[Now that I’m in my 30’s], I’m beginning to focus on what it means to be aging gracefully vs. “getting old”. Struggling a bit.
When I read your letter I couldn’t help but picture myself standing in an open field, exuding great strength, like a warrior badass. With an army of powerful women behind me, I proudly point forward as I shout in the style of Gerard Butler from the movie 300: “THIS. IS. 30!!”
But then, this is actually 31 and a half. And my arms hurt me from trying a new barre class yesterday, so I can’t lift them without making a horribly pained face. And I live in a city where all of my female friends have work today, mostly in conventional offices, while I sit quietly at my home desk. Oh, and I’ve never actually seen the movie 300. So...
This topic really fires me up. And you are a gem for bringing it back to my attention.
The best news I can tell you, right off the bat, is that it is absolutely possible to age with Grace.
The worst news I can tell you, is that Grace takes practice. A lot of it, regularly, and with intentional patience and gumption.
Grace and acceptance are not boxes to be checked only once. Grace and acceptance are forces we dedicate ourselves to in a manner of our lives depending on them. Because truthfully, they do.
You see, so much of how our bodies change over time, either in support of us like an old friend and ally, or against us like a mutinous Jabba the Hutt, depends on how we see them; not through the eyes of our terrified, limited egos, but from the loving, knowing eyes of our spirits.
How we speak to them matters most assuredly.
And of course, how we care for them.
Let’s start with the basics, which you’ve heard 1,000 times before:
Eat well. Exercise. Don’t drink (too much). Don’t do drugs (that often). Sleep a solid 8 hours. Water is your friend.
Rest, and repeat.
These are meaningful and important pieces of the puzzle. Implement them, JN, and you will already be ahead of the curve.
But I think the way we choose to live our lives from a place of authenticity, vulnerability, gratitude + self-focused stretching… vs. fear, self-sabotage, + others-focused striving, play equally important roles.
I often see my incredible clients living in an energy of what many experts will refer to as “engineered smallness”. In other words, deeply wanting to be in our full power, but also desiring to stay safe; craving more for ourselves, while actively working to go unnoticed. I believe that when a body lives its whole existence within engineered smallness, it ages at an alarmingly fast rate.
To give an example on what aging with Grace might look like, I want to tell you about G-ma.
G-ma is technically Brandon’s biological grandmother, but I have come to love and adore her so truly that I’ve unofficially stolen her from him and claimed her as my own. (Sorry not sorry, B).
G-ma, as I like to tell her, is a real badass.
She is a woman who, when the clock strikes 5, ponders aloud to the amusement of her family “What’s a gal gotta do to get a drink around here?”. She has big, sparkly blue eyes that crinkle with her laughter -- which is to say, they are often squinted shut because she laughs so frequently, and fully. She has traveled all over the world with friends, lovers, and by herself. She doesn’t like to over plan these trips, so as to be really available for “the local, unexpected happenings” (see? badass). She has taken many risks, opened her heart time and again, and loved on her family with a fierce matriarch energy that is easily identified in the strength of her children and grandchildren. She continues to work on her relationship with God, takes and teaches classes on things that interest her, and generously shares her time with the community she has built for herself.
Over Thanksgiving dinner this year I just about fell out of my chair from laughing so hard at a new anticdote from G-ma. She told us of a conversation between herself and her hair stylist, who is also adapting to the aging process. Two great lessons she shared with us for reaching “a certain age”:
1. Don’t ever pass a bathroom without going in.
2. Never trust a fart.
(I should probably just end this essay right there)
Another holiday giggle came from a “Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - Off: the Green vs. White Edition”. Once Brandon’s father and I took our turns taste testing while blindfolded, we encouraged G-ma to have a go. After politely declining a number of times, she finally rolled her eyes and submitted to our annoying requests to play along and put on a blindfold.
As I began to wrap my scarf to cover her eyes, she leaned forward and said “Ok...but just so you know...I don’t give a shit.”
