Aging is hard on egos. It is hard to look at my own photos sometimes without criticizing or cringing. Why aren’t we able to see the incredible beauty that we see in others? When I see a gray-haired gorgeous older woman, I always hope I will age with grace instead of embracing the “anti-aging” hoopla. But I will admit that with all of the HD lenses and close up selfies I can find myself focusing in on every wrinkle and line. I’m tempted like so many, to download the filters that make me look like a doe-eyed Disney character instead of the real me. So many now filter every single photo before posting it as if no one will ever see them in person. Sooner or later someone is going to see us in the wild and be as frightened as one spotting a naked mole rat for the first time.
The first time I think I actually felt old is when I looked down at my knees one day. Strange, I know. I mean it’s not often we actually see our knees while standing. We usually see our knees while sitting down and they are stretched, and beautiful, and (most of the time) smooth. Standing and seeing the elephant-like skin resting there on my leg was… well it was disturbing…and yet somehow intriguing. They are now KNINKLES! I think I realized my skin is now as tired as I am sometimes.
I proudly tell people I am 58, so, what’s the big deal? It’s a great space to be in life… if we can just relax with all the HD camera lenses and closeups! Aging has some strange and wonderful benefits. Turing 40 was a great new chapter because I really felt my confidence soar. You start seeing the accumulation of all the knowledge and years of experience. Turning 50 though… 50 was like walking into a new story all together.
What I loved about turning 50 was coming to a space where I can relax more—I can take naps in the middle of the day if I want to. I no longer have little ones who need me to drive them to soccer, basketball, drama class or anywhere else. I don’t have to live on someone else’s schedule. There are times when my kids call to see what we are doing that weekend and when we tell them all we have going on they seem almost surprised that we have a life. A life beyond them. We have friends that we go hang out with and we might even go out to dinner on a TUESDAY just because we feel like it. It’s magnificent.
At 50 I realized I can finally start living my life for myself. Not that I didn’t love my life as a mom, I mean I was a mom at the age of 19 and my youngest of four went off to college when I was 50. I’ve almost always lived my life on someone else’s schedule. It’s now about what I want to do. If that means going to an antique store and browsing slowly for hours… I can do that. If I choose not to eat dinner and more importantly, not to make dinner, I can do that, and no one will call child protective services!
It has taken me 40+ years to learn to ask for what I want and not feel selfish for doing so. If I want to stop for coffee on a road trip, I say, “Pull off at that next exit please.” If I want to take a 6-week art class, I sign up and don’t have to check everyone else’s schedule. If I get invited to a party or somewhere I really don’t want to go to, I now say, “Thank you so much for that invitation, but I won’t be able to be there.” Nothing else needs to be added. I don’t have to do what other people want to do. I had always been so concerned about being accommodating. I’m sure that’s the need I’ve always had to please everyone—keep the peace—be LIKED. It’s tiring.
I’ve spent much more time now thinking and dreaming of what I love doing and what I want to become. In my 20’s and 30’s I didn’t have the time to think these thoughts. I did what had to be done or what others needed me to do. When we’re younger we don’t know exactly who we are beyond the roles we have as wife and mother so we often become subjects in the lives of others. Now it’s time to take that starring role.
That may sound so negative. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel oppressed or cheated. I was a different season in my life and I had priorities at that time that didn’t include myself.
When you turn 50 you look around and suddenly see an open road—a road with no demands on you, or at least a lot fewer. The only demands you have are the ones you now choose to put there. It can be depressing, sad, or overwhelming and even paralyzing to some. Questions emerge like, who am I? What will I do when the kids leave? What is my identity? Remember, you don’t HAVE to do anything.
Listen to that inner calling that has been muffled by busyness for so long.
Begin slowly exploring with wild curiosity. Go on walks. Turnover rocks. Look at the bushes of wildflowers. Notice all of the things you used to be too busy to see. Take a class. Any class. You are so much smarter and wiser now in a classroom of young people. You are not there for an “A” or to pass a test, you are there to experience something new. You will feel fantastic. Start to journal or sketch each day to express how you are feeling and what you are learning. [Read, or re-read, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron]
Let your curiosity and sense of new discovery pull you down paths that you choose to explore. You don’t have an obligation to do anything on these paths. Meet interesting strangers….and talk to them! You just might discover a new passion or purpose behind a rock that uncovers a hidden desire or awakens a dream that you had put on the back burner so many years ago when you weren’t paying attention. And when you are snapping photos of all these new adventures, maybe just leave your kninkles out of them