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?