I often hear – from my mid-life clients – something like this: “The singles world is all about hot guys/girls in their 20’s and 30’s. I feel old, ugly and jealous…what happens when I’m not young and cute anymore?”
For many of us, from our mid-40’s onward, our life focus shifts. You can call it “midlife crisis”, “reality check” or “middle age panic”; I call it Wisdom and Maturity.
This can be the best time of our lives, where we can move beyond all those “shoulds” (other people’s expectations) and reap the benefits of all our years of experimentation, sex, drugs, rock & roll and…you know. As we age into older, attractive mid-life people, how do we not become invisible to ourselves and others?
When we no longer look like the models in the magazines (if we ever did), who are we now? Do we need to panic and run for hair color, botox and liposuction? Or can we handle this with intelligence, grace and a sense of humor?
What stands in our way of enjoying our aging? Here’s a brief list:
- An obsession with our appearance
- Bitterness and regrets about our past
- Fear of the (unknown) future
- Feeling invisible, unloved and unappreciated
- Ignorance of how to enjoy being an older woman/man
- Isolation: feeling disconnected from family, friends or community
- Jealousy of others (younger, prettier, wealthier, etc.)
- Passivity (giving up) and Aggression (frequent irritation and anger)
- Poor health
This column is too brief to address each of these in detail. Instead, allow me to focus on the positive aspects of aging. At this age and beyond, we have many resources at our command that younger people rarely do. Rather than focus on what we’ve “lost”, I invite you to focus instead on what we’re found and how these treasures (yes, treasures) can make the second half of our lives by far the better half.
Acceptance of the past; have you or are you in the process of making peace with your past? If not, don’t be surprised if you’re miserable. In our 50’s, 60’s and onwards, it’s not useful to blame Mommy and Daddy, or anyone else, for our problems. Even if Mommy and Daddy were Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain (or Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby), we need to face the past, make peace with it, forgive those who harmed us (to the best of our ability), and move on.
Breaking the rules: the courage to be eccentric. This isn’t often talked about. Are you a walking clone? Do you live and die by the changing standards of popular culture? If so, you’re probably very confused! As older women and men, we need to find out what we like, don’t like, and stick to it. Measuring yourself by other people’s standards (the media, our friends, our exes) will drive you crazy. Dare to be happily eccentric. Yeah, some people may think you’re weird, but the RIGHT people will find you fascinating, strong-willed and sexy.
Comfortable with uncertainty: what’s my future? The older we get, the more we see how God laughs at OUR plans, substituting Her own instead. Uncertainty is a reality, and the sooner we make peace with it, the happier we’ll be. Control queens: it’s time to face your demons and start to (slowly) let go.
Finding peace in a consumer-driven world: nowadays, when you can buy a new face, new body, new home, new car, new girl/boy toy (if you’re really loaded) and still feel like shit, where do you find peace? We each have to find what grounds us, centers us…it can be Pagan or Christian, gardening or free weights, Coldplay or cold showers. It doesn’t matter what it is, by this time in our lives we hopefully have a good idea of what brings us peace and what brings suffering; stick to what works for you and blow off the rest.
Giving back: whether you made a fortune in real estate or are a retired janitor, it’s time to give back. Give back to your community and help younger people have an easier time of it than you did. Use your wisdom and experience to encourage younger people. Mentor them, protect them and help them; don’t sleep with them.
Self-discovery: without work to define yourself, who are you? Some of us die shortly after retirement. We would literally rather die than change…and we do. For many of us, however, our later years are our best ones. Discover who you are without that 9 to 5 routine. Experiment with your life: travel, try new foods, take up new interests, go to new places and meet new people. You want to stay young? Keep doing new things; your mind and body will thank you for the stimulation.
Sex, eroticism and sensuality: Men: don’t run out and pop a viagra the next time you can’t get it up. There’s more in life than instant erections. Women: don’t just get older and give up on sex, reinvent it for yourself: keep what you enjoy and replace the rest with something new. Can’t we all begin to let go of our Tired Old Morals (what good did they ever do for you?) and get explore erotica, movies, and new ideas of sexuality and sensuality. Free your mind and your libido will follow.
Staying young mentally: open-mindedness to the new. Do you condemn younger people? Their music? Their clothes? Their attitudes? If so, don’t be surprised if you age quickly and unpleasantly. What you put out comes back to you, multiplied. So rather than condemnation and judgment, try curiosity and interest, and see where that takes you.
In summary: Aging is natural. It’s a good thing! We want to live long enough to grow and age and really LIVE. Aging well is a skill, something we can practice and refine. As older, wiser men and women, we may not have the skin, abs and hair of much younger people, but if we focus instead on what we do have rather than what we’ve lost, the second half of our lives can easily be our best years yet.