In Praise of… Ageing
Ageing. It’s just an adjective. So why do we fear it?
The little “-ing” at the end of the word implies that ageing is a process that must come to an end at some point. But does it? Does it ever end? Of course we die – hopefully later rather than sooner – but between birth and then we obsess about this unavoidable process.
If we think about it practically, ageing begins the moment we are born and doesn’t stop until we take our last breath. It’s a biological process that we absolutely cannot prevent. Nor should we! Without ageing, we don’t mature, physically or emotionally. Without ageing, we don’t fall in love, enjoy that first glass of wine or understand the true beauty of things around us.
Why, then, do we think we’re entitled to a world of knowledge and wisdom and a face free of wrinkles, laugh lines and crow’s feet?
As a society, we are in denial about ageing: what it means, how it looks and the fact that it’s an inevitable part of the human condition. Our culture is incredibly youth-driven, despite the fact that the over-50 crowd has more purchasing power than the baby-faced young people driving the purchasing agenda.
Magical creams, surgical procedures and hopeful voodoo aside, it’s important to understand the benefits of ageing. Those benefits tend to get lost in the never-ending search for youth. Betty Friedan said, “Ageing is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
My money is on Betty, and I am now working consciously on knowing that the ageing process is a rich source of growth and ultimately joy.
Most people have a tendency to live in the past or the future – what could or should have been and what might be. As important as it is to learn lessons from the past, the only way to grow is to live in the now and focus on what is. Staying present to what is happening right in front of you is the only path to joy.
And guess what? The ageing process allows us to keep practising this over and over again.
Great things happen when we are comfortable in our skins, as wrinkly they may be. We truly come into our own when we shake off society’s expectations of what we should be as “older” women and simply become our real selves. We can then tap into our life’s purpose and revitalise the dreams of our youth, which may have been hijacked by the expectations of parents, partners and children.
Inspiration and creativity flow when we are focused on simply being ourselves. When we are thinking about the problems of ageing – what isn’t working and might break down in future – then we lose sight of the many opportunities sitting under our noses.
If we can find our way to a position of gratitude and make this a part of everyday life, then we will have unlocked a sustainable state of joy. In our later years, we can aim to reduce the incessant and useless mental noise all around us and instead recognise and appreciate the very small things that make such a large difference in our lives.
When we are young, we believe we are invincible and tend to focus on the big picture of our lives. We are so busy we don’t notice the way a butterfly dances around a flower or how intoxicating a freshly brewed cup of coffee smells.
Age gives us time: Time to focus. Time to appreciate. Time to grow. Why not embrace it? Ageing can be the ultimate source of joy – if you let it.
What do you like best about growing older? Share your thoughts in the comments below.