At some point in time, anyone who lives long enough will cross the line from Adult to Elder. The crossing, in this culture, generally won’t be marked with fireworks and whoops of joy. Many folks stop celebrating birth days by age 40. For many it’s seen as a first step into oblivion. For others it’s viewed as a challenge (to duck the appearance of aging). For me, it’s a little complicated. If I had super-powers, I’d make aging and the invisibility that accompanies it a different experience. Joyful. Compassionate. Integrated. Public.
Dealing with aging through cosmetic surgery or related treatments never made it to my priority list. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I think we should all be given leeway to age in whatever way we feel is best for us. For example, I admit I enjoyed hair color when it was for fun. It ceased being fun nearly 10 years ago when I realized the products are beyond unpleasant, the stylist mentioned them as “required” for a working woman of my age, and the rebel in me decided it’s just not my style to conform to the 1950s rules my aunties spouted or to ignore the 1970s 4-MMPD controversy (during which the cancer-connection was ignored in light of the Necessity of hair-color) or current studies noting increased sensitivity to coloring products.
What continues to shock me, though, is how many people totally ignore very young as well as older people, as if relevance accrues as we age and then evaporates as we age some more. Call me small town, but can’t we agree that we retain our core essence throughout our lives? The lessons we’ve learned, sometimes the Hard Way, may add value, as does innocence, but our person-hood continues.
I envision a future in which adaptation will increasingly require broader, rather than narrower, roles. I see a future with more faces at the table, not fewer, more visibility for all, not just a few. With that, I hope to see people of all ages letting go of the belief that we somehow reach a wrinkle-quotient and are no longer interested in life, in music, in art, in love, in sex, in passion. Those things stay with us, along with love, hope, curiosity, humor, and compassion.
Without compassion, I think invisibility infiltrates lives, and self-compassion seems a grand way to begin standing out. The people I admire find ways to practice self-compassion and enjoy their days, every day, just as they are. So that’s a practice I plan to follow. Here are a few things that make me happy:
- Healthy (usually simple) food.
- Time in or around nature.
- Learning new things.
- Stories and movies that make me laugh!
Pondering happy-generators seems easy enough, but taking action speaks more clearly to intention. Moving beyond invisibility and turning pondering into action, I:
- signed up for a local CSA delivering organic produce
- went to a large park and invested several minutes in admiring beautiful trees
- started reading a book about causes of common illnesses/conditions so I can improve my health. Learned about powerful veggies I think of as delicious but ordinary (like celery, cilantro, and asparagus).
- watched a short Netflix comedy special and picked out a comedy to enjoy another day.
One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, moving forward and remembering my role in the invisibility game.