I am beginning to experience a deeper acceptance of my body as I am getting older. I am seeing a new improved model… for aging.
I don’t know, but I feel more relaxed about how aging is changing my physical appearance.
Just so you know: It was a lot different before this shift. I was despairing about my body and the last third of this life. I felt this thickening in my middle that didn’t seem to have to do with how much I exercised or what I ate. My breasts had gotten larger, my belly seemed fuller. I didn’t like how I looked. I felt poochy and saggy. The hair on my head was thinning, growing in odd places on my face. My eyesight was getting worse. (There is an advantage in that. You don’t see all these wrinkles and the growing crone hairs.) But, that’s just some of the fun stuff. My handwriting has suffered. I have a benign tremor in my hands, and I am beginning to get arthritis in my thumbs. I have a mild case of tinnitus, and warts and growths in places that seem unlikely, but there they are.
I couldn’t see how to shift my perspective of being over the hill. I felt under the hill. I started to be overly conscious of everything (food-wise) that I put in my body. I skipped meals (not a good idea.) All of this for vanity, or to imagine myself the way I thought I should look, instead of how I was in the moment.
I reminded myself of the good health and longevity genes I got from my family of origin. But I was grieving no longer being an attractive woman to the outside world. I was buying into the American model of youthful, hot looks. I wasn’t in the running or even the walking. I have cute older woman, lukewarm looks. Maybe I could be a poster adult for AARP magazine. Maybe.
Vanity plus aging equals suffering. My husband, a Buddhist practitioner, reminds me that all of our life is change. I can accept some changes better than others. But my “looks” cut close to the core.
Let me be honest. I have a history of being critical of how I look.
So, it is not a brand new thing to not be satisfied with my looks/image. But the aging thing adds another twist.
Here is me, inside, feeling about 20 and me on the outside, sagging and coming closer to seventy.
It is funny to be called ma’am. In the beginning, you think it’s cute. But when you realize that the person calling you that is serious, it’s different.
I am too young to be called ma’am.
We went down to Mexico in October. A lot of American retirees live in San Miguel de Allende. I saw old people– vital, alive, older people.
Then I realized, I am one of them. I am older. Not ancient. Not old old. Maybe cronish-ness has eras like Early Jurassic, Late Jurassic, Late Cretaceous etc.
Maybe they could be called:
- 3.00+ Eyeglassic
- Early Canuthreadtheneedlesic period
- Late Nocoffeeorpeeallnightic
Six months ago I called up my best friend on Skype. I wanted to talk on Skype because I had complained about my looks. She wanted to see what I was referring to. We got on-line. I took off my clothes. I pointed to all the areas of unloved flesh, the sagging, handful of flabbiness in my tummy and breasts. She kept saying, “You look great, you’re beautiful. You are fine.” I showed everything to her that felt undesirable, unacceptable, unloved. Everything I didn’t want to expose to anyone.
Then she took off her top. Ten years ago she had had a double mastectomy. She opted to not to do reconstruction. Her body is slender to begin with. She doesn’t have a spare inch of flab. And she has no breasts. You can see the delicacy of her body, the gracefulness, the vulnerability. She pointed to all the unloveable parts in her eyes. I saw her. It was my friend’s body, the body that I love and adore. I saw the wounds of her operation, and I saw the beauty that she is.
God forbid that Homeland Security should be spying in at that moment. How could they understand that we need to be seen, for our scars, imperfections, limitations real and imagined? We need to be witnessed. In that cyber connection we were exposing our bodies, souls, and fear about our lack of beauty, attractiveness, imagined lovability.
I realized very recently that there is a history of Fat Phobia in our family. My sister in-law pointed out the critical bias that my brother and I have about overweight people.
It’s true. I fear gaining weight.
I work at staying in shape.
I am in the same clothes size for the last fifteen or so years… with a few pounds up and a few under.
However, I deeply believe that I could be thinner. And then, I would be happy and beautiful and loved and accept myself totally even with my aging. What a myth.
And, I do notice little changes now and then, that show that something in my habit of mind has begun to shift. I began to go sleeveless to the yoga class, unafraid of the wrinkles and dimples. I purged my closet and got rid of anything that didn’t fit well, or that I didn’t feel right in. I bought a skirt to show my legs.
I started to feel my body, admire my strength and flexibility, joy of free movement, feeling deep gratitude for my health. To catch myself out of the corner of my eye, liking how I look. I balance on one foot while brushing my teeth. I talk to myself, coach myself.
Maybe it was that Skype call. Maybe it was the act of exposing the thinking that limits my view. Maybe it is also realizing that although there may be a lot more life left in this go round, that the inevitable end is closer. Like they say, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Let’s include “until the beautiful, aging woman sings.”