The sound of the music had me dancing in my seat. As I watched the couples gliding across the floor, their movements telling a story of love, heartache, failure, and triumph, I imagined myself on that dance floor telling my own story. One filled with death, struggle, survival, happiness, and freedom. We all have a story to tell and I am going to share some of mine. But first, let’s go back to the dancing.
I was enthralled. For a period of time, I was taken to another world, one where music and dance intertwined and the spoken word is not needed. I’ve always loved to dance, so to see a Tango show up close and personal was exciting. However, to see it where Tango originated, Argentina, on my 40th birthday was remarkable. My husband joined me as we ventured the beautiful city of Buenos Aires and celebrated my 40th birthday all week long. Why such a celebration? Why not? I deserved to mark the 40 years I have been on this earth. Somehow as women, we started to envision getting older as a scary event, like a doomsday. Some began lying about their age or refusing to acknowledge it. The thought of approaching yet another decade can make a man or a woman cringe with fear. Getting older became synonymous with dying. As women continue to live longer, they must begin to change their mentality and learn how to use their age as a tool in rediscovering another part of themselves that perhaps has been shelved due to any number of reasons, such as; becoming mothers or wives; focusing on our careers; or health limitations. Reaching a milestone birthday should be a time of reflection- what has happened, where are you at now, and where do you want to be in one, three, five, or ten years. How have you changed as a person, as a woman?
For me, having to deal with the death of my mother at 21yrs old certainly changed how I viewed myself back then. It was a time when most 21yr olds are relishing in young adulthood, I was grieving. I was mourning not just my mother, but of a time of my life that I would not be able to live with abandon. Looking back, I can see how it was the catalyst of how I chose to view life. The premise being that life is short. We’ve all heard that expression. For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, this truth is ever more prominent. During that period, I made a lot of mistakes and endured the consequences of poor decisions. However, it began to shape the person I am today because I learned from those mistakes and as the years passed, gained valuable lessons.
My twenties was about failing, surviving, and struggling. In my thirties I found emotional freedom, and now that I am in my forties, I know myself. I am aware of what I want and I am not afraid to voice it. I am confident in my ability to endure confrontations, mature enough to admit my mistakes, and smart enough to know when to move on. My evolution is ongoing. I may know who I am, however, I can continue to grow. I meditate, practice yoga, and write as a way to break through any blockages that keeps me stuck. Through these mediums, I learn more about myself every day. What do you do to learn about yourself?
Whatever your age is, think about what that means to you. How do you define your age? If you lie about your age, aren’t you really denying your rightful place at that stage of your life? You earned every wrinkle, stretch mark, or scar. Be proud. Use that to recognize the strength you have within you. If you are a mother and have a daughter, how is your perception of age affecting her? If you have a niece or younger sister, how are your views possibly affecting how she thinks of women and aging? They see and hear everything, even when you think they don’t. Collectively, we must begin to change the concept of women getting old and men becoming distinguished. There are a number of successful, accomplished women who have defied time and used their age as a tool rather than a hazard. With age comes knowledge, confidence, maturity – I could go on and on. The point is, you must begin to shift your thinking from I am getting older to I embody youth, wisdom, and vitality.
At 42, I feel grateful that I was able to graduate from college, survive the death of my mother, have a successful social work career, get married, give birth to a healthy child, and start a business. These huge accomplishments were accompanied by stress, grief, anger, fear, doubt, happiness, and laughter. These experiences are a part of me. I would not trade one challenge for anything in the world. Our experiences and decisions guide us where we are meant to go – our path stretches out before us.
Our strength comes from past and current experiences, good and bad – like a rock pounded by the waves, we are shaped and weathered, and powerful beyond measure.
Ask yourself, “Why are you afraid of getting older? What is the fear that resides inside of you?”
As you begin to uncover the reasons behind your fear of aging, you will notice that you will embrace your age instead of avoiding it. You must surrender to the aging process, in order to reap the benefits of the bounty that life has to offer. I can honestly say that I have never had any issues with my age. I entered each decade with reverence. Why? Well, I am grateful for the following reasons: I have not just lived another year but 42 of them; I have had my health and my life is full of love and career fulfillment. I welcome the daily challenges, and I have always been thankful for waking up every morning being able to see, hear, walk, and talk.
As you get older, it’s about coming into awareness of who you truly are, your authentic self. It’s about acceptance and letting go. I would rather not relive my twenties; in my thirties, I reveled in every experience; and in my forties, I focus on accepting people as they are, forgiveness, and self-care.
Forget for a moment how old you are. When you think about your ideal life, what does that look like? Do you think it is possible to achieve that? Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible – there are always opportunities for you to accomplish things you thought you couldn’t – if you stay open to serendipity. You can get that high school or college degree, you can switch careers – perhaps not from rocket science to a career as a ballerina, as you imagined as a child, but you could certainly find a way to use your strengths in a brand new industry. What is your passion?
What brings you joy and happiness?
My son makes me laugh every day, and I love settling down with a good book on my deck. Sometimes I get lost in the moment.
Time should be your focus, not age. How are you going to use your time on this earth? Are you going to feel lowly about your age, or accept it and truly live? Take advantage of the fact that you are still alive! Use any opportunity you have to finally take that course, ask that guy out, or to treat yourself. Refocus your attention to living for today. I’m not suggesting that you neglect your responsibilities, but to insert taking care of yourself into your daily routine. Start to check off all the items on your bucket list. We do not know what the future holds or how much time we have been given, so choose wisely and remember – numbers are just numbers – it’s only when we put meaning to something that it becomes more than what it is.