Learning To Age With Grace

Giving yourself grace as you get older - that's the key to the "graceful" part of aging. (Image Credit: Unsplash/Marivi Pazos)

The passage of time is a funny thing. Entire decades of our lives can pass us by before it occurs to us that our own clock is ticking. And until we realize it, we’re floating through our days, wiling away our time, begrudgingly fulfilling our obligations while we test the waters over just how much we can get away with by doing the very least amount of work possible. (Oh, that’s not everyone? Just me? Whatever.)

I spent my childhood perfecting the art of forging my parents’ signatures, my teenagehood plucking my eyebrows to near-extinction, and my young-adulthood experimenting with how many free drinks I could get at the bar before cartwheeling home and spending roughly five minutes hung over before I’d start all over again. 

Of course, none of those times in my life were nearly as simple and carefree as I remember them to be, but hindsight sure is a delightful tease, isn’t it?

I remember trial and hardship abounding... but time has a way of erasing the sting that I know once existed.

What I don’t remember, though, is ever feeling particularly aware that any of the luxuries I had in my youth would dwindle and pass away. I had supple skin, a fast metabolism, and perky boobs that behaved nothing like the tired old girls I have hanging off my chest today. (Nearly four years of breastfeeding has that effect, it turns out.)

Sitting now on the cusp of my 35th birthday, I find myself taking stock of my life thus far, shoving my youth under a microscope while I ask myself this one thing: Am I careening full-tilt toward my final days on this earth, or am I only just getting started here?

Well, one thing I can say with certainty is that I’m better than ever at growing superfluous new chins practically overnight. (Does that count for anything?)

Midway through the third decade of my life, I’m already finding myriad things about my body that aren’t as they used to be: my breasts are shadows of their former selves, even my knees are wrinkly, and my striped tummy reminds me every day that it carried my daughter for forty weeks before she emerged into this world.

Some well-intentioned souls like to remind us as our age increases that it’s nothing but a number. And yes, I agree — our age is but a mindset. But in all honesty, I’m not convinced our bodies are exactly in agreement. So as our bodies slow down, we’re faced with a mighty task: we must age with grace.

Now, by this I certainly don’t mean that we are to make sure we’re aging gracefully, so as to not offend anyone with our rapidly graying hair, with our steadily forming wrinkles, or with the audible cracks our joints are making every time we stand up. (Which are loud enough to make people in public pull one earbud out to look at you, greatly concerned, as they reach out a hand and check to see if you’re alright.)

No. You can take the idea of aging only as slowly and carefully as society expects you to and shove it, quite frankly.

The grace I’m referring to is something that needs to rise up from deep within the heart of you, something that holds you gently as your body and mind go through uncontrollable changes.

I think we all feel entitled to our youth — to our fast metabolism, to our limber bodies, our elastic skin… So when we lose it, we can’t help but feel gypped. “THAT’S MINE,” we argue, as we grasp for remnants of it.

We hang on to our youth like our very lives depend on it — but those days are gone. And what remains is our present selves, beauty-filled, asking for grace.

Comparing ourselves to complete strangers is easy. So is studying our face in the mirror, taking stock of each new wrinkle and stray chin hair. But allowing ourselves flaws, and embracing them, even — that’s where the real work lies, and where we find the greatest reward.

Midway through the third decade of my life, I’m already finding myriad things about my body that aren’t as they used to be: my breasts are shadows of their former selves, even my knees are wrinkly, and my striped tummy reminds me every day that it carried my daughter for forty weeks before she emerged into this world.

But if I really sit with that, I have to wonder: what in any of that is there to hate? Our bodies are living proof of each thing we’ve lived through, both considerable and commonplace. Our wrinkles serve as markers for every smile and every heartache. Our feet are weathered and cracked from the hundreds of miles we’ve walked.

Our experiences etch themselves into us and remind us of how far we’ve come. What an incredible thing that is.

Physical youth passes in the blink of an eye, but it can always be your mindset. I’m not saying you should keep a velvet scrunchie around your wrist, spritz your hair with a bottle and a half of Sun-In, and dab your wrists with CK One. (Though far be it from me to stop you from rocking that aesthetic.) I’m only saying it’s your very privilege to watch your body and your mind form, reform, and change, taking on a new shape after every great or trying chapter of life you live through.

So no, cartwheels are nowhere near as easy as I remember them to be. And please don’t expect me to have more than two drinks in a night unless you want to deal with the hungover version of me for a full seven days afterward. But my time here on earth is finite, and I cannot let the fear of that come between me and all the glorious aspects of aging, wrinkles and sagging be damned.

Here I am, after all, about to turn 35 — and am I halfway to death, or am I just getting started? Well, clearly the choice is mine. 

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