This morning I stopped by Pinterest (as Janes Journals) looking for pins about graceful aging. I came across photos of Katherine Hepburn, an older woman on a skate board, and gray-haired fashion models. I saw smiling, older women full of life who are comfortable in their aging bodies. I felt affirmed and energized again. Then, as I scrolled through the photos, I came across an “anti-aging” pin right in the middle of all that inspiration. Just as I settled into acceptance, I was jarred by the opposite message: fight aging at all costs.
So many women—and a few men—are obsessed with looking youthful, and they spend lots of money to feel they can stop time. Yet aging happens. Our brain and lungs start aging when we are 20 years old. Our eyes and heart start aging when we are 40. If you are alive and out of your teens, you are aging. Period. Depending on what products a person buys or what surgeries they schedule, a person may look younger for a while, but they are still aging. Nothing can stop aging, except for dying.
Aging is a gift and a person can react with panic or learn to embrace aging. Not that the process of self-acceptance and graceful aging is easy. I have battled panic and fought for self-acceptance since I let my premature gray out a few years ago. I admit that I panicked last summer as I turned 59. That birthday was not so bad, it was the next birthday that gnawed on me. Yet, I am almost to the point where I can look at myself in the mirror and say—you go girl, you look awesome. Then, I see anti-aging offers and take a few steps backwards.
My antidote to the anti-aging pressure is to look for positive role models, thus the Pinterest search about graceful aging. One of my favorites: Meryl Streep. She looks so comfortable and at peace. She wears her glasses to Hollywood events. She wears nice but slightly conservative clothing. She continues to focus on being the best she can be in her professional life and she seems to take care of herself, physically. Streep’s life seems balanced and peaceful. Perhaps that balance is what makes her so timeless. Judy Dench is another graceful aging role model.
However, I don’t think it helps to copy the lives of other people. Each of us must define the process of graceful aging. For me, it means letting go of bitterness and judgment, while offering forgiveness and casting off old hurts and sorrows. It means physical self-acceptance, that elusive trait. Graceful aging, for me, also includes embracing life with gusto, like planning where I can travel next and looking for something new to learn. I ask many questions of myself, including how can I assist younger people with their life journey? My definition of graceful aging may not bring a sense of giddiness or a fresh perspective to anyone else. So be it. We will each embrace the gift of age in our own way.