Monday, May 19, 2014

The Awesomeness of Aging

by Terri

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents,
the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source you will truly have defeated age.” ~ Sophia Loren

Growing older is something we all deal with, some more gracefully than others. In my head, I know that having my health is so much more important than having my youthful looks, but I still feel dissatisfied with my broadening waistline and drooping skin. I try not to obsess but, really, some days that’s exactly what I do.

I remember when I was in my 20s and approaching 30 and thinking, “I can’t be 30! Thirty is OLD!”  But when I got there, it didn’t seem that old anymore, but man, 40 sure was old! And then I reached 40 and all of a sudden 40 wasn’t old. And I never felt I could possibly be 30 or 40 or whatever because I didn’t know everything yet. Surely by the age of (fill in the blank) you should know everything there was to know.  You should have a grasp of who you were and where you are going. But no, that hasn’t happened, even though 40 came and went a long time ago.

Instead I look in the mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at me, I wonder why I look so tired when I’m not tired, I worry if the clothes I am wearing are age appropriate, I wonder ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­how long before there are more gray hairs than brown on my head and how many more wrinkles until I look like my mother.

Recently I came across a collection of essays put together by Susannah Conway. Susannah is a photographer and an author and she teaches creative courses online. As she was turning 41 (hmmm, 41 is still “young” in my book!), she asked a group of women to write about “the awesomeness of aging”. She put together all of the essays into a booklet called “The Delicious Truth” which is available for download here.

Many of the women I recognized: Tracey Clark, Ali Edwards, Andrea Scher, Karen Walrond.  But there are 29 women in all ranging in age from their 40s to their 70s who wrote about their feelings of growing older. Here are a few quotes from the essays:

"To me, above all else, aging means I’m still here
and for that, I’m grateful." ~ Marianne Elliott

”Research shows that, on average, our happiness
hits an all-time low around age 50…and then slowly
rises with each passing year. The happiest people
on earth are 80 and older; they’ve had a chance to
make peace with their choices, to look back and
see the big picture, to accept rather than fight their
aging bodies, and feel grateful for – rather than
pressured by – the days they have left” ~ Liv Lane

"At 51, I am the  happiest I
have ever been in my entire life and it has exactly
nothing to do with any goals I set, any objects I
own -- it has everything to do with knowing who I
am and what I love." ~ Elizabeth Duvivier

“The more years you are here, the more
connections you make. The more connections you
make, the more love you stand to have in your
life.” ~ Jo Hanlon Moores

And I love what Karen Walrond had to say about laugh lines:

"Laugh lines -- because there is no better evidence
of having lived a joyful life, and in your 40s you've
figured out that nothing is more beautiful, more
attractive, more sexy, than joy." ~Karen Walrond

So according to all of that, I’m still here and I’m grateful for that; I’m heading toward the happiest time of my life; I know who I am and what I love, I am making connections, more every day, and I have plenty of laugh lines, signifying all the joy I’ve had in my life. So this aging thing is pretty darned awesome, right? Would I like to erase 10 years off my face when I look in the mirror? Yes, some days (who am I kidding – EVERY day) I really would. But would I actually want to be 30 again? No way, no how, absolutely not.

Have you picked up on the significance of the different stages of peonies in this post, from bud to drooping petals?  Beautiful in all stages, right? Just. Like. Us.

So wherever you may be on this journey and how ever old you may be, what do you think is “awesome” about aging? Are you fighting it? Are you resigned to it? Or are you welcoming all the possibilities that lie ahead on your life’s path? I hope you will join in this discussion by commenting below. I would love to hear what all of you are thinking!


NKAWoods said...

Terri, what a wonderful piece and series of photos. It was just what I needed to read and see this morning. I look back at photos of myself at 20, 30, 40, and think how good I looked. But I know I didn't think that then. At 62 maybe I am finally old enough to understand that each age has it's own beauty - if you are wise enough to see it.

Dotti said...

