My friend and fellow Psych Central blogger Margarita Tartakovsky recently crafted a moving post about aging and our bodies that I can’t stop thinking about.
The reason the post stays on my mind? I am aging – and my body is aging with me.
Of course, my 75 year-old father doesn’t think 43 is “old,” but I point out to him I am getting older each year….and 43 is certainly older than either my body or me have ever been before.
I have also noticed my folks and I now do something we have never done until the last couple of years – we companionably complain about a laundry list of ailments from bad backs to thinning hair to poor eyesight to mid-body weight gain.
Just as our physical strength decreases with age, our eyes also exhibit an age-related decline in performance particularly as we reach our 60s and beyond. Some age-related eye changes established in this complete guide, such as cataracts can be considered an age-related disease, since they are extremely common among seniors but can be readily corrected with surgery. Extending life expectancy is a human achievement and ophthalmic treatments are widely recognized as having a low risk of general complications.
But as I continued reading Margarita’s post, I began to wonder yet again – why all the complaining?
Why is there so little acceptance of the aging journey as a process we all go through when the time is right – another phase of life we can share and learn from together, a sign something is actually going right, a chance to ruminate on every treasured bit of progress we’ve made, even proof we are evolving right before our very eyes?
Perhaps because, as Margarita shares (and I paraphrase), we learn from a young age that aging is undesirable, bad, something to fight against with every weapon in our arsenal.
Here, statistics support this. Increasingly younger – and older – folks are opting for all kinds of surgical procedures to stall or stop the aging process…even when those procedures are expensive, painful, have dangerous side effects and/or will need to be repeated frequently.
I will admit I, too, have thought about cosmetically altering the parts of myself I am less fond of. In my less body-satisfied moments, I dream of how I might look different if this or that were sculpted, reshaped, tweaked, enhanced, or even removed.
Today’s society makes it harder than ever before to accept our authentic selves, naturally aging bodies and all, because the option to change our appearance is always there – just a consent form and a credit card swipe away.
So why haven’t I done it? Why don’t we all just go ahead and do it?
I will use Margarita’s beautiful words as my personal answer:
Your body is here to take a walk in the snow and feel the chill against your skin. To swim in a vast ocean, lying on your back, staring at a cloudless sky. To dance and feel the energy surge through your body. To laugh with friends. To explore new places.
Your body is here to blast music and sing in the shower. To smell the sweet, soothing scent of lavender. To sip hot chocolate in your sweats, curled up on the couch, watching “Castle.”
It’s here to love, to share, to create, to express pain and pleasure.
I know I am not here to spend my precious and dwindling time doing battle with the body I have until it at last cedes control and becomes the body I think I want…..or finally rebels and breaks down for good.
After 43 years on this planet, years that have often been difficult but have undeniably been transformative for the better, I truly believe I am here to go deeper than that.
I am here to recognize my peer pressure-affected perceptions and then strive to look past them and see the perfection and wonder in what our culture tells me (over and over again) is unacceptably imperfect.
I am here to join in what truly matters – what makes a human life worth living – to love and be loved, to support and be supported, to laugh and cry (and learn to find comfort and healing in both), to make friends and learn how to keep them, to remain humble and accepting in the face of uncontrollable change, to evolve until the being staring back at me in the mirror is one I wouldn’t trade for anything…..or anyone.
There is no doubt a part of my brain – the part that processes hunger and fullness, pleasure and fulfillment, body image and perception, the way an anorexic’s brain does – may continue to struggle with the physical manifestations of the aging process for the rest of my life.
But the rest of me knows for a FACT I wouldn’t go back one. single. day.
The truth is, I love the me I am now more than I have ever loved me before, and I am proud of the being I am still becoming.
And I want to continue to be me – one year older each year – I want to experience what that is like. I want to have the “whole package” – everything that life has to offer – all the phases and stages of a human life – and to look back on my very last day and know I wouldn’t change a thing.
Today’s Takeaway: How do you relate to the aging process? Have you ever felt fear that someday you won’t like what you see in the mirror, or won’t be able to do activities you once loved? What keeps you from making alterations to your appearance in the name of “staying forever young?” If you have thought about cosmetic surgery, what would you hope will change about your life after the procedure?
Exercising image available from Shutterstock.