Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~ Mark Twain
Mark Twain obviously wasn’t a woman. For a woman, growing older means graying hair, potbellies, and stretch marks that never go away. It often means deserting the bikini for a bathing suit with a skirt (like you mother used to wear) and purchasing Easy Spirit shoes over sexy high heels. Let’s not forget that aging gracefully often includes a whole host of beauty consultants, hairdressers and in extreme cases – plastic surgeons to undo the damage that simply living causes to the shell of a person. However, the key word here is shell. What happens to the outside of you, as a woman – the sagging breasts and that heinous little black hair that grows on your chin (and nipples) doesn’t have to be an indicator to what is going on inside. Even the wrinkles, indicating smiles as Twain puts it so eloquently – are also mirrors of your life. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad and most of the time the exact opposite of what you expected it to be. This too can be a good thing.
When a person ages gracefully, most people are referring to this outer shell. This means that even though someone has reached the age of 40, 50, and 60 or beyond – they still look good. People may say, “Wow, looks like life has been good to her!” In contrast, the person that looks weathered on the outside gets the immediate innuendo that they have lived a hard life – that perhaps they are not aging as gracefully as they should. In both instances, the bystander could be wrong. In so many respects, aging gracefully isn’t about how well or unwell our bodies or faces weathered the storm – but rather how quickly we were able to walk away and rebuild.
Aging gracefully isn’t about looking great at 50. It isn’t about keeping up with an impeccable appearance. It is not even about wearing clothes that make you look prim, proper, and neat. Instead, it is about accepting and embracing the continuous growth that is you. It is about knowing that although you cannot see around all corners in life, you will still be okay when you make the turn, no matter what awaits you. It is about confidence in being a woman, in being someone that you love and in being all and more than you ever thought you could be. For many, it is about counting your blessings and counting the many ways in which your life has changed either you, or someone else for the better. Aging gracefully is about letting go of material things, and letting go of ideals of what you should be, what you should have, how much money you should have saved or what you should have done during your life. It is about accepting your choices as your own and taking responsibility for your faults, mistakes, and perfections. Aging gracefully is about putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward at all times and being grateful for every second that you have been able to breathe.
Keeping your face pretty, your body fit, and your clothes ironed, and your face wrinkle free are often undertaken by people who care about themselves. It is true that people who care about their appearance – often care deeply about others and are brimming with a kind of self-confidence that carries them on clouds through life. But aging gracefully, means that at some point you have learned to let go of self and outward judgments that make you quick to decide the integrity of one’s life by the way someone looks.
Aging gracefully is about finally being comfortable in your skin. It is about realizing that while you were not always the best, you did the best you knew how to at the time. It is about believing in things like God (no matter what your religion) and Karma and realizing that your destiny, your future and your outlook on life come more from within you than they do from any other place. When you choose to be happy, to feel satisfied, to trust, to let go of control, to expect the best from others and to swallow your disappointments without being left with an after taste – you have learned to age gracefully and gratefully whether you could afford wrinkle cream or not.
Another aspect of aging gracefully is realizing that you do not have to be a certain age to do so. You do not have to be retired to a front porch rocking chair to look at your life and feel good. Even teenagers, blossoming into themselves, and falling on their faces time and time again are aging gracefully when they become open to all the positive that life has to offer. A toddler learning to walk, getting up 600 times to try and run are gracefully aging into the kind of person that is full of love, commitment, tenacity, and integrity. The old man, who at a 100 sitting next to the old woman who is 99 – are aging gracefully when they keep their minds open to the fact that they still have more to learn, more to love and more to give and take from a life that is simply a shell of who we are. Just as a house or a car does not define who or what we are – a fancy hairstyle and a lack of wrinkles do not definite our lives or the moments in them.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty and to find the best in others….to leave the world a bit better and to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. So says, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is also to age gracefully.