Aging Gracefully: Inner Radiance Creates Outer Beauty

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Recently I wrote that aging gracefully is an inside job meaning that the internal process of tapping into our wise woman wisdom creates a beauty and majesty of spirit and energy that supersedes the superficial manifestations of our bodies.  Ours is a youth oriented culture obsessed with the young.  We are perpetually bombarded with artificially reconstructed older faces and the overly thin and air brushed images on the big screens and magazines.  Whether a woman chooses to have plastic surgery or not, is an individual choice, hopefully made with clarity, thoughtfulness and enough money to pay for the procedure outright.  Of course, we all want to feel good about ourselves.  Of course, we all want to look our very best and have a swagger in our step as we strut our stuff…….that’s a no brainer.  But……..

What is so much more important than the number of wrinkles or age spots is creating a culture where women themselves grow into an appreciation of their own individual and collective inner greatness.  We, the boomer women, must become the change agents ourselves where we not only tap into our individual and collective voices, but it is incumbent upon us to SHOUT OUT our messages, visions, and life lessons.  We must reclaim our long lost tradition of being the heart and soul of the community – the historian, the healer, the teacher, the advisor, the voice of a long life of lessons learned and wisdom gained.

While it is a daunting task to think about challenging and restructuring a very ingrained system that does not innately cherish and revere or seek out elder woman wisdom, I would like to suggest some first  steps…..steps that begin first with an inner journey into ourselves.

1.  SELF AWARENESS:  Ask yourself: What are your gifts?  What life lessons have you learned?  What stories can you share about your life?

2.  PAY ATTENTION TO THE SUBTLE AND MAYBE NOT SO SUBTLE DYNAMICS  OF THE FAMILY, SOCIAL, BUSINESS, EDUCATIONAL GROUPS YOU ATTEND Who does most of the talking?  Do some people monopolize the conversation?  Is everyone engaged? Are you?  Why or why not?

3.    SHARE YOUR WISE WOMAN STORIES AND LESSONS: Tell your stories. Share   your life lessons with friends, family, your children. Leave a written legacy of your life.

4.  ENCOURAGE OTHER  WOMEN TO SHARE THEIR STORIES AND LIFE LESSONS:  Invite friends over with the express purpose of a story telling night. Ask elder women to tell their stories…..

5.   WHETHER YOU KNOW IT OR NOT, YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL FOR EVERY  GIRL OR WOMAN YOU MEET:   Be aware that your views and opinions about growing older are being expressed covertly, nonverbally and through actions, attitudes and conversations. What messages are you actually sending?

6.  TALK ABOUT GROWING OLDER: Let’s bring the topic of aging into mainstreamconversation. How is it different from the perspective of a 20 year old or an octogenarian? Ask yourself and others of all ages, “HOW DO YOU WANT TO AGE?”  Let’s begin to demystify growing old by talking about it, taking power around it through right choices, and bringing it into our culture through awareness, conversations and visibility.

 I believe it is essential for each and every one of us to take the time and make a commitment to ourselves to explore the richness of our own lives as well as to affirm and claim the lessons we have learned, and to honor the gifts that we have bestowed upon the world. 

 And it is through our own self acceptance and appreciation of who we are that our inner radiance will glow ever more brightly and we can move to shine this light on the world.

By Roberta Teller

Aging Gracefully is an Inside Job

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This boomer woman is aging gracefully.

This boomer woman is aging gracefully.

As a boomer woman, I have been pondering what aging gracefully actually means. On the surface, the term has a benevolent tone – a compliment of sorts or perhaps a kind appraisal of an older woman’s physical appearance.  But underneath this idiomatic facade, I see the language of this phrase as one that demeans, negates and undermines the richness and depth of the woman inside. It has become a euphemism for someone who is physically aging, yet it ignores the spirit and substance and breadth and experiences of this woman. It is another example of how the superficiality of a woman’s  physical self trumps the essence of who she really  is.

I would like to create a new paradigm for aging gracefully.  I propose that we look at growing older with grace as an opportunity to comment and honor the wisdom learned from the accumulation of one’s life experiences as opposed to how many wrinkles one has or how many more pounds have been added on over the years.  l suggest that we give voice to a life lived and listen to the lessons learned from the good and maybe not so great choices that were made along the life path.  I ask my fellow boomer women to proudly tell their stories so that all of us – young and old – may gain further insights and understandings about life – all the while getting to know you…….the real you…..the person.

