I Need An Editor…..For My Life!

I recently inquired about becoming one of the writers for Crows Feet, which I am excited to join. The woman responding very kindly suggested, after she read some of my blog posts, that it would fit in with Crows Feet, that I might want to look at what I might be able to cut out of my posts, to make my writing more succinct…..to the point….

This got me thinking….(which can always be a dangerous thing, but here I go anyway…)…

Isn’t that something that we could all use for our life, for our relationships? How many times have I not been as clear as I might be in conversations and not stated as clearly as I might exactly what I was trying to communicate…? How many times was I as clear as I could be in stating exactly what I needed and wanted? How many extra words may have gotten in the way that made it more difficult to really understand or hear what I was trying to say?

I laugh when I think back on a time when someone gave me some feedback on a note that I was trying to write at work where I was attempting to set a limit and say no to a particular task…..
I had written a rather lengthy note explaining what was going on, why I wasn’t able to take on this particular task, how I appreciated what they needed, how I would not be able to do a proper job on this task given everything else that was going on, etc….

This friend told me to face my computer, erase all that I had written, and dictated what I should write instead. He said….”Write this…….I am not able to take this on at this time. Thank you.” I sat at my desk in a bit of shock. I wondered, is he serious? Is this enough? I laughed at the difference from what I had written and what he proposed.

I wonder….how often have I and do I continue to do this in my life? How often do I feel like I have to explain everything that I do, make excuses when I need to say no, apologize for setting limits, feel like I cannot simply say “no”? How often does the bottom line and point of what I am trying to say get lost in too many words? How often am I not as clear as I might be in expressing what I want and need and feel? How often do I feel the need to dress up the truth, hide it in excuses, make it sound softer and more gentle ? I am not saying that we need not be kind in our communications…..but, for me at least, I need to be more direct. Take a deep breath and speak my truth more clearly and succinctly….and face whatever the reaction may be, knowing that I have spoken my truth.

And also, how often may I have waited a bit too long to say what I needed and perhaps have it come out more harshly than needed? How often have I not been as clear with some of my feelings…? How many times may I have reacted out of fear or anger or hurt, but not admitted these feelings before, instead only lashing out with the person having no idea of all that may have led up to my intense reaction at that moment?

Sometimes an editor tells you to cut out all the excess. Sometimes an editor asks you to be more clear and direct with what you are trying to say. Or tells you to take a breath, step back, and think about it a bit more and then try again. To think about your audience and what they may be reading (or hearing) and understanding…..

You never know when you will get another valuable lesson in your life. This kind woman gave me a gift…..she gave me feedback about my writing . My writing come from my heart and soul. She gave me feedback on how to have that better heard and understood… How to express that heart and soul more directly….cut out the excess. She may not have known that she gave me this gift, but she did – and I am grateful.

Now…..how to figure out how to get this (inner) editor for my life that helps bring out who I truly am. I realize I have been using internal editors who are critical in ways that encourage me to inhibit and hide who I am….I think it’s time to fire these editors and bring on the new….editors who help me clearly and directly write the book of my life. So that it will be the book of my life, not what I think that someone else thinks my life should be. Written with honesty, clarity, courage, (some fear, but what is courage without fear?) Written from my heart and soul – so that others can see who I am, maybe relate, and maybe then have a bit more permission from their own editors to express who they truly are. And then, maybe, we can truly see each other for all that we are? And see that we, indeed, are perfect (faults and rough edges and all) just as we are. And that it’s ok to show that to the world and not have to hide it in lots of camouflage or extra words or apologies…..and that it’s ok to ask for what we need and want (we may not get it, but it is still ok to ask for it), and that we deserve (in fact, need) to be who and what we are while we are still alive.

Aging and Solitude

Solitude is a gift to me. Solitude is the place where I can sit, listen and actually hear myself (and mySelf), and replenish my spirit and soul. It is something that I require in order to sustain myself and in order to also be able to relate deeply to those with whom I choose to relate with. I am particular about who I choose, but that topic is for another post.

