Group Project: Aging Gracefully

Betty White and Sandra Bullock in The Proposal

A few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions for blog posts on Facebook.

One of my best friends wrote, “How does one grow old gracefully? Because honestly, I am not embracing wrinkles, spider veins, and gray hair. In fact, they’re all kinda pissing me off.’ 

I had forgotten about that particular blog post request until I was watching (hangs head in shame) The Real Housewives of New Jersey while folding laundry Monday night (because I need a very guilty pleasure to fold the fifth load of laundry, don’t I?) when one of the Housewives’ daughter referenced with pride how her mom was growing old gracefully (and this particular housewife does seem to be walking around with her original face).   

This weekend, I was reading a backlog of newspapers when I came across this quote from Betty White.  And if anyone has handled aging with great aplumb, it’s Betty.  So here are her wise words on the matter. 

“Don’t try to be young.  Just open your mind.  Stay interested in stuff.  There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them.  You know people who are already saying, ‘I”m going to be 30- oh, what am I going to do.’  Well, use that decade! Use them all!”

And isn’t that the great thing about Betty White?  We all think she’s adorable but, really, what we love is that she knows what she wants and goes after it and what she has to offer and delivers it.  There isn’t an interview with Betty where you don’t see her joie de vivre. 

And a student shared this quote with me from the movie The Guardian:  “If my muscles hurt, it just means I’ve used them. If it hurts to walk up the stairs, it’s just ’cause I’ve done it a 100x to lay down next to a man who loved me. My face may have wrinkles, but I have laid under hundreds of skies on sunny days… Getting old isn’t bad. It’s earned.”

I don’t know that I can say anything wiser than either of those bits, but I’ll, at least, add my own thoughts. 

My forehead has long carried expression lines, profoundly deep expression lines.  I’ve had them since I was in my twenties.  They aren’t getting any shallower.  My mother likes to fixate on the sun spots on  my cheeks.  Gray hairs poke up in my part line.  When I see this face in the mirror, I’m reminded that I am 37 years old. And, yet, that number still surprises me.

Once, at the beginning of a new school year, one of my college students asked me how old I was.  26, I answered, not missing a beat.  Until about an hour later, still in the midst of our session, when I realized I wasn’t 26 at all.  I was 29.  My instinctive answer was off by three years.  I apologized, I gave my actual age, and she looked at me like I was crazy.  One day, I thought, you’ll understand that you just quit measuring yourself by your years.  Maybe finding a way for that to be true– to quit measuring ourselves by our years or by our physical changes- is the secret to aging gracefully?

Another part might be to encourage yourself to see the possibility of your age right now– what are you doing right now that you wouldn’t have been able to do without collecting the past years of your life?  

I spend a lot less time in the mirror than I probably did in my 20s, mostly because I don’t want to yield that time to the mirror, I want to yield it to my life.  Given that, my physical aging isn’t judged be me all that much and that’s likely a good thing.  I do try, as much as I am able, to give my body and mind what it truly needs when it needs it (as opposed to what society might think it needs). 

All that said, those are just the first ruminations I have on growing old gracefully and my intention is to make this a group dialogue.  What is your secret to aging gracefully?

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11 responses to “Group Project: Aging Gracefully”

  1. PJ

    Funnily enough I got stuck on 19 – it wasn’t until I was about 22 that I was able to answer my age correctly without first mistakenly saying 19 (weird!).
    And I’m not sure I am aging gracefully. I wonder sometimes about how much of my disordered eating and obsession with exercise is down to a fear of growing older. My mother always says that she loves each birthday because it means she has survived another year (her mother died at 52 without seeing any of her grandchildren) – but I think I’m just travelling along under the assumption that evetually I will find the age where fear gives way to acceptance.

  2. LunaJune

    Aging Gracefully

    for me the key lays in how we see ourselves in the mirror
    so many of us believe that grey hair is ugly.. as so from such a young age we posion our bodies with chemicals…that strip our hair of it’s natural beauty and shine … I told myself from the time I was 9 I wanted to streaks of gray from my temples.. and now at 50 I have them :~) makes me smile thinking I may turn into Mrs. Munster LOL

    I’ve been making faces in the mirror since I was old enough to understand what a mirror is for… goofing around with… or playing magic mirror… ” who the most beautiful ? you are my dear ” even on hormonal days when I did not feel it… I’d just screw my face up even more and tell it… ” then today I am the funniest !”

    our face… is the canvas of our emotions… exercise those muscles daily with joy… surprize….excitement…laughter… mixed in with occasional sorrow… tears lubricate our skin…and wash the windows of our soul.. if we can not see our own beauty how can we see anyone else’s ?

    your joy and love
    is painted upon your face
    for all the world to see
    we can never be 20 again
    except in our minds
    and how we interact with the world
    it is our vibration that people react to
    first and foremost
    and truly if you judge me for my wrinkles and grey hair
    it is only a mirror image of yourself
    than you do not like.
    as for me
    at 80 I’ll still be wearing my tie dyed dress
    sticking my tongue out to catch falling snowflakes
    and splashing around in the rain
    will I have wrinkles..probalby
    but I won’t see them
    because when I look in the mirror
    It is to check my shine

  3. deb roby

    Coming from decades of experience…

    1. I choose to color my hair. It was a present to myself when I turned 40. NOT coloring my hair a present when I turned 50. But I took it up again at 55 because of the dull color. I will probably do it until I’m 70 -because who expects a 70 year old to be ash blond?

    2. I accept that daily exercise is not vanity but necessity.

    3. I spend more time caring about the way I look in the mirror than any number on a scale.

    4. I embrace my inner 8 year old- and my inner 35 year old. They rule.

    5. I try to care about everyone around me and genuinely want to understand what they are passionate about.

  4. Kaleigh

    I am only 21 and already stressed that there’s not enough time to do all I want in my life. That’s absolutely horrible. I’m taking Betty White’s words of wisdom and praying that she knows what she’s talking about. And don’t feel bad about watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Everyone has a guilty pleasure, right? There are worse things to watch or do or love.

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  6. mary

    Jersey girl here and…. Jersey Shore girl here! Nothing like the tv shows, but it is true we do eat pork roll and we don’t pump our own gasoline!
    My body is aging – I joke that after 40 it starts going downhill and then after 45 we age in dog years. On the upside, it seems many really start to concentrate on their health and lifestyle as it relates to health in their 40s. 20s and 30s the goal was to look our best, 30s the goal was to look like our 20s – but in the 40s the impetus changes from how we look to how we feel and longevity!
    Truth be told, I don’t have a lot of body issues, but still this has been a year or two of great body adjustment and mind adjustment to the body adjustment! I now refer to my body as my “renaissance body” as I look in the mirror and see these beautiful curves and lumps around my belly, hips and thighs which were not there before and this despite eating healthier and working out healthier and more consistently than ever before. Bottom line: our bodies change but that is as it is intended! I’ve allowed myself a period of mind adjustment to the body adjustment and come out happy with my renaissance body feeling strong and healthy!
    I do think that thoughtfully viewing art and advertising through the ages can help us to realize that beauty is defined differently by different peoples in different cultures and different time periods. It is not a constant and it is not objective. Once we internalize that, it is a short hop to: therefore it is possible for me to define beauty for myself, in the here and now, and to recognize that my definition will shift with time and place….
    Now, look at my beautiful renaissance lady!

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