There’s an app making the rounds that analyzes selfies and projects how you will appear when you’re “old.”
It’s apparently all the thing because my social media feed is unexpectedly cluttered with images of millennials sporting crow’s feet, gray hair, and age spots. (My son sent an image of him at what I assume is my age. For some unexplained reason, he looked more like Richard Dreyfus than me. Maybe something I need to know?)
I would like to believe that this sudden fascination with aging is a positive sign that we’re embracing the inevitable, and finally celebrating the wisdom, history, and knowledge in our seniors. After all, we’ve been obsessed with youth and beauty since Adam insecurely asked Eve if his hairline was receding. Yet, I don’t think that’s the case; sadly, it’s more likely another passing fad such as ice bucket challenges, latex wristbands, or man buns.
Yet, this serves as an excellent jump-off point to remember that — especially in an aging society — there’s are larger issues at hand:
How do we prepare for our inevitable outcomes? Is there a way to change our collective view of the aging process into one of acceptance and wonder of the life cycle and — dare I say it — welcome embrace of the gift of being old? Can we remember that “beauty” is not age-specific and does not evaporate as the calendar moves onward? Can we acknowledge that that not all beautiful bodies wear bikinis and sport six-pack abs?
Recently I staggered across a video from a female internet influencer replying to a “troll” who scolded her for appearing “old” because she was unwilling to dye her hair. Apparently, this miscreant said the influencer should “take better care of herself.” Came the reply: “First of all — it’s no one’s business but mine whether I choose to color my hair.” (Bravo!) She then went on to reveal that she suffered from an incurable disease and would not make it past her sixties; she would never have the opportunity to become “old.” Summing it up, she reminded us, “Old age is a gift many of us will not receive.”
No one likes the idea of dying.
Focusing on that inevitable outcome is terrifying; we need a hard-wearing shield of denial simply to make it through the day. Yet, to that end, desperately attempting to avoid the truth, we also overlook the richness of aging, wasting our today’s lamenting yesterdays we’ll never recover, while worrying about tomorrows we all know we’ll have.
With the passing of years come gifts, unavailable to those with smooth skin and full heads of hair:
- At a certain point comes an acceptance of Self; “This is who I am, for better or worse.” Confuse it not with arrogance or hubris. It is not foisted on others, forcing them to bend their wills; rather it is a more complete knowledge of what makes me tick — flaws, talents, skills, and shortcomings included. No longer bound by false constraints, while my body becomes less flexible, my thoughts become more so; willing to contemplate options previously thought unacceptable; opening us up to possibilities unknown when we were younger.
- Since one begins to really “know thyself,” that brings with it the warm, relaxed, supportive softness of decades-long relationships, with tapestries of interwoven, rich memories counted in decades, not years. New relationships are indeed exciting, beginning as sparks that burn fast and hot; yet to survive, they must become coals that remain; consistent, glowing, and warm over long periods.
- An ever-louder ticking clock brings with it the acknowledgement of “what really matters.” The angst, drive, and frustration of younger days propelled by the urge to accumulate gives way to the enjoyment of quiet, still, moments. As we let go of the need to generate more, we are given more time to give back to that what matters to us. When we were young, we wanted to make a difference; now, it seems like we actually can.
We hear it too often, “I don’t want to get old.” As the adage goes, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Acceptance of aging is not welcoming death; it is not the equivalent of saying you are ready to sit on your recliner, swearing at the clouds, wistfully moaning about “the good old days,” while waiting to pass.
Would I like to remain forever vital without fears for what is to happen? Of course, who wouldn’t? But I’d also like to flap my arms and fly through the clouds. Neither are going to happen.
I plan to make this passage a long, beautiful, serene journey; celebrating every wrinkle and age spot I earn along the way.
When an app can create that, sign me up.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching, speaking, and reminders of what really matters at 707.834.4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.