(Her favorite flavor is coffee, and boy does she hate to waste time on anything else.)
G-ma is so very beautiful. I don’t say this to mean solely in spirit, though that is also truth. I honestly mean she is so beautiful to me. While I know she gets frustrated with her body at times, I have yet to hear a story that doesn’t involve G-ma having chosen to live authentically, and courageously. She listens, and asks questions with genuine interest. She makes you feel important with her curiosity. She might not be able to still do all of things she once loved, but she also expresses deep gratitude for each mile she has traveled (both literally and figuratively) and continues to live with gumption. This, in my humble opinion, makes her timeless.
JN -- We can be like G-ma. We can practice, practice, practice living. We can have a laugh with our fellow humans on the topic of aging, and break through our engineered smallness. We can care for our bodies best by accepting them with kindness as often as we can, and then continuing to be who we are. We can hold a little space for the unexpected happenings. We can not give a shit about ice cream flavors other than our favorite.
Can I be totally transparent with you? The in-between is the hard place. Your 30’s are just the beginning. It’s where the most practice is required. It’s where it is extra important to do small acts of love for ourselves, and to reimagine the rules of aging. It’s a good place to start remembering you are a spiritual being having a human experience, not the other way around. You are bigger than your body.
Someday you might appear to be a wrinkly ol’ mess in the eyes of a younger, unknowing person (bless their foolish hearts), but with a life well spent in authentic purpose -- with the memories and scars and adventures marked on your soul from the years spent really loving, living, and remaining open in the ways that feel good to you -- it is possible to see yourself as timeless. And if you practice enough? It is possible for others to see you this way, too.
You get to decide. You get to choose radical acceptance of your figure, your grey hairs, your smile lines or eye creases; your body in general. You get to practice accepting these things; loving what you see in the mirror and blessing your being for sticking around long enough to check off a few more days here.
Be timeless, JN.
Oh, and watch The Golden Girls. Every episode.
With love and gratitude,
My friend has the most delightfully white, sunny, and pristine apartment. Spending my Sunday afternoon in her sacred space (with delicious snacks and both Steel Magnolias and Beaches -- holy heaven) was such a treat this weekend. There is legitimately no other reason for this post than to tell you I am super jealous of her home and wish I could get my act together enough to replicate it. She has a lovely eye for design and inspires me to simplify, simplify, simplify! Clutter = the enemy. There is so much breathing room here, both physically and mentally, which is certainly something everyone should consider cultivating in every home.
You *know* I am coveting that giant, sparkly geode on the coffee table, too. Oh, and she has a phenomenal view of one of SF's many parks, which are newly green and fresh from all of the glorious rain we've been getting.
I should have taken more photos for you to drool over. Basically, Le sigh:
"We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
"Putting love first means knowing that the universe supports you in creating the good, the holy, the beautiful. It means knowing that you're on this earth for a purpose, and that the purpose itself will create opportunities for its accomplishment."
What do you think about one of our first tasks of 2106 involving the generous act of forgiving little ol' me for taking an extra couple of days to announce the winner of my Run Across Haiti fundraising giveaway?
Great. Y'all are the best, and I appreciate it. I definitely think this helps us each to start off on a better foot.
(...also, oops. so sorry. holiday travel time is not my most productive...)
With a little random name grabbing help from B, the lucky winner is...
Ms. Honey T!!
Your goodies will be shipped within a few days, snail mail style :)
Thank you, thank you, thank you to every person who donated. This trip means more to me than I have the proper words for explaining right now, but please know that my heart is so ready to be cracked open by the beautiful people I am going to meet. Your support, specifically in this way, helps to ease my mind and simply allow for the lessons, love, light, and new perspectives to come in.
Like Dorothy in the last episode of GG (which I can only watch maybe once per year because I cry all over again and poor B can barely keep up with me and my emotions as it is), I feel very strongly about your helping to grant me new wings, meant for grand adventures, in 2016.