I don’t remember the day, the month, or even the year, but I do remember the moment. A strand of silver, or maybe two, in a sea of long brunette hair. It was not my imagination or the light playing tricks on me. Whoa… already? I peered more closely at my deep-set green eyes, and there it was: the unmistakable suggestion of crow’s feet, confirming that this business of fading youth was already underway.
I have always been grateful for not being burdened with the gift of classic beauty. Attractive enough, well-groomed, and what people refer to as “fit,” I was happy enough with my looks… except for the usual matter of wanting what you haven’t got and musing over what it would be like to have more of this and less of that. Overall though, I was satisfied. I understood – in my head, at least – that aging was an inevitable change. But when it started with those shots of silver and tiny lines, I realized that this was deeply personal. No need to mince words here, it meant the loss of how I knew myself, at least in terms of appearance. Being a planner with a strong penchant for looking ahead, I quickly imagined where this was headed and began to consider how I would absorb its truth into my being.
This matter of our physical being changing of its own, natural accord is a struggle for many women, one we are often conflicted about, and deal with oh-so differently: we admit our struggle readily, or minimize our discomfort, or selectively confide. We look to our mothers, our BFFs, our sisters, friends, co-workers, public figures, celebrities, and strangers for a sense of how they are navigating the same inevitable path. We admire or are jealous. We applaud or judge. We speculate or attempt to copy. We change our minds, ping-ponging from one perspective to another until we settle somewhere. Every one of us strong, capable, fearsome, loving women contend with her own aging. And yes, to be clear, I am unabashedly talking about the physical stuff.
So I made the decision to age gracefully. If that pronouncement evokes a “Duh” rather than a “Wow,” I totally get. It’s a tired cliché, a term we use to tell ourselves that it’s “just fine” when it feels “not fine.” But not for me. For me, aging gracefully would mean that I would:
Accept the aging process in light of its alternative. I know far too many women and men who died too soon, their beauty intact, but their light gone from this world. If I am given a longer gift of days, then I will take the bags, sags, and other changes in stride.
Reconsider what it means to be beautiful from the inside out. I wouldn’t ignore “the physical stuff,” in an either-or move, but I would also focus on the glow and reach of that inner light. I would challenge myself to see, think, and act in ways that create a more beautiful world.
Evolve my sense of what looks right now. For example, a few years ago, I stopped wearing red lipstick and lowered my hemline. I’ve changed my mind about both. The red is back in my repertoire, and I love to rock an above-the-knee dress…again. My husband once asked, “What happened to your dark brown hair?” and, more recently, “Why don’t you just go gray?” Well, maybe I will, and just maybe I won’t. I don’t need to know right now.
Refrain from judging the age-related choices of other women. I have friends who started Botox in their 30s and others who let their hair go entirely gray with nary a single color “correction.” I have a friend who had a breast reduction as part of her “Embracing 60” moment, and another considering breast implants in the spirit of “Well hell, why not?” Their choices are theirs to make, not mine to judge. I think a “You go, girl” is the light-from-within response.
As I age on the outside, I am also aging on the inside in ways glorious and unimaginable. But that’s another article!