Written by Priya on February 15, 2013
I turned 60 this year and I awoke to the realization that I am now officially “an older” woman” and no matter how I try to reframe my new place in the culture, it is a challenge for me. Even though I feel the depth and wisdom of my life’s experience, the capacities that I have cultivated over the years, and the internal richness from a long life lived, I am still in a tizzy about it.
It seems politically incorrect these days to talk about the underbelly of things. I find though that not sharing the discomforts and continuing to sweep them under the rug of new age “paradigm shift”, contributes to the separation that is killing us. So it is within this context that I am opening up the discussion of aging. I am bringing it out into the open for loving acceptance, laughter, crying and connecting.
I have lived an unconventional life without paying much attention to the assumptions of our culture regarding age. Good genes, a healthy lifestyle and a youthful attitude have contributed to my feeling ageless and having that ageless look well into my late fifties. Yet, now I feel this thing called “older” chasing me faster than I can run. I must turn and face it.
It rears up is menacing scowl every day time I am called “Ma’am” by a store clerk. I flinch deeply and want to cry out “don’t call me that, I am not a Ma’am!” It is an empty adjective for me, a categorization, a defining term that puts me into a separate realm, no longer fitting into the currency of life’s pulse.
Ma’am, turns me into “older”. I don’t feel “older”. Not in that way. I feel all ages. Every age that I have already experienced lives within me. It is like a symphony inside of me, each different age’s flavor an instrument.
Sometimes the trill of the flute floats through the orchestra bursting with the delicate fury of the newly found power of the young child. Sometimes the pounding of drums’ passion bursts forth with the exuberance of the twenty something and sometimes the French horns’ drone signaling the one in her late forties facing lost chances of motherhood. I feel all of this inside of me. What is the word that describes this? Certainly it is not “old”, nor “aged”.
Ten years of seeing my skin getting more and more wrinkled and lined and crêpey has given me plenty of time to get used to it. “Ya think?” Well, I am a bit less troubled but I am clearly not over it yet. Will I ever be?
My body’s aging process is relentless. Every day is a reminder speaking to me saying “hey, wake up to your life passing through time! Something is changing! Look!”
The rigors of getting older seem to be as challenging as the rigors of adolescence.
How many thousands of us older women shudder at the thought of seeing our thighs while doing an inverted yoga pose? Or perhaps we no longer wear shorts? Or habitually judge others for wearing bathing suits that we do not dare to? How about making love? Huh? Have you gotten to the place yet where you would rather wear something to bed that is a bit more flattering than your flesh hanging off of your body when you are on top?
You might think all this to be shallow. However, the physical reminders that I face moment to moment are confronting to the fabric of my being.
They are arrows pointing inward hearkening me to examine myself more deeply. There are the regrets that I carry of lost dreams, unresolved inner wounds, unfulfilled aspects of my self expression and everything else within that is not yet fulfilled. All of these things are pushing against the” deadline” of my ever more clear end point.
When I was younger, I did not have an experience of this. There was a lot of spaciousness. Endless time into which I could just be. Now as I look at my skin I am reminded of this distinct lack of “forever”. I feel the pressure of the deadline to fulfill these dreams, to let them go, to transform myself, to find peace, to prepare for death. I question how to stay fully engaged and vital in this world when I feel weary of my own trials and tribulations. When the culture is changing too quickly for me and there is the mourning of the losses to be done. How can I go one when I hear the constant refrain of “you are too old for that” coming from all directions including from inside myself!
So, there is no more hiding the fact that yes, I am aging. As youthful as I am, as fit as I am, as radiant as I am my body, all of me. Is aging.
And yet, as my flesh diminishes the internal world of my soul journey becomes more vast, rich and vital. Calling out for expression, sharing, contribution, recognition. I wonder how to be seen for this in a world that casts aside wrinkled people as if they were used up. I have been slowly moving towards this moment for ten years. Sometimes standing up to be seen, but mostly hiding behind a thin veneer of resistance. No more hiding now. To do so would be a cruel self-denial. All of my cultural preconceptions of what is acceptable are challenged and I must reevaluate how I perceive myself.
I remember twenty years ago when my 72 year old aunt, still fresh in the bloom of her new marriage, told me that she caught her reflection in the mirror of a store window one day and was aghast at seeing the image of an old woman. She thought “who is that “old hag” that is certainly not me! I feel like a young babe.”
How to come to terms with this paradox within an ageist society?
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