When we are young we tend to associate beauty with tangible, superficial things. How we look in a bathing suit, the size of our pores, how silky our hair is. That’s how we measure beauty. Yikes!
Typically, we learn to redefine our definition of TRUE beauty when we are much older and in the Yoda years (that is what I call my decade) – the age when those wee ones, who think they know beauty, consider us invisible. That is when we get smart, at least that is when I did. Hold on to that thought while I throw this out there – growing older is hard. It is not for the faint of heart.
Considering those two very important thoughts, I feel like I’m ahead of the game. I felt old and ugly the day I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Unlike my friends, I had to start the aging process sooner. People wouldn’t view me as attractive for my curves and my cane, or my sexy handicap placard, not according to the standards I had in place since my teen years. I felt old and fragile, and although I was married, I felt like I’d never be wanted again. Married or not, there is something in all of us that longs to be desired, to be attractive.
With my diagnosis came a detachment to my preconceived notions of beauty. Years before my friends started to see their bodies changing, I dealt with this feeling that the days of people taking a second look at me would never happen again While they discover their necks going south, laugh lines catching up with their eyes, I have already endured all of this and much more.
We all share it, and yet I feel like there’s a calm in me, like I’ve been through this before, whereas my friends who don’t struggle with illness are just learning that our physical attributes aren’t what make us beautiful. Ageing gracefully means understanding and accepting this –that smiling is the most beautiful thing next to laughter, and our hearts expanding is the ultimate goal, regardless of being sick. How I make others feel about themselves, being kind, giving to others are all parts of beauty.
The graceful part, means acceptance. Don’t fight it. Make a list of all that you have as you have grown older, all of the experiences and security you have gained as you aged. New hobbies and loves, friends you have touched, places you’ve visited and carry that list, with your head held high, tucked neatly beneath your skin next to your heart.
When I was young I thought others determined my beauty and worth, which I’ve learned is not true. Only I can determine my beauty and worth
Aesthetically, how you FEEL about your skin, how you feel about your energy determines how you feel and will ultimately lead you to aging gracefully if you tend to it. Do you take care of yourself? Do you hydrate and take care of your skin? Do you moisturize with whole, clean products like coconut oil? Do you juice? Do you meditate and take time to do the things you love?
All of these, poured into a pot and mixed evenly, determine whether or not we are beautiful in a timeless, important way. The greatest determination is owning and accepting it.
I have found I am much more confident with age – I have a new confidence that I didn’t have at nineteen. I don’t hide my age, I don’t feel the need to dye my hair but I do feel the need to love and nurture my body.
I also use all of my experience to help the younger, up and coming, generations. Doing the next right thing for the universe, for your soul, for your body, for your mind, for your illness and for each other and then OWNING it – that is what it means to age gracefully. THAT is beautiful. Own it and keep that head up high.
Maya Angelou said, “The only thing people will remember about you, is how you made them feel.” It’s resonated with me for years. Perhaps aging gracefully, for me, is when I help someone see how truly beautiful they are.