Oh, yes! I got the progression of the peonies! I've often equated the progression of flower blooms to the aging process. And as someone who is very close to you in age ... yup! I get it! But it's all good, really it is. I'm learning that it's better to be mobile and strong than to have a smooth face and no grey hair. In fact, I gave up chasing away the grey about 7 years ago and I don't regret it. When we've reached our age, Terri, we've earned every wrinkle, every grey hair, the whole bit ... and with it comes the privilege of being who and what we want! I find that very liberating ... {There seems to be a progression in our posts lately and it's giving us all a lot to think about. This excites me!}

Dotti said...

And each flower picture was awesome and in perfect sequence.

susan said...

Terri…thank you for writing (and shooting) from your soul. A truly beautiful post. As far as 'aging'…there are so many factors that go into that 'word'. For me, right now…it's all about life…it's changing and reshaping at this moment. Not referring to my skin, my face…anything like that. I'm referring to children moving…taking new jobs…going to college…becoming empty nesters. That is hard. Difficult. There are good days…and not-so-good days. I've been a mom since 21 years old and now 30 years later, at 51…one daughter is moving for her work…another daughter is getting married…and my step son (who has lived with us for the last 10 years and feel like he is my own)…is moving out and off to college. It's going to be the first time in 30 years…and feeling many emotions. I guess that is part of the 'aging' process…growing older…and letting go. ~ xo's

Kim Stevens said...

Your are so right on photographers we are fascinated by old things. It doesn't make any sense that as a society we are obsessed with the aging process, yet through our lens we are fascinated by it . . . old barns, peeling paint, rusty things. We need to give ourselves and others the same loving look through the lens because we have just as much history and adventures as the aging things we photograph. Great post and your photos are incredible!!

heyjudephotography said...

I can not say it any better than Kim did! What a beautiful post and a wonderful reminder to be grateful for where we are what we bring to the table at each stage of our lives.

kelly said...

such a gorgeous series of photos terri! and i love the message they share...something beautiful about every stage. something i need to remember every morning when i'm cursing the brown spots on my face or when i see a new crop of gray hairs coming in. thank you for this! xo

Roxi H said...

I agree, I wouldn't want to go back. But this turkey neck thing really does bug me.

AFishGirl said...

I'm not pleased to live in a culture that celebrates only youth and dewy skin and washboard abs. I think the only thing we can do is push back against it. I don't know one person who is happy, truly, with their physical body and it makes me sad. It's something I work on with doing the self-portraiture work, an attempt to find peace in the me I am now, not the one I was two years ago. Or ten years ago. We live in a culture that would like women over 50 to just kind of get out of the picture. Well. Uh, poo poo on that. I'm getting in the picture. So my grandchildren and children will see me as I was, each year, with the years before worn with love on my face and body.

Deanna said...

There are some days that aging really rears its ugly head especially after working in the garden, clearing out the debris from winter and it's times like these that I wish for a younger body, but other than the aches and pains I have embraced my age. I feel blessed that I can still work in the garden and still feel young enough to try something new and continue to learn.

Anonymous said...

Great post and discussion. As the Baby Boomers age, aging now preoccupies more and more people...To be it's definitely about being grateful to be alive and finding ways to feel alive. Some of the most vibrant people I met in my time sailing this winter were couples in their late sixties and seventies who had thrown off the bow lines and were exploring and discovering the world -- they had years of child rearing and careers and accomplishments behind them and now they were embarking on new adventures. They seemed so young and full of life to me! They were full of passion and curiosity. And I noticed one thing that united many of these folks -- their parents had died young -- in their fifties and sixties -- so they learned the hard way that there were no guarantees...My father died at 62...I want to make the most of the time I have left, however much that is...

Carol said...

Oh! This is my favorite post in a long time! I agree with all of these comments. Working in medicine makes this impression on me everyday - It is a privilege to be here, and you will not b e successful chasing youth - you can't catch it. Remember John Lennon's saying - Count your age by friends, not years: Count your life by smiles not tears." Says it all!

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