Have you noticed the interesting language that we use when it comes to aging? I have been listening more consciously lately, more intentionally, and I am somewhat befuddled at the language and how it directs us to do the impossible.
Have you ever seen an anti-adolescence ad? Have you seen an anti-young adulthood ad? How about an anti-middle age ad (well, maybe we start to get into it there…..)? And how there are age categories for the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties- and then you begin to see “50 and above?” A senior citizen can begin at either 62 or 65….and then the rest of the years become even more invisible as time goes on.
The skin commercials are intriguing. They talk about anti-aging, defying aging, reversing aging, fighting aging, combating aging. Now I don’t pretend to not be part of all of this, as I use skin creams, try my best to look as good as I can (with the internalized standards of youth that our society has defined as looking good). But really, is it necessary to often use models that have no need for skin creams in those ads? I mean, really, there is no skin cream that is going to make me look like I am 30 again….let’s be serious here…
But, really, the truth is….aging happens (if we are lucky enough to live that long). Aging is a normal part of life’s progression. Aging is what happens when we continue to live. Yet we are constantly told of how we should fight it, defy it, deny it, and by any means possible, hide it, and indeed even hate it.
What does that to our self esteem, our sense of worth, our vision of who we are and what we offer and bring to the world? How does that effect what I think and say to myself when I look in the mirror and see the inevitable signs of time passing? What does that do to me when I try to buy clothes, go to the gym, participate in life to the fullest extent possible when I am seen as fading into the sunset…..? What effect does that have on my sense of worth and value?
So this, instead, is what I am trying to fight and defy (some days more successfully than others). I want to defy the idea that I no longer am worth as much, that I may no longer have as much to offer now that I am retired (from my career, yes – from my life, no). I want to fight that voice within myself that has internalized all these negative messages about aging and thus about who I am now that I am older. I want to fight the part of me that goes along with the pressure to simply fade into the background until it is my time to die. I want to fight dying before I am dead. Rather than being anti-aging, how about anti-ageism?
Yes, aging brings changes and those are real and need to be dealt with. But we do not need to simply write off a whole group of people that still have vitality, passion, gifts to offer, wisdom to share, love to experience and life to live. Indeed, might it not even be possible to embrace lives well lived, wisdom gained, experiences to share? Don’t we have enough battles in life without adding more to the list of what we should fight? Especially fights that we cannot win?
I am aging. I cannot fight that or defy that or deny that (even though sometimes I may try…). But, I can fight being invisible, being quiet, allowing even my own self to not see everything that I am anymore. I can fight for my right to still be alive, because…I am still here, still breathing….still on this earth with things to say and gifts to share, to those that are open to seeing them. We are still here…..we are not dead yet!