Tag Archives: Aging

B is for Beauty

B is for Beauty. Its definition numerous. It surrounds us in nature if we open our eyes and truly see. But what makes humans beautiful? Remember the old cliche? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In the marketing world, a beautiful person is a sleek, young man or woman with air-brushed skin and the bone structure of a marbled statue chiseled to perfection. In society as a whole, youth is the epitome of beauty. I would have to agree; I looked better when I was young (sure miss those days). But we need to broaden our view and look beyond the physical for beauty transcends appearances.

Have you ever met certain people and upon first introductions nothing about their looks made you take notice, but after becoming acquainted you found yourself attracted to them? Their beauty springs from a well within them: their attitude, demeanor, and personality.

These traits can be honed as we grow. Like a fine wine, we should become better with age. If we don’t let life’s disappointments drag us down into a mire of negativity, we can shine with an inner beauty that has more to do with our philosophy about life. It radiates through what we say–for our words have an impact on the universe–and how we act and what we create.

I once read that the greatest gift we can give to others is being a role model, by setting a good example. When stripped to our essence, our beauty is more about our wisdom and the love we share. True beauty emanates from the eyes of the beholden.

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A is for Aging

Back in March I mentioned the April A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a post every day except Sundays starting with the letter A and ending with Z. I knew then I couldn’t write 26 posts in one month. So I’m challenging myself to use the alphabet to motivate my next 26 posts. Of course, this may take more than a year or two. Who knows. So here it goes:

  A is for aging. It’s something we all go through if we don’t die young. We notice it more readily in someone we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s amazing to run into an old high school friend after twenty or thirty years. We think, “God, he’s aged.” Then wonder if he thought the same about us.

What I find mysterious is how it sneaks up on you. The inward aches, pains, creaks, and groans grow on you. But the outward appearances? You don’t realize something’s different until it has changed drastically. While doing yoga a few years ago, I remember glancing at my legs as I performed a downward dog. The skin on my thighs hung loose around my knees. Did that happen overnight? What happened to the muscles residing there? I never heard them say good-bye. And I didn’t notice my jowls or turkey neck until looking at photographs taken during Christmas shortly after I turned fifty. How long had those been there? Why didn’t someone warn me? I used to pluck stray gray hairs poking from my head until one morning there were too many. If I continued plucking I would go bald. Did I cause the gray to multiply? Was the old saying true that if you pluck one gray many more follow?

Bette Davis once said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” Boy, was she right. No matter how resilient you think you are, the signs of aging are shocking when you gaze in the mirror and find them staring back at you. Worse still, it’s knowing you can’t do some of the things you used to take for granted, like squatting down and being able to get back up, or opening a jar of jelly, or reading fine print.

Harder still, is watching loved ones go through it first, especially your parents. To watch my father, a once tall, strong, football player, shrink in skin that bruises easily, his hearing aid not doing its job. and see my mother, once a beautiful cheerleader, shuffle her feet as she walks, forgetting what day it is, brings tears to my eyes. I cry every time I leave their house, knowing their time here is limited. Where did the time go? How did old age get here so fast? I have to keep slapping myself, saying, “Stop crying. They’re not dead yet. Cherish what time is left.”

I guess I’m crying for what’s been lost: my childhood, my youth, the days when I could go to Mom and Dad for answers, to fix things. I cry because I’m helpless to stop time, and I’m frightened. I’m afraid of what’s next. I can’t imagine my life without my parents. I know, people survive the loss of their parents all the time. Some even survive the loss of a child. But how do they do it? What is their secret? Maybe I’m just a big baby. But I’m also scared of what old age will do to me. Will I lose my memory? I’m pretty forgetful as it is.  My mother used to joke about the saying, “Live long enough to become a problem to your children.” Seems only fair especially after putting both of my parents through hell during my teen years. Will I become a burden? I don’t want to do that to my daughters. Watching your parents fade away is painful enough.

