How old are you? This question has prompted many a jaw to suddenly drop, especially if those asked happen to be women. Oddly, I’ve never been offended by the question. If, however, you ask me about aging gracefully, I start to get a bit nervous. What does that mean, anyway?
Aging gracefully is a rather controversial topic because the phrase itself is subjective. You and I might be like-minded regarding eligibility requirements we believe are involved to qualify. Then again, we might be polar opposites in our opinions. I cover up the gray in my hair although my fellow Hot Mess Press writer believes in letting it all hang out — her gray hair, that is. Does the fact that I do not like looking into the mirror and seeing copious strands of gray mean I’m not aging gracefully?
Maybe, maybe not
When I see gray hair on my head (not a few sprigs but all out soon-to-take-over-my-whole-head amounts) I feel tired and worn. It’s a total Pavlovian response to my own reflection in the glass. Being a mom of 10 is sort of like navigating two full parenting journeys. I raised the older kids, then I had to start over and raise the younger ones. This means I run in circles where many, if not most, of the parents with whom I associate are anywhere from 15 to 25 years younger than I am.
When I cover up my gray, I trick my brain. Oh, and another apparent benefit is that my husband doesn’t ask if I’m ill or exhausted as often as he does when the roots start showing through. I used to think that covering up my gray meant I wasn’t aging gracefully. Now, I think it means I am, because I am comfortable doing what makes me feel better about myself. Isn’t that a sign of graceful aging?
I’m content with my own company
Pop singer Lauv sings a catchy tune called, “I Like Me Better When I’m With You,” to which my kids and I often be-bop in the car. When I think of aging gracefully, this song comes to mind — with a twist. One of the best parts of aging for me (so far) has been the discovery that I like me better when I’m with me! The younger version of myself used to feel almost panicked if she didn’t have someone to talk to or a circle of friends to visit on a regular basis.
The soon-to-be 55-year-old me is quite content to spend time alone. Last year, for the first time in my entire life, I went to the movies by myself. I’ll admit, thoughts of paranoia flashed through my mind about what others might assume by seeing me in the theater unaccompanied. I knew I was aging gracefully when I ultimately decided I could not care less.
What does aging gracefully mean to you?
Earlier in this post, I mentioned my co-worker (who also happens to be someone with whom I have shared a cherished friendship in real life for nearly 20 years) who considers her gray hair her crown of glory. I applaud her. I admire her for this and myriad other reasons. What I’ve learned as I’ve waded through the tumultuous waters of menopause, however, is that each woman is unique. It’s okay that I don’t want to see gray hair on my head.
I know that might change some day although I have no idea what the transition age might be. What I do know is that aging gracefully means we grow comfortable in our own skins. It also means that we have each others’ backs. What do you need to feel good about yourself as you age? It might be similar or starkly different than what your BFF needs. Support, encourage and inspire each other. If you do, you will be aging gracefully.
Keep your aging gracefully priorities straight
If allowing your hair to naturally unfold into a sea of gray is critical to your emotional well being and confidence as you age, go for it. The key to successfully aging gracefully is to determine what your priorities are and to focus on accomplishing your goals.
I think most women want to feel as strong and healthy as possible as they age. The average woman usually wants to feel appreciated and beautiful. Many of us begin to focus more on our spiritual health as the hands of time tick away, as well. Aging gracefully means doing whatever you need to do to be the best version of yourself you can be. I like me better when I’m with me. I hope you’ll be able to say the same when you turn 55.