I’m 45 years old today and it feels good. I don’t need to say “45 years young”–because old is not a dirty word.
Old or young, middle-aged or ancient, a number can’t define me, break me, or create me. I am just me. My age is a badge of honor–of lessons learned, joys celebrated, and hardships overcome.
I’m finally in an honest, open relationship with my age.
I haven’t always been.
A hard-working Capricorn, I always wanted to be older. Even in my 20’s and 30’s I envied the respect given to my older colleagues, fantasizing of the day I’d have more mileage behind my work.
But my age-shame started much younger than that. Picture an isolated farm kid meeting the most amazing ‘city’ family at the campground next door. I fell in puppy-love with one of the boys, and assumed the dazzling youngest daughter must be at least 19. How could I possibly tell her I was only 12?
Desperate for friendship, I bumped myself up to 13–for teenager status– only to learn we were the same age. I’d live with that lie for years, and judge myself harshly for it. Looking back, I wasn’t so much a “liar,” but a lonely kid terrified of being rejected.
How many middle-age women in our culture lie about their age, unaware that underneath lives a deep fear of rejection? Being shy or coy about our age is not only socially acceptable, it’s even seen as ‘cute.’
It’s not cute.
Age-shame is part of a deep cultural sickness. The whole point of being born is to age, learn, and grow.
People (me too at times) spend a fair amount of time seeking youthfulness. This is different than the pursuit of health because many mainstream beauty practices are unnatural and even toxic–desperate attempts to reverse the clock. These are acts of violence against ourselves, and against nature itself. We deserve better.
It’s not always been this way.
We have a hidden earth history where the feminine gifts once lived alongside the masculine in harmony. This planet was a different kind of home then. It was healthier and safer because cooperation and natural cycles were honored over competition, greed, and “progress.” Once upon a time the wise woman growing older–the crone–was revered and sought after for emotional, physical and spiritual healing. Her wisdom helped people, families, crops, and even countries thrive.
Where is that wise old woman icon now? In an institution, forgetting herself because we have all forgotten her?
In our desperate attempt to dominate and control the uncontrollable–be it the Earth, the economy, or our own bodies, we forgot that all things cycle and change. Everything has a season, and all the seasons are important.
My wise and vibrant 60-something friend is often told she looks decades younger than her age. “It’s very seductive,” she tells me. “It may be flattering, but it’s an insult to my true age. I want to feel happy about 60 rather than excited about something that I am not.”
She made me think about all the times I’ve ‘complimented’ people by telling them they look younger than they are. While good intentioned, I was actually insulting their reality–their truth.
25, 45, 55, 75–all the ages are a gift. In order to sell us stuff and keep us in scarcity, the media and culture tell us that only certain ages are sexy and vibrant; only some are cool. And we believe it. We feel embarrassed about our age not because of something true, but because we caught the cultural sickness.
Look up synonyms for aging and you’ll find words like ‘declining’ and ‘fading,’ when our older years could be the most satisfying, contented time of life–years to get jazzed about.
When babies are born we shed tears of joy–we smile and coo when they take their first steps, and each milestone is photographed for the baby book. We are miracle babies at every age and we don’t even know it.
Think of all the times people say “that was in my other life,” or “that was a lifetime ago,” evidence we can be reborn over and over again if we stay awake to the endless possibilities for growth at each phase. Development is not something reserved for childhood–it is a birth to death process.
I still catch the age-shame sickness from time to time, but I know how to cure myself–something I didn’t have the maturity to do when I was younger. I check my thoughts to see if they’re true. I take my self-worth temperature, and prescribe a hefty dose of self-care. I look around my circle to see whom I’ve attracted–are they celebrating each year, or desperate to turn back time?
Just because I live in this culture, does not mean I need be swept away by it. My birthday resolution is to do my (imperfect) best to live the real deal, be my real age, my real height, my real weight, with my real wrinkles, and stop trying to be something I’m not.
I’m just me and that’s enough.
If I stop aging, it means I’m dead. I’m not quite ready for that trip.
Aging is what we were born to do. I plan to keep on doing it.
I hope you keep aging too.