All I can do is plan ahead. I’m weeding though junk, especially papers, trying to organize documents, so when the time comes my kids will be able to find what’s important and have less of a mess to sort through. In the meantime, I’m trying to control my emotions. If I allow sad thoughts to consume me I become crippled, paralyzed with pain, no longer living in the present, wasting what precious time remains. I need to hold on to the memories and release the sorrow, and relish each moment I have with the ones I love.

To keep me in a positive frame of mind, I post affirmations throughout my house. Two on my bathroom mirror remind me: “Don’t wait for a crisis to discover what is important in your life” and “Be thankful for the past, have courage for the present, and faith for the future.”

A is not only for aging, but also for affirmations. Affirm what’s good in your life, everyday, for you never know when it is your last.

What are your thoughts on aging? How do you deal with your own mortality or that of a loved one?

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Star Island Summer Camp

“Life may not be the party we hoped for but while we are here we might as well dance.”

–Anonymous

As I was growing up in the dry heat of West Texas I never went to summer camp; my parents couldn’t afford it.  While I remained at home, swimming in an above ground plastic swimming pool and blasting neighbors with water balloons, I heard of other kids packing large trunks in preparation of spending the entire summer off on one big adventure after another: archery, canoeing, macramé.  What an ideal way to get rid of your kids for a while!  So when many Southern New Hampshire University MFA students said Star Island was like camp, I had an opportunity to discover what I had missed as a child.

People stand on the pier greeting the new arrivals with the chant, “Oceanic, Oceanic, rah, rah, rah.  You will come back, you will come back.”  A bit corny, right?  But as I gazed on the wrinkled faces of the senior citizens I glimpsed a glow of time remembered.  They were reliving their childhood and, for a moment, it made them happy.  They were able to forget the morning face in the mirror awakening them with a start.  On the island their achy joints and sadness of a lost era were put on the back shelf of their vast memory.

Clichés come to mind: “youth is wasted on the young” and “you never know what you got until it’s gone.”  They’re clichés because they are so true.  The Pelicans, the young hired help on the island, were a constant reminder of what was lost and could never be found again.  They were the ghosts of Christmases past haunting the halls of the clapboard white buildings of the Oceanic Hotel.  They were as threatening as the sea gulls protecting their nests.  I began to comprehend why some of the elder islanders were so crotchety.  They rode emotional foamy waves on the glittering Atlantic, knowing their surface beauty had set sail off the face of the earth.  They felt cheated, robbed, and bitter.  They deserved more respect, more reverence, or they were invisible, ignored, forgotten.  They might as well be dead, merely echoing footsteps on the narrow wooden planked floors.

Sandwiched between these two generations, as I am with my parents and my children, I found myself scrutinizing my middle-aged body, forgetting its strength and the miracles it has performed by giving birth to two beautiful girls who are now beautiful, wise women.  Gazing on the smooth sculpted skin of youngsters, I wished I had spent more time relishing my own sleek body while I still had it all.  I felt sadly determined.  Though I wasted my youth, I won’t waste the time I have left on this planet.  I made plans to shed twenty pounds and considered plastic surgery.

Okay, I know it shouldn’t be all about physical attractiveness, but more intellectual growth and wisdom.  I want to grow old gracefully, filled with love and compassion, not nagging and complaining about the rambunctious noise-makers all full of life.  But I feel left behind after sixteen years of teaching kindergarteners and second graders, followed by ESL young adults.  I gave up writing and read only children’s books.  I raised a family during that time; that’s something to be proud of.  I can’t help the hormones, or lack of, that twist my soul inside out.  I miss those long-forgotten years and fear what’s ahead.  What’s a girl supposed to do?  Ride the waves of life and thank my lucky stars I’ve made it this far.  I am blessed and need to remember that.  So among the many lessons I learned at summer camp on Star Island is I can catch up by devoting the last half of my life to reading and writing.  Forget about plastic surgery.

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