If you believe advertising, getting older is a mistake, a weakness. If you get older and look older, you’ve done it wrong. This logic works really well for advertising: it creates a lot of scared people desperate enough to buy any product that will keep them from not looking their age.
Logically, how messed up is that?
In June, I celebrated my 63rd birthday and I’m glad about it.
However, I’m not saying that I can rise above all the insecurities that advertising shoves down my throat, but I aspire to question them and not allow them to make me hate myself as 70 approaches and, God willing, as I reach 80, 90 and 100.
A recent article on aging by writer Dominique Browning inspires me. She writes: “I’m much more focused on all the good things my body does for me, the strength I still have in my limbs, the coordination in my movement…I don’t waste my time thinking, ‘I’m too fat, my nose is weird’ as I did when I was young. I think, ‘Wow, I’m alive, and I’m still strong.”
I like getting older because I feel more-and-more alive all the time. And I appreciate myself, other people and the world around me more than I used to. I don’t take things for granted like I did when I was younger and more self-centered. In my 20’s and 30’s, I was so unhappy about all the things I didn’t have – wealth, fame, a perfect body – that I ignored what I did have – a handsome and loving boyfriend, enough money to live reasonably, good health and a great group of friends.
We can spend a lot of time and money and look physically younger than we are, but, what’s the point? Who are we fooling? Eventually, no matter what we do, we’ll look older as we get older. This is the natural way of life. Shooting needles full of chemicals into your face isn’t very natural. Obsessively working out, trying to eternally preserve your flat stomach or bulging pecs, isn’t very natural either.
Good health is natural. Eating well is natural. Balancing vanity with practicality is natural. Wanting to be loved is natural. But any good, healthy thing can be taken to an extreme, becoming not healthy at all.
I often work with clients who tell me, “I’ll feel good about myself when I lose my extra weight” or “When I get a great job/partner/house I’ll be happy.” Guess what? It doesn’t work that way. Putting your happiness in the future is a set-up for misery. All we have is the present. And, as we age, that present changes.
My present isn’t the same as it was when I was 30 or 40: in some ways it’s so much better: I worry less about what other people think of me, I am more confident, I seldom suffer fools and speak my mind more easily.
In some ways it’s harder to be older: I have lingering knee and shoulder injuries, my hair is thinning, my feet hurt from walking on hard surfaces. Most of these challenges are physical. That seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to loving getting older: your body changes.
Can we live in the present and not pine for a past when things were different? Can we accept where we’re at, or are we going to fight it tooth-and-nail and grieve for what we’ve lost?
The best part of being older is not giving a shit about things you used to obsess over. “Yeah, well, I’m not much good at baseball or competitive tennis anymore, but I love walking in my local park and I actually pay attention to what I see now,” a client in his 70’s recently told me. He’s got the right idea.
Again, Ms. Browning puts it beautifully: “You learn the value of lettings things go as you age, letting go of things that are toxic…you are not looking for trouble, complication or drama. You are going somewhere else.”
I like this new place called “somewhere else”. I’m new here, and I like it. It’s a place that’s more peaceful, easy and comfortable than any place I’ve ever lived before.
And that’s why I like getting older.