I was hanging out on Twitter earlier today, when I saw a tweet that caught my eye. Unashamed as I am, I think I kinda crashed someone else’s conversation (sorry, @sacreddiscovery and @nellynoise! :)), but it really got me thinking.
It reminded me of a thing my Dad used to say as I was growing up. He thinks that there’s nothing more beautiful than wrinkles in a woman’s face, as it means she has truly lived. Smiled. Experienced. Felt. Laughed. Cried. Smiled again. It would in fact be a disaster if she kept her young looking skin through her years, as she’d have to be an unfeeling robot for that to happen.
Maybe it’s because my Dad’s constant reminders that age is beautiful, but I’ve never been afraid of growing old. Yeah, it was hard getting increasingly closer to 30 without having met (and landed) the Man in My Life, and it was hard passing 32 without having been able to become pregnant the traditional way, too – but that was more about natural deadlines than about the aging itself.
This is all about what we never accomplished in our lives. It’s the lives we never lived for ourselves, the choices that were made for all the wrong reasons and to please all the wrong people. That’s what we don’t want to face. That’s what scares the shit out of us, and sends us screaming for the facelifts.
We are not done yet!!
If you’ve ever studied psychology, you’ll probably know the theories of Erikson, where he talks about the 8 different ages in a person’s life. Every age has two sides to it, Erikson believes – as a baby, for example, you either learn that the world around you can be trusted, or that it can’t. And as an old person, you deal with the theme of integrity vs. despair. It all comes down to how you’ve lived your life.
If you look back on a life filled with accomplishments and love, you meet your old age coming to wisdom and integrity, playing Sinatra singing My Way on your way out of this world. If you don’t, you despair and you spend your last days as a sad, bitter woman.
I think that this is why so many of us fear aging so much. See, our theme, raising children and going to work, is about generativity vs. stagnation. We need to build something that will outlast us, something that means something to someone – and failing to do that will lead us to only to despair and bitterness further down the line. There will be nothing to look back on for us. Nothing to be proud of. Nothing to show for a long life. Just a life, where we went through the motions, doing what was expected, suppressing our heart’s desires.
I’ll turn 36 in a few week’s time. People around me, at my age, are actually starting to freak out a bit. I was in a birthday party for my little niece the other day, and the female members of my family spontaneously made a circle and started talking about this topic. I remember telling them that if 40 is anything like turning 35, I’m really looking forward to it. It was seriously the best birthday I’ve ever had, and I’m embracing my old age as it comes somewhere down that line. In fact, I think it’s going to be awesome!
Because I have always lived my own life. I’ve always been a Wild Woman.
I’ve always danced to the rhythms of my own heartbeat. I’ve made some extremely bad choices in my life, that’s true, but they have been mine, based on the chore of my integrity. I couldn’t have done it in any other way, lest I’d be unfaithful to myself. Lest I’d be living someone elses life. I never did that. I played it by heart.
And I know that if I keep making my choices like that, then I will meet wisdom and integrity in my old age for sure. I will be one of the old, wonderful ladies looking back on a long, heart-lived life, sharing my experiences and wisdom with the younger members of my family and tribe.
I will be that wise woman, so warm and secure, with beautiful smiling wrinkles in her face, and with eyes that see beyond whatever society we live in, in that day and age. I will be one of the providers of knowledge, one of the few who will remember how we fought for nature and authenticity – and won. I will be one of the people who knows what mistakes can cost, but also what we can do to heal them. That healing is always possible.
How can I try to hide that beautiful, aging face with make-up and expensive creams?
How can I not want to be her?
I have been a Maiden. I am a Mother. Sooner or later, I will become a Crone. And I will embrace her when she comes to me.
PS! The woman on the image above is actually my great great grandmother, Ingerid Løkka Flåterud. She lived to be 81, pretty amazing considering the times she lived in. 🙂