I was going to use the phrase “aging gracefully” but honestly, I’ve never done anything gracefully in my life. I’m more of a lurcher. And I’m okay with that.
That’s the key point of this blog, and–I believe–the key to aging well: being okay with who and where you are (or if you’re not, figuring out what to do about it, using the wisdom you’ve gained from your years on this planet.)
Where to start?1) Aging doesn’t mean old.
My daughter just turned three; I just turned forty. We’re both aging. You can’t avoid it, except by dying.
What does “old” mean anyway? In the pejorative sense, I feel like it means you’re washed up, you’re ready to give up, nothing good is ahead of you. By that standard, you can be 93 and you’re not old. But you’re not young either, and that’s what we’ve all got to come to terms with in order to age well.
2) So you’re not young. So what?
This is a sincere question. What does it really mean to you, to not be young anymore?
You’ll notice I’m talking a lot about meaning, and that’s because the meaning we assign things gives them great power. If you really believe that only the young have value (and it’s not crazy to think this, in a youth-obsessed culture), then you’re going to really hate every birthday past thirty.
Separating what you feel and believe from what the media force-feeds us is important. Really, you’ve got to disregard a lot of messages about beauty and value if you want to have any self-esteem as you creep toward middle age (or beyond.)
3) What have you done? What do you still want to do?
One of the greatest parts about aging is that you assume more control over your destiny. This is especially true as your kids grow up and leave your home (though in this economy, a lot of them do come back.) Still, aging can mean freedom.
Take stock of what you’ve done, and allow yourself to feel proud. Take stock of what you haven’t, and allow yourself to dream, and to plan.
4) Think of what you’ve learned: about life, love, and relationships.
Could you have loved someone else this well twenty years ago? Been loved so well by others?
Sometimes we’ve gained wisdom but we haven’t yet had the courage to put it into practice. Which leads me to…
5) The older we get, the closer we are to death. And that means we can take chances.
This one might sound morbid, but think about it. It’s undeniably true. Twenty-year-olds have the time for people they hate, and to judge everyone around them, and to worry about what they’re wearing and their hair at all times. Forty-year-olds and beyond–we’ve got to pare it down to what’s important.
If your time is more limited, you can allocate it accordingly. Treat it like it’s precious. Do something daring, because you care less what people think, and because you’ve got less time to ruminate and regret.