The yoga mantra I picked randomly from the stack today said, “I am at peace with my age.”
Depending on what day you ask me, I might or might not agree with that sentiment. On this beautiful, sunny and unseasonably warm day, for instance, I’d say I feel young at heart. But yesterday, after a long weekend of rain and gloom, my aches and pains made me feel like an old lady.
In ancient cultures, old age was to be welcomed. Elders were revered and looked to for leadership, wisdom, and counsel. Like a tree trunk with many rings, the wrinkles on a face were a road map to greater knowledge and understanding.
Nowadays, there are whole industries dedicated to maintaining or recapturing our youthfulness. People go to great expense and even risk to look younger – erase the wrinkles, plump the cheeks and lips, contour the sagging body parts. Some of my favorite celebrities have succumbed to the allure of eternal youth. To me, though, their faces look strange and immobile, a mask hiding all the life experiences they have collected over the years.
In a chapter of Dave Eggers’ memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he describes a photo shoot of naked friends and acquaintances that is done for his fledgling magazine. When he looks at the proofs, which show only bodies (the heads being cropped out for privacy’s sake), he’s a bit horrified by the imperfections and homeliness of himself and his friends. When we are young, we like to think of ourselves as beautiful specimens, strong and sexy, desirable and uncorrupted.
But bodies should be imperfect. They do such hard work for us every day. And faces should show our laugh lines. They should move when we speak, reflecting our emotions and thoughts.
Last night, my daughter and I watched the last episode of the new Veronica Mars season. Many members of the original cast populate the series, which makes it nostalgic and fun to watch. Towards the very end, the character Parker appears briefly. A college friend of Veronica’s and former girlfriend of Veronica’s boyfriend Logan, Parker looks as lovely as ever. The actress, Julie Gonzalo, has appeared in other hit shows such as the reboot of Dallas. She has always had a small crooked scar that runs between her eyebrows. I admire this. In her line of work, it would be tempting to have plastic surgery to eliminate this flaw. But the flaw makes her more real – and does not diminish her beauty at all.
So it is with the signs of aging. I guess we fear these signs because we fear the end. I don’t know about you, but I want to live forever (or at least to 100!) Aging and death are inevitable parts of the circle of life. But there are parts of ourselves that remain ageless: our hopes, our beliefs, our ideals, our love. These are the parts of myself that I want to focus on in the upcoming decades.
I am at peace with my age.