A few months ago, I was talking to my girlfriend, Sarah, on one of our recent car phone conversations. We both are professors in different states and do most of our talking on our commute to work. During the summers, we talk less, but do manage to catch each other in between errands. I treasure our conversations. We can lament about life in academia, raising teen daughters, or the random and mundane. I shared with her that I was going to send a dress back I had purchased online because I didn’t like how it was hugging my midsection without wearing a spanx. To which Sara exclaimed, “Who cares anymore? We are not even over 40! We are closer to 50! Keep the dress and wear the spanx!” That sent us on a conversation about aging.
Though not necessarily welcomed, I am grateful to see the middle-aged belly bulge, the smile lines I just noticed this summer and few more strands of gray hair at my temples. One day I woke up and needed progressive lenses—I like that name better than bi-focals, which is what my mother had. And now, my hip hurts if I sit too long. I embrace all of these changes because it reminds me that I am still alive, but I do ponder, “When did this happen?” Kind of in the same way you wonder when your kids grew right before your eyes and out of the clothes and shoes that they could (or you wished they could) get more wear. You don’t see it when it is happening, but one day you notice it in a dramatic way.
Aging is a blessing! As I have reflected on it this summer, I came up with two take-aways.
- Learn to be content with your body as you are becoming or being your best self. This can be especially hard for women in a society that profits from our discontent and insecurities. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said, “I look pretty good,” or “I like what I see.”? I feel like I have wasted the last 13 years, the age of my younger daughter, obsessing about my stomach because my 37 or 40- year-old stomach no longer looked like my pre-babies, 30-year-old stomach. Yet, when I saw a picture come up in my Facebook memories in 2015, I thought, “My stomach really didn’t look too bad.” So, why did I think that then? Further, I will take that 2015 stomach today. While our bodies will not be versions of our younger selves, we can still take care of them and be our best selves. For each of us, that will be different. For some it will be laying off the carbs and processed foods and getting more exercise in our lifestyles, for others it might be updating your look or trying something new. Whatever it is, we have to love who we are now as we are being and becoming.
- Aging represents the gift of life. To wake up to see another day is a gift from God. This point is even more poignant for me as I think about my college-friend, Danielle, who passed last year at age 47. With that gift will come smile lines, gray hairs, and other changes in our bodies. For these, I will not complain, but say, “Thank you!” What better way to show God our gratitude than by being content with the bodies we do have and being good stewards of them as well?
I appreciate Sarah’s matter-of-fact attitude on aging: This is the stage of life where we are now, and it is what it is. With that, I am still headed to the gym this morning and I will keep the dress…and the spanx.