Aging with Grace

Aging with Grace

I took a selfie the other day.  I mean, what else are you supposed to do when the lighting is great and the makeup you put on for Mass is still on point at 5:00 pm?  So, no, I guess taking the selfie wasn’t all that unusual.  Instead, it was what happened after that when I looked at the picture that kind of threw me for a loop.  Wait, I thought, is that really what I look like?  Aging with grace, friends.  Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.

A mental disconnect

I stared at that picture of myself for several minutes.  In fact, I kept coming back to it again and again over the next day, taking inventory of what I saw.  White hair, saggy eyes, the beginnings of (heaven forbid) jowls.  Some general puffiness, faint lines, but no real wrinkles to speak of.  It almost felt like I was staring at a picture of somebody else.  Someone who, granted, looked a whole lot like me, but that couldn’t be me…could it?

I mean, this is not what I see in the mirror and certainly not what I see in my mind’s eye.

And this picture only showed my face!  Move on down the topography of my person and there’d be even more to add to the list.  Underarm flaps, a big soft belly, and cellulite.  The difference with those things, though, is that I do see them in the mirror.  But again, in my mind’s eye, they just don’t exist.  Weird, right?

And then I got to thinking.  Is this phenomenon something that only lives in my head?  Or is this something other women deal with, too?  So I decided to find out.

Strength in numbers

This is the picture I’m talking about.  On Monday, I posted it to both Instagram and Facebook with the following caption:

“One of the things I find most fascinating about getting older is the disconnect between how I *think* I look in my head and how I *actually* look in pictures.

I still, more than 5 years since my last dye-job, think of myself as some with dark hair. Can you believe that? I’m still shocked by how white my hair looks in the sunlight!  I think of my skin as still quite firm, not so saggy…my eyes not so puffy.  And I usually picture myself as a young woman! I know, I know — I still am, relatively speaking. But I still think that people should be shocked to find that I have a son who’s ready to leave for college. Most of the time, though, they aren’t surprised at all.

I guess what it boils down to is that, in my head, I still think I’m somewhere around 35.
And it’s not that I’m saying 42 is bad and 35 is good. I’m just saying that my brain hasn’t quite caught up with reality yet.
So, does this resonate with any of you? Women who have a few years on me – does the mind ever catch up?”
…in my head, I still think I’m somewhere around 35.
Well, you can tell by reading the comments that I am certainly not alone in feeling this way.  And I have to admit, it made me feel a whole lot better.  Both about the picture and my mental state in regards to it!

Aging with grace

I’ve talked several times here on the blog about body image, exercise, and weight.  It’s not news that this is something I struggle with.  But one thing I’m trying very hard to keep in mind as I age and as my daughters get older is this.
I want to view my body not as I see it in the mirror or in pictures.  Not how I envision it to be in my head.  But how the people who love me most and the God who created me see it…through a lens of ultimate acceptance and love.
And that, my friends, is how we go about aging with grace.  Not by using any of a million lotions & potions or skincare products (though I do love me some of those!).  Not by any specific dietary or fitness regimen, even though those are wonderful ways of taking care of ourselves.  But by changing the lens through which we see ourselves.  Which, I think we all can agree, is easier said than done.
Instead, maybe we should consider the words of St. Catherine of Siena…
What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and he might weep when they are gone.
God is in love with all of what makes us us!  He knows and loves every gray hair and crow’s foot, every stretch mark and laugh line, every dimple of cellulite and every muscle we’ve worked so hard to tone.  Our children love our squishy bellies that are so nice to lay their heads on and our husbands love our curves.
So, friend, how about we all decide to cut ourselves some slack?  Let’s make peace with both the younger version of ourselves that lives in our mind’s eye and the beautiful person we see in the mirror or photograph.  And then, we’ll truly begin aging with (capital g) Grace.
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