Ageing is a funny thing. It makes sense of the past and seems to almost threaten your future, all at the same time.
I write as a person who starts to receive their UK state pension in June. A person who feels nothing like that age, I don’t feel any age, and yet is aware that people look at you in a different way when you pass 50.
The biggest shock came during the first wave of covid when I heard on our news that someone of my age wouldn’t be given a ventilator. There I was, feeling youthful and relevant only to discover that in the eyes of the NHS and Government I was disposable. Wow!
However, it’s best to ignore those things and get on with your life. To be honest it’s a pretty great life, the worries of youth are behind you, and rebellion lies in front. You’re now at an age where you’re officially expected to be difficult.
I don’t particularly agree with spending your mature years looking backwards into the past. Who am I kidding? I see absolutely no point in it. Perhaps things were better ‘in my day’ but a) it’s still my day, and b) who cares, it’s gone, we make the best of now.
I tend to be youthful in outlook, and I can see that society was quite different when I was young, we did connect more, neighbours were friends, you partied in the streets on summer evenings, and it was all welcome during a party. But I can also see that there have been many improvements in modern life. Although I feel social media has been misused, by the same token it allowed me to maintain contact with friends all over the world, and that’s a good thing. And a very interesting one.
I think when you’re ‘a certain age’ or viewing that age in the rear-view mirror, it’s important to remember that there is only now. What’s gone before is gone.
When you’re young you look in a mirror and criticise every aspect of yourself. When you’re older you’re more comfortable. In youth you see your parents as old – usually from about the age of 10. In older age you see yourself as young. It’s a weird thing. My 98 year old grandmother said that she never felt older than 30, so did my mum. In truth I feel like a soul in a human body who was already 10,000 years old when it popped back for another visit. So I’m probably 10,000 give or take and I still don’t feel old.
However, as a young person I did view my elders as older. I recall showing a lady in her 50s how to put on eyeshadow, and her eyelids wrinkled as I did whereas mine didn’t. I found that creepy. I saw age as being old, past it, thinking it knew better than I, in my youthful ‘misdom’ (that’s wisdom you don’t know you’re missing). I was put out by that idea. After all, I’d lived 20 years hadn’t I?
Nowadays, if I see an image of someone in their 70s, 80s, 90s, I think how beautiful they are. How much wisdom shines from their eyes, and how those lived in faces have transcended everything that happened to them to own their own kind of beauty.
Now I’m 65 and I’m looking in the mirror my mother and grandmother before me peered into, probably hoping as they did that wasn’t yet another wrinkle, and asking ‘is that what an age spot looks like?!’ I love looking in that mirror now, and I wish I could tell both ladies how beautiful they always were.
I love who I am, and I love who my husband is. I love his little paunch, his grey hair and beard, his grizzled appearance, and I love love love who he’s become as an older person. I always thought he was pretty cool, making room of course for his youthful angst, and the fact that neither of us understood what was important. But now I think he’s beautiful. He allowed himself to mature, to change, to gain wisdom and compassion, and it shows in every line of his face and his still twinkling eyes. I love him much more than that picture perfect, rather gorgeous, slender young man I fell for. I like him much more. Age has refined him.
Sorry Mum and Nan
As your parents age life can get difficult. Nan was always a law unto herself, subject to periods of black depression – and God knows that made sense – but she was a fighter. Mum was different, she had a specific attitude to life that wasn’t youthful as she aged, and she was quite angry. She felt hard done by as she only had dad in her life for 50 years, whereas her own mother didn’t complain when she was widowed at 56. That attitude aged my mum in such a way that I almost forgot what a wonderful younger person she was.
As regular readers will know, I’m a guided medium, and there are times I quote my mum and people say “Amos is so amazing”. She was amazing and I’m truly sorry I lost her in the miasma of age. If you’re a younger person reading this, do your utmost to age happily.
My dad didn’t enjoy ageing either, it really hit him hard, and yet he was good looking all his life, grey hair only enhanced him, wrinkles only added to the twinkle, yet he felt and acted old, and therefore was old.
When I was young I saw these things with a youthful eye, now I see them as a person who has quite a life behind her, and in learning to be compassionate with herself she has learned to be compassionate looking backwards.
There is always a moral
So if you haven’t reached this age yet, let me help you look forward. Whatever you think of ageing, you will be incredibly lucky if you do. It’s a wonderful world and some grey hair and a few wrinkles are a price worth paying to be in it.
If you find yourself looking at old people thinking ‘ugh, I’ll have work done’ remember that your future is being reflected back at you in their mirror. If you’re very, very lucky, you will one day look in a mirror and see what you’re seeing in them now. If you have work done you may find you don’t even look that good. I do wonder what Botox and fillers do over time. Stretching your mouth excessively now has to ruin its natural elasticity faster doesn’t it? I certainly wouldn’t risk it.
Change is part of ageing, it’s an inner and outer change. As the weather and physical changes alter your visage and body, life will also alter your mind. And I’ll guarantee you one thing, if you look after your mind right now, if you teach it to be happy, to look forward, to live in the moment, to love life and love yourself, and appreciate the time you’ve had on this planet. You will look in a mirror and see something that you can find beautiful.
If you fight age, if you allow it to make you bitter, if you resent what it’s doing to you, if you don’t future proof wherever you can, you will look in a mirror and see what you think you’re seeing now, when you shudder a little at the older face.
It’s quite natural to do that when you’re younger, of course it is, we all wanted to remain ever youthful and firm. But if you invest only in a youthful face and shape, what you see in a mirror when you look at yourself, will feel exactly like looking at the elderly now. Whereas if you remember that mirror of time, and approach it with glee, taking care of yourself, your skin, your body as much as you can, and welcoming every new year with optimism about a great future. You will look in that mirror and think “Well done you”, and you won’t feel old at all.
No one escapes the mirror of time, unless they’re very, very, unlucky.
To your youthful optimism forever!