How do you change the perception of aging?
I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I mean a lot of thinking about aging and accepting certain facts that go with it. It's a tough job. I look in the mirror and the girl who I expect to see is no longer there. Where did she go? How long ago did she disappear? Has someone else taken her place? Why can't I accept what I see instead of being depressed? I've wondered what kind of changes I can make to be more accepting of myself.
For way too long "old age" myths, the media, and cosmetic industries have dictated how women should feel about themselves. What they say or imply is an injustice to women and enhances the notion that aging isn’t good. They want us to mask our looks, change the color of our hair, and let someone cut us so that our skin looks stretched and fresh and young! Looking young is not being young. The first thing that I have to get rid of is the term, "feeling old." Old is not a feeling. It's a fact, a state of being. So what does this mean? It means that I need other words to describe how I'm feeling. Perhaps I might be feeling low about something, or I'm in pain or feel lonely, feeble, burdensome, or demoralized. And these words are the words that describe me when I feel "old".
I can’t feel young either. Youth is not a feeling. But at times I feel energetic, courageous, beautiful, healthy, and active. Feeling well makes me feel that there is the promise of tomorrow, I'm happy and healthy-ish. I can't change the way I look or my genetic make-up. But I can strive to feel my best, and feel a sense of well-being and satisfaction in doing what is best for me. I can pursue what I know to be my purpose, my passions at this time. Not what I want to do or dream to do but things that make me feel whole, complete, wanted, needed, and loved. Purposes, my life passions, that make me think and feel whole. If this means putting color in my hair or trying a new lip color, then that’s what I’ll do. Not because I look “old or wan” but because I want to do it.
Because of my stage 4 lung cancer, my bucket list has changed. I no longer can think in terms of “Well I have plenty of time.” My bucket list consists of todays. What to do today, where do I go today, what do I read, eat, and think today. My lists no longer have unrealistic goals for the future but doctors' appointments, lab work, and rest. My plans are to do things that make me feel like I have a purpose and that I feel are important in everything I do, things that have meaning for me. My purpose for resting is so that I can later feel more refreshed for a walk, or meeting a friend. My purpose for drinking lots of water is so that I don't get dehydrated and feel ill. My purpose is to nag my husband to be careful on his runs, make sure his clothes are clean, and that he eats clean fresh food. My purpose is to hug him and tell him that I love him as much as I can. I need to feel fulfilled by talking to my son and maybe irritate him too. I’m a mother. It makes me feel good. My bucket list might not stretch very far into the future but it sure is full.
By changing how I think, with a different vocabulary, maybe I can help change the perception of aging. And this might help me so that when I look in the mirror I might see some of the old me and not the aged me.