Aging – It’s happening to every one of us. Every day there are tiny changes in your collagen, hair, and metabolism and over time these changes are adding up. Conversely, every day you are also more mature, purposeful, accomplished, skilled, and grounded. But that’s likely not what you’re thinking when you look in the mirror and notice the wrinkles deepening around your mouth, between your eyes, and on your neck. Likely, at that moment, you’re noticing that your body is changing. And it is. It is getting older. Just look at a picture of yourself from 5 years ago. You’ve changed. Aging is happening.
This past week I was having a intuitive/tarot reading from my friend Megan (she’s awesome – 5 star recommendation – info for her at the bottom of this post) and before we got into what I wanted to talk about she asked what’s bothering you? I listed off a few things, but in saying them, it was obvious that what was really bothering me was aging. It’s been on my mind a lot because suddenly, in the course of a summer, my entire world has become focused on photo shoots, beauty, and women’s self-esteem. I listen to women’s stories, regrets, and hopes and I feel their fear, sadness, and anxiety. I truly see their beauty, but I understand that they know versions of themselves that they no longer are. There’s a gravity there, an undeniable acceptance that life is evolving us. Sometimes that’s not an easy thing to take in, which I completely get. When I look in the mirror I see changes on my neck, arms, face, and breasts. Gravity and time are having an effect. I wish they weren’t, but they are.
Sometimes I feel high minded about it all. I recall an experience I had when I lived in Venice, CA eating lunch at Axe Restaurant where I happened to be sitting a few feet away from and facing Lauren Hutton. She looked amazing. AMAZING. Radiant, tan, classy – and very much a woman who appeared to have enjoyed a life in the sun. I decided at the time she was going to be my aging role model. Let it happen, because it’s going to happen, but enjoy life. Appreciate and enhance the beauty you’ve been given with grace and style, but don’t try to endlessly hold onto being youthful.
This is what I told myself then and have told myself since but honestly, sometimes all the changes make me feel sad. And not mildly sad, but realllllly sad. And angry.
To be clear, I’m not sad or angry because I can’t be 23 forever. I feel sad and angry because when I was 23 (and plenty of the years before and after that) I wanted to really appreciate it and take the gift I was being given IN, but I felt so deeply influenced by the giant weight of cultural conditioning that warps women’s view of themselves (and most certainly my view of myself) that I couldn’t break through this distortion enough to really receive the gifts of being that age. It was very much like how it feels in a dream when you want to run or scream but you can’t so instead you just stand there, unable to respond to the moment.
Conditioning is like that. It sneaks its way in so deep into the fabric of our thoughts and emotions that it takes over our identity. But even when we KNOW this is happening, knowing is not enough to free ourselves from it… which is what, I think, makes so many young women (and men) so angry, scared, and desperate. They know they are being sold a pack of lies from every which direction, being molded in ways that feel like stifling over-compromises, but they do not yet have the ability or tools to break free from this. So they seek escape from their situation and emotions in a variety of ways such as codependent relationships, mind-altering substances, harming themselves, controlling their eating and exercising, striving for scholastic and social perfection, or going some shade of numb.
This is not living. This is attempting to cope within a machine called socialization that impacts us collectively and each of us personally. We can run, rage out, deny, avoid, shut down, or cry but that doesn’t stop it from happening. Nor does it diminish the fact that if we want to feel free and good about ourselves in these precious lives we have, we have to do the work of facing all of this in a conscious way and reclaim our personal power.
So exploring our feelings about aging is BIG. It includes our relationship with our body and how we feel about its changes. It includes where we get our sense of value from and facing fear and/or grief if we have gotten much of it from being youthfully attractive. It includes being honest with ourselves about how we have cared for ourselves and accepting the effect of our choices and choosing whether this is how we want to continue. Yet it also includes exploring whether we have done the inner work to be able to give ourselves the freedom to really LIVE, free from living in reaction to conditioning, but to live passionately from our hearts in an authentic and fulfilling way.
One step in the process of cultivating your personal power is to be real with yourself. Having a great relationship with yourself, like with others, is based on honesty, vulnerability, love, and trust. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this: One of the biggest ways we were each taught to cope is to deny our feelings. The assumption is that if we can’t feel them, they’re not there but this is so not the case. So instead of letting your mind give a quick response and say “I’m ok with aging” or “I’m too young or spiritually evolved to feel anything challenging about aging” or any of the other bypassing responses that self-protection might give, take a courageous step forward and let yourself find out and feel what you really feel about this.
And here is the contact information for my friend Megan who does really informative, grounded, and insightful intuitive and tarot readings.