I envision that we look to women from all walks of life, from all economic, class and racial backgrounds and we must not forget women who have been physically,  mentally or emotionally challenged.  I implore upon us to seek out women who have achieved great success – success not measured in dollar signs but in creating meaning and purpose and living their authentic life – whether they ran a large corporation, worked as professionals or in blue collar jobs or were stay at home moms.

To me aging gracefully is about the content – not the container. It is the culmination of a life lived, challenges met, obstacles overcome, and through the lessons learned, mistakes made, chances taken, so we gracefully age.  And, like it has been said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” I say, it’s never too late to begin to age gracefully and to give honor and respect and voice to our sisters who are already there…..Aging gracefully is not about what we look like, but about how we get to be who we are. It’s an inside job.

 

By Roberta Teller

Aging Gracefully: Reflections from this Boomer Woman

This boomer woman is aging gracefully.

This boomer woman is aging gracefullly.

I am one of many boomer women struggling with aging gracefully  I flip flop between being so grateful to have lived to my 66th year in good health with vigor and vitality and on the other hand, sometimes I  feel like screaming,  “Oh my God, what is happening to my body.?” The truth is up until recently, age never much mattered to me.  While some of my friends bemoaned turning 30 (yes, that is true), and some of my friends wouldn’t tell their boyfriends or husbands, or even their girlfriends how old they were (How could they get away with that?), the truth is I have always been proud of my age; maybe that was because I always looked younger than my years, or at least that’s what people said.  Or maybe it was because growing old was so far out of my way of seeing myself, that it just didn’t resonate with me; “Me, Roberta Teller, an old lady?”  Disconnect!

As matter of  fact, I have always enjoyed honoring my birth. I have had  a long standing tradition of celebrating every birthday-especially the ones that started a new decade.  I remember my 30th birthday party with the male belly dancers gyrating  around my Berkeley apartment living room with plates of lit candles on their heads…….And my 40th birthday party with all my friends stuffed into my tiny Mabel Street living room.  And that short black dress I wore to my 50th and the long skirt I had on for my 60th birthday……..hmmmmmm……maybe that was a clue of what was ahead……..

So, the truth is age never much mattered to me…….until now.

 To be honest, I’m not sure that it’s really the age thing…..I think it’s more of what I see and notice and feel……I wonder sometimes if  the scaly skin on my arms and legs are signs that I am perhaps a descendent of a fish or perhaps even worse, I’m a mutant specimen who is evolving back to the sea……..I am a water sign, after all.     And, where has the elasticity gone in my skin…..?  Now, if I happen to pinch myself, my skin seems to stand at attention like a soldier who has forgotten that she was dismissed.   And then there are those things they call “age spots” that appear all over my body.  Can’t they call it something else, like wisdom mounds or beauty dots?  I have a special relationship with the ones on my face…..I just bought a product at Aveda this week called a “concealer” so I can hide these facial intrusions.  I keep forgetting to put it on……

 And then there’s my neck……that protrusion of soft skin that no longer wants to adhere to whatever it was attached to before…….and the gray hair that I strive to color back to its natural state that I can no longer even remember.   And, oh how I miss my naturally wavy hair that the grey hairs insist on keeping straight.  I feel a sense of shame about my unkind and  judgmental self.  And then I feel more shame and guilt because I shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, at all.  But I am.

“Well”, I tell myself, this is just superficial crap.  It’s the youth culture mentality of our society and I don’t buy into it…….But I do…..on some level at least.  That’s why I color my hair and I bought “the concealer”  the other day.  I want to look good, be considered attractive, pretty…….young????   Younger than I am??????.  And while  I probably would never really consider plastic surgery, I can kinda understand why (mostly, but not only) women spend huge amounts of money buying all kinds of cosmetics and promises of a youth returned, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to remove wrinkles and tighten up that loose skin.  And yet,  recently,  when I was watching the Academy Awards, I was shocked and revolted when I saw the new and improved John Travolta who looked mannequin like and other worldly.  Or have you seen Joan Rivers lately?  I don’t want THAT either.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I too, am a victim of the youth oriented society and the ageist language of the culture we live in.  But with that said, never liking to consider myself a victim, I am also a survivor.  And while I haven’t come to completely embrace my physically aging self,  I have stopped trying to hide it or deny it or fix it…….I am moving towards  acceptance of growing older. I am learning that the physical manifestations of aging are far less important than the richness, and meaning and vitality that I infuse into my life.  And, I see myself as  a beautiful 66 year old woman with some wrinkles and beauty dots who is aging gracefully as she passes each year.

Oh, and if you happen to see me in the middle of the summer with a gorgeous shawl wrapped tight around my neck, remember, I am a work in progress……and wink at me in solidarity.

By Roberta Teller