Photo courtesy of Mom).
It is Normal to Feel Some Sadness about Aging
Sometimes I also notice that my strength and flexibility have changed, and I realize I cannot do some things as easily as I used to be able. I think it is right to be a little sad about the loss of those things, much like we would be sad if a friend of ours moved away.
On the other hand, there is a lot of pressure from various sources to look very young continually and to view aging, especially for women, as a liability, a loss, and something of which we should be afraid. I have decided that I do not believe that, and I have decided that every age is perfect and brings its own gifts.
Despite the fact that we do lose some things as we age, I think we can gain so much as we age as well, and that is why I have decided that I love getting older. Here are four gifts that being in my forties has brought me, and I believe that these gifts are always available to all of us as we age, whenever we open ourselves to them:
When I was younger, I constantly worried about what people thought. I worried about whether I was doing life right. I worried incessantly about making mistakes and failing. I worried about not knowing the right thing to do.
Eventually I realized that none of us really knows what we are doing. How could we? No one has ever lived our specific life with our unique personality and life circumstances before. Because of this, we do not need to worry about what people think because, in the end, it is irrelevant.
I mean, we could live our life according to what everyone else thinks, but if we did that, we would not actually be living our life—we would be living someone else’s life. We would also live in a state of perpetual uncertainty and alienation because we would being doing what everyone else thinks we should do, but we would never really know if others’ opinions were right.
As scary as it is sometimes, we cannot escape taking responsibility for our life, even though we do not know exactly what we are doing. How do we take responsibility for our lives well?
All that matters is that we are doing our best to live with love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion. These are the very character traits, which allow us to treat everyone (including ourselves) with dignity. They also allow us to develop our talents and to learn from our mistakes.
The more we live our life in this way, the more we learn, grow, and master our world. These character traits help us become an excellent pilot of the ship that is our life, and this gives us confidence.
Any point at which we are willing to live with love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion, we start cultivating confidence.
The older we get the more we experience a variety of both difficult and happy life events; the greater variety of people we have met; and the more things we have tried. All of this gives us a large storehouse of life experiences from which we can draw.
We may not be able to run as fast as we could when we were sixteen, but we have the potential for a lot more wisdom. We gain wisdom whenever we are willing to reflect on our life circumstances and learn good lessons from them.
Referring back to the pilot metaphor in #1, the more wisdom we gain, the more we remain calm and confident through rough or unusual weather in our life. When we are younger, rough weather is scary because we have not experienced a lot of different sailing conditions.
I love getting older because things that would have freaked out my sixteen year old self hardly phase me now because I understand much better how to handle them. That wisdom is a great gift.
Three: Comfort in Our Own Skin
There is a great deal of pressure in our culture to use our bodies as an object for gaining attention, admiration, and even personal value. In addition quite often, culturally speaking, only bodies of a certain size and shape are viewed as admirable and acceptable. This causes us, especially women, a great deal of pressure, and it can cause severe anxiety.
When I was younger, this pressure caused me so much anxiety that eventually I decided that my world was not big enough both for me and rigid body standards. I decided to kick rigid body standards out the window and focus on nurturing and loving myself.
I decided that the main important thing is not how my body looks to other people but how healthy it is and the peaceful relationship I cultivate with it.
Since that time, I have lost weight and gained weight. I have been larger sizes and smaller sizes. But none of that really matters because I have become really good friends with my body and feel so much more peaceful. My body is a record of my life experiences, and it is a vessel that helps me navigate my world. I honor it.
Like everyone, I still have days when I feel insecure and feel uncomfortable in my skin. I handle these days much better than I used to, though. I take these feelings as an invitation to check in with my body to see if she needs anything. Sometimes she needs more water or fruits and vegetables or movement. Sometimes she just needs reassurance that I love her and am grateful for all that she does for me.
Hula hooping: One of my favorite activities
As we get older, we have the opportunity to see rigid body standards for what they are: a bunch of arbitrary and rigid nonsense that people impose on others often to control or bully them or make more money. We have the opportunity to kick those standards out the window and make peace with our body. That can be the beginning of a beautiful love relationship.
The fourth gift aging can gives us is clarity.
It is pretty normal when we are younger to be unsure what life is all about. I think it is also normal to think that perhaps we need a lot of different things to be happy. Perhaps we think we need a lot of money, great success, a string of admirers, exotic vacations, and possessions. When we are younger, we often face a lot of pressure from various sources to pursue these things in order to prove our worth as a human being.
The older we get, the more we have the opportunity to realize that most of these things do not matter. Certainly we all need a basic amount of money and possessions to navigate life. And there is certainly nothing wrong with pursuing success, romance, vacations, and cool toys.
However, as we get older, we realize that the most meaningful life experiences come from things like making peace with ourselves, loving others, and working to make the world a more compassionate and humane place. The wonderful thing about this is that all of the most meaningful things in life are free, and anyone can do them at any time.
As we gain a knowledge of the most important things in life, this allows us to simplify our life and get rid of all the dead weight—all of the things that are not really important for living a meaningful life.
Aging allows us to become really clear about who and what is most important to us, and it can help us better understand our purpose in life. This is a gift. Whenever we are willing to see and understand what really matters in life, we gain more clarity.
Loving Our Age
I am so grateful for my entire life, but I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have ever been. This is due to many things, but one of the most important things is that I have decided that every age is perfect for me and brings me good gifts. I have decided to embrace those gifts and live a beautiful life at every age. I love my age.
What gifts has aging brought you Friends? What can you do now that you couldn’t do when you were younger?
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