Growing old…gracefully?

Well, I am on the verge of turning 48. Not REALLY old (as my kids would say) but actually not that young, either. Definitely middle aged. Somewhere in between childbearing and crone. On the verge of too old to learn new tricks, perhaps.

It doesn’t affect me every day though. My body sometimes feels indomitable, as it has for much of my life. I do still occasionally bounce out of bed, ready to face a few hours of labouring in the garden. I work, make food, organise, do all the many tasks I have always done, and feel OK in the evenings. Chances are this sort of day may continue happening for several years yet.

But most days aren’t like that anymore. For almost 8 years I have been living a very physical life, creating a smallholding from a bare field. It has given me stamina, for sure, but it has also taken its toll.
And the last 2 years have been gradually getting much harder. My body aches in the morning, when I wake up. My joints are really complaining after willow weaving for a day, particularly when it’s a damp outside. My eyesight is going blurry up close.
All of this is of course totally normal, but being human, it’s also natural to resist change, to try to fight the ageing process tooth & claw.

But given the inevitability of it all, why fight this war? I won’t win! So what if I have lots more grey hair? I have seen many women around my age doing all sorts of interesting things to themselves, the main one is usually dyeing their hair. It’s an interesting mind-set, the feeling that you need to disguise your age. Some people really have the most amazingly unlined faces, and if their hair isn’t grey they do look decades younger. Perhaps they do it for themselves? For their partners? For work?

I was told yesterday, exploring a different aspect of our appearance (but still on the subject of hair!), that some women shave their bodies ‘for themselves’. Both the dyeing and the shaving I don’t believe are for ourselves. They are culturally conditioned acts of the self conscious (and not necessarily self aware?); they are responses to the media’s projections of beauty; they are anticipations of the expectations of our lovers; and manoeuvres to avoid the contempt of our peers. They are an attempt to elicit only positive responses from those we respect. We try to get respect from those we find attractive; from those we see as being in authority; from other women.

But why does respect necessarily hinge upon looks, after all? I think the most important thing about being a woman, and particularly one ‘of a certain age’, is to love yourself. Yes, I have greying hair. Yes, I have an expanded waistline. Yes, my energy levels are flagging. And I certainly don’t shave.

But the secret is that it’s OK! This body is part of the journey, not the destination. It’s a temporary house to care for and enjoy, not somewhere we can remain forever. As a culture we deny age, laugh at instability, try to hide the natural signs of our own mortality.

I say, lets embrace it! Talk about death, talk about ageing, make sure we know that this is transient. All people age, all will pass on. My grey hairs are perhaps a sign of ageing, for me they also signify a road well travelled.

Bring on the silver! I am ready.

Bring on the silver!