Aging Gracefully? What’s that?

Written by Hollye Dexter

Let’s talk about something really uncomfortable… It happens to us all, beginning the very moment we are born and continuing until the day we die. Aging. We watch people in our families and communities grow old, and eventually pass away. And yet, we’ve lived in some kind of strange denial that it will never really happen to us. We will never be old. Oh sure, we may joke around about being an old codger one day, but we don’t really mean it. We’re young, hip, cool, trendy. We can do anything; cartwheels, mountain climbing, running marathons. We hustle through life with kids strapped to our backs or on our hips, multi tasking, flying at the speed of sound. We can do it all until…one day, we can’t.
One morning you wake up and you’re achy for no good reason. One day you’re in a restaurant “playing trombone” with the menu. Or you catch your reflection in a window at the mall and you don’t recognize yourself. (Oh the horror of fluorescent lighting!).
Well, it certainly won’t be happening to me, because I’ve done all the right things. I eat the Doctor Oz foods, I exercise, and I use anti-aging products. Ha!
Those words “anti-aging” are a flat out lie! There is no way to stop aging unless you can stop time. We are all aging, and the sooner we come out of denial about it, the better we’ll all feel (and maybe if we weren’t so freekin’ stressed about it, we wouldn’t age as fast!).
I deeply resent seeing twenty-five-year-old airbrushed models in ads for “anti-aging” products. They want you to believe that this is what an older woman can and should look like. Again, let me assure you ladies, it is a LIE. You can take great care of yourself and have great skin, but you will not look twenty-five when you are forty-five. Let’s all embrace this truth. Okay?
I think it’s terribly sad the way we vilify the aging process, and cast out our elders. We push them far, far away from us. We put them in “assisted living facilities”. Keep them out of our homes, out of our societies. Pay as much money as it takes to keep them at bay.
And on some level we’re doing that to our aging selves as well. We bury our faces under injected synthetic fillers, and when that doesn’t work, we have surgery to remove our old faces and bodies. Oh, what will history say about this strange era we live in?
Personally, I am exhausted by the struggle. Every day I surrender a little more to the inevitable, but still there is this shame that creeps in to my psyche when I look in the mirror and I see the softening of my jawline, or the bags under my eyes in the morning. Although I know it makes no sense logically, I feel like I am letting society down! There are no longer any role models in the media who look like me at age 46. They all look 30. What I see on television and in magazines doesn’t reflect a standard that I can live up to, unless I give in and start injecting botox and restylene and get an eye lift…ugh.
This whole aging thing is hitting me right in the pocketbook. I have made my living as an entertainer, and suddenly, the gigs aren’t rolling in like they used to. The entertainment industry doesn’t find my aging to be a desirable quality. And so I suit up for inner battle with the toxic societal message that has subtly nestled itself into my subconscious, and it’s a particularly fierce battle because I live in L.A.
Dammit! I just want to look like me. I want to be authentic, and embrace the truth of who I am on every level. My face tells a story. I have pronounced laugh lines around my eyes, and smile lines around my mouth. I’ve laughed a lot in my life, and shouldn’t that be a good thing? I also have heavy eyelids, and circles under my eyes. Okay, so I’ve cried a lot too, but I’ve survived some dark stuff. My eyes are my badge of courage. And through them I am learning to see myself differently.
I can’t honestly think of anything truly positive about the physical process of aging. I mean, that part pretty much sucks 100%. I have not enjoyed losing my eyesight, my jawline, and my physical strength. I don’t appreciate that I have to work out twice as hard and eat half as much just to maintain my previous weight. Not fair at all. But on a deeper level, If we’re doing it right, we are growing better every day spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
Whenever I am struggling with a tough issue like this, I look for the positive and remind myself how much there is to be grateful for. So let me give that a try (grumble, grumble, grumble…).
For me, this is what is good, or even GREAT, about aging:
I am more confident and sure of myself than I’ve ever been.
I am at peace.
I have learned to roll with the punches in life, and to accept a lot of what I used to resist.
I don’t give a rat’s ass what others think of me.
I have raised wonderful children who I am proud of.
I have wisdom and experience.
I still have an adventurous youthful spirit.
I do yoga, run, hike, travel, and I plan to do so until my last day on Earth.
I am learning every day.
I have choices every day.
I am more patient with myself, and with others.
I have made peace with my past.
I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had, good and bad
I am softer to hug.
I am softer.
So, aging gracefully? I’m not really sure what that means, or if I know anyone who’s doing it. I think what I’m doing personally is aging awkwardly, and begrudgingly. But I’m gonna keep on doing it every day, whether I like it or not. I can sail through it, or be dragged through it kicking and screaming (which I’ve done at times…). Perhaps sailing is the better (less painful) way.
I’ll tell you this – I wouldn’t go back to my twenties for a million bucks. And all the things I gripe about now at 46, I know I will be wistful for when I’m 66. So, note to self: Life is good. Shut off the noise coming at you from the media. Don’t look at the magazines. Appreciate the true beauty in your life, scratch beneath the surface for the deeper, better stuff.
And to sum it up, learn how to Age Gratefully.

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  1. julie

    Hollye ~

    I could relate to every point you made in this post (except I don't make my living in the entertainment business…)

    However, I am 42,and although I exercise and eat healthfully; although I am in a successful marriage and have two incredible children; I, too find myself looking in the mirror and thinking, "WHEN did my mother's chin attach itself to the top of my neck?"

    Still. Inside? I'm the most fulfilled and happy I've ever been. And that must count for something.

    I think the best we can do is to age HAPPILY. Graceful? I've never been that. Not in my twenties. Certainly not now.

    But aging happily? That looks beautiful on anyone.

    And you, my friend, are beautiful.

  2. Amy Wise

    Perfectly said. I will be 46 in 3 months and even though I'm going through the biggest fight of my life (aka water b.s.) I'm more at peace than I've ever been. Part of that peace comes from all the beautiful women in my life. They are every shape, age, color, religion, height, and weight, and I wouldn't want them any other way….including you beautiful lady! Hugs…Amy W.

  3. pam

    OMG!!! I just realized I am turning 46 in a little over a month….and I'm cool with that ; )

  4. Anonymous

    Beautifully stated Hollye.

    I have my laugh lines, sun marks and pouch that was a gift from menopause at 50.

    At 51 I woke up with gray/white hair and saw the red fading. Never dyed it.

    I am now two months shy of 57. I yet to wear makeup and age is another day of living within the joy I create around me.

    I have felt this way since I was 30 while all my GF's were running around and some still are fixing, mending, repairing.

    I learned a long time ago to find inner peace and I love when women come to accept the so called 'aging process' for it is a fun ride of self.

    Many let their minds and media play games within their heads. Some
    find the way others struggle until the end.

    We are all beautiful for that comes from within the heart and soul.

  5. Deb and Barbara

    "I feel like I'm letting society down". Every time I read you, Hollye, even though we often talk about the same issues, you lay down that one holly statement that reverberates because I haven't considered it yet. Bingo on that one!

    You know I struggle with and embrace so many of the same things. Thanks for giving me another place to acknowledge those things. And as your elder 🙂 I can say it does get better and easier!


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