Just when I started feeling comfortable in my skin (yes, it’s taken a while), the mean girl that lives somewhere in my head pointed out a fine line here, a dark spot where there wasn’t one before. "Is your jawline starting to sag?" she asked.
In a culture that values youth, and a “perfect” face, it is easy to worry, obsess even, when the first visible signs of aging appear.
I studied the deep “elevens” forming between my brows and the fine parentheses forming on either side of my mouth.
And had a little panic attack.
It’s a little weird when you think about it, to associate big issues like self- worth, relevance and being seen with lines on my face or other signs of aging. But, the truth is we often do.
A voice in my head (the mean one again) says, “Wow, you are looking old. Life is just passing you by. When are you going to get it together?”
You’re right, I think as I start to calculate how many “good” years I might have left. Why can’t we just turn back the hands of time and have a do-over. I promise I’ll wear my sunscreen, get more rest, eat perfectly.
Wait a minute! Another voice chimes in. You’ve led an extraordinary life, you’ve had great love, and great adventures. You’ve learned and experienced so much. Would you really deny those experiences and trade them in? (No, I guess not.)
And, for God’s sake, you’re not done yet. Not even close. Everyone who lives gets a few lines on their faces, are you afraid of that? (Maybe.)
Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many. Author Unknown
This, too, I know to be true. I have lost too many people in my life, at too young an age to put up any argument here. My brows furrow as I think of those who departed early. And the parentheses form as I smile at the good memories.
I occasionally look back and wish I had made a few different choices. If I could go back, I would do better. I would make better choices.
But I can’t. Go back. What I can do is forgive myself. I was doing the best I could under the circumstances. And even if I learned some lessons the hard way, I still learned them.
In forgiving myself, I have learned to truly forgive others.
That is not something I could do in my 20’s or 30’s (hence those “elevens”). With age comes wisdom and sometimes grace.
Aging is a normal and desirable part of life. Aging well is what I think most of us want. And as with most things in life, we’d like to look good doing it, as if we know exactly what we are doing.
But the truth is we don’t. Life is unpredictable, messy, and full of choices. There is no owner’s manual. We write it as we go and revise as necessary.
Later in the day, I see an elderly patient. After a life in the outdoors as a rancher, she has deep lines and leathery skin. I look at her and all I notice is the brightness and intelligence in her eyes, the warmth of her smile, and easy confidence she moves with. She is coming to me for help with a medical issue, but, the truth is I want to learn from her.
I want to know how she has weathered a hard life of ranching and relying on forces outside of her control to make a living and life. I want to know what the years that separate us (30 or more?) were like. She is the one I want to learn from and whose wisdom I want to tap. She knows herself, she accepts and respects herself. And because of this, she is beautiful.
I decide this is the kind of beautiful I would like to be.
Yes, I am getting older, but everyone ages, or they don’t. It has taken a few devastating experiences and a lot of contemplation to realize that my great concern with how my face looks as I age has more to do with my self-acceptance and self-esteem issues than anything else.
I still want to look good, I still want to have beautiful, glowing, healthy skin. I still want great, effective skincare. It’s just that beauty is not tied up in worthiness issues any more.
And If I get to choose, I’ll take aging with all its surprises and adventures.
And I’ll great care of myself and my skin along the way.