Window on ageing (G Gawne-Kelnar)

Strand by strand, my hair is going grey. And, strand by strand, I am trying to let it.

Trying to resist the social pressure to pretend to be younger than I am, and to stop injecting more colour, where colour naturally wants to recede.

(Strange that ‘dying’ our hair aims to make us look younger, as though we’re keeping our age, and therefore perhaps our own dying, at bay…).

If you believe the ads for face creams and facelifts, injections and suctions, ageing is something to be avoided.

But what else might we be losing in the exchange?

I wonder what colour Wisdom would dye its hair…

The world-renown existential psychotherapist and author, Dr Irvin D. Yalom, recently celebrated his 79th birthday. On his Facebook page, he shared a different perspective on ageing:

“We dread the limitations and losses of old age. But an encouraging word about the positive aspects of aging: this may sound odd but the last decade has been the best one of my life. Gone are many of the anxieties of my earlier days and I’ve been able to bask in the sheer pleasure of being alive in the company of those I love.”

Then, paraphrasing the philosopher Schopenhauer, Yalom wrote:

 “…we might compare our ceaseless strivings (ambition, lust, fame, wealth) to the bright blinding sun and, when the sun sets, we suddenly are able to see, appreciate and be awed by the wondrous starry night skies.”

So, what about you?

When you look in the mirror and catch the (inevitable) signs of time’s lines on your face, what do you find yourself thinking?

What does it feel like to see yourself evolving like this?

What does it mean for you to see this reflection of yourself changing?

Who are you, as the ‘sun’ begins to set?

Our ageing is naturally linked to thoughts of our death (which, understandably, are hard to look at).

But here’s one more perspective I remember hearing, as an Aboriginal Australian woman spoke of her own ageing on a radio program. The older she got, the more lines and wrinkles, the more she said she resembled the Land from which she came, and unto which she’d one day return. She spoke of going ‘home’, where she felt she belonged. The physical signs of her ageing comforted her, as reminders of her closeness to this place.

So, whether it’s sunsets, starry nights, or a sense of ‘homecoming’, what might help you live more comfortably with your ageing (and perhaps even with the thought of where it’s headed)?

How can you weave a thread of meaning through your days, which is strong enough to combat the social myth of ‘eternal youth’?

And how might all of this impact the way you value your life, and the people you share it with?

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy, the author of a private practice blog, and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.