This pandemic, although I would not wish this on anyone, has brought several gifts to me…..one being that since I retired (right after the pandemic started, as luck would have it), I have spent much time alone in solitude with no pressure to do anything or be anything more than what I am in the quiet space of my own home.

I am lucky (at least in my value system and life) to live alone and feel comfortable with this. Living alone gives me the space and time and quiet to rediscover who I am. Rediscovering the parts of me that had been set aside during all the years of working in my career and the fatigue and exhaustion that sometimes accompanied that.

At first I wasn’t sure how to navigate this whole new life where I was completely responsible for the daily structure and purpose. It was another added blow to lose three kitties (two of them had been with me for 17 years) in the first year after retirement. It became a bit confusing just what I was grieving at which particular moment. My beloved kitties and companions…..my entire life as I knew it and my definition of self as I knew it….my sense of purpose…..waves of grief would flow over me for all of these things….and more. Grief for my youth. Grief for what society defined as being “productive”. Grief for my sense of belonging to a group of people who became my family, given the hours we would spend working together at the job. And in the pandemic, grief for the world as we knew it. Everything changed, and I lost my sense of direction.

So here I am now, almost 2 years post retirement (it will be 2 years in May)…..and I am quieter, calmer, more pensive, and so very grateful. I now can write more (although it becomes increasingly clear to me that I need to set up a bit more structure to do that more consistently), I can paint (and this can now be an obsession revisited and delighted in), and I can exercise when I want (repeat the line here about needing to set up a bit more structure to do that more consistently), go out for walks when I want, have coffee when I want, do nothing when I want (I consider it vital to have times where I simply just sit and let things flow through me to see what comes up), go to sleep when I want, get up when I want, (although again some structure seems helpful. I just don’t need to be rigid about that.) Such gifts.

Is there pain and sadness also involved in the gifts of solitude? Absolutely. I feel such deep sadness at times, and loneliness that cannot be soothed by another human. I feel fear and quiet amazement at the realization that this body that I have been loaned really does have an expiration date. I will die. Of course we all die, but aging makes that fact much more real and in your face (and body, and functioning, and mind, and in all sorts of ways….). I find it strange as I take care of estate planning and am thinking about what final arrangements that I would like….it feels strange to plan for your own demise.

Yet that also brings gifts. How much more precious each moment becomes. And how important it is for me to not rush to try and necessarily fill it with adventures (although some of this, of course, is fun and good to do), but to rather focus on how much to more fully live this life in each moment. To appreciate each breath. To take delight in watching a bird take a bath and let myself enjoy that moment and all of its beauty.

I am lucky enough to volunteer at our local zoo, observing our elephants. I spend two hour shifts simply watching and recording their behavior – and being with them. How little, I realize, we do that with each other and at times even less so with ourselves. To simply allow ourselves to be….to be alive to each moment and each breath.

I am grateful for this chance and space to share some of my thoughts with those of you who may read this. I am grateful for your time, your attention, and for sharing a moment connected in time. My solitude helps me appreciate real connections even more…..and appreciate each of you. We are still here – still expressing ourselves – still very much alive.

The Canvas and Palette of Your Life

I almost threw out a painting that I was working on several days ago. It just wouldn’t come out right, and I thought it was a lost cause….

And then, I thought…well, I have heard that paintings get painted over sometimes….so why not at least throw some paint on this canvas and see if I can make it work.

So, first attempt…..and the painting was not what I had hoped for at all….so I put it away for a day to see how I would feel and what might come up. And, the next day or so, I tried again to modify it, cover up what I thought didn’t work, and see what I could do to make it look like what I meant for it to be…..This was a first attempt at this particular animal, and it was looking like every other animal except the one that I was trying to paint! Back to the canvas day after day after day. I sometimes share my progress with my paintings with several friends who enjoy seeing the stages of a painting. Not so much with this one…..as the voices in my own head were critical enough and I didn’t want to add any more to the jury within….! I only shared with one dear person who I know is supportive and kind, and who I trust to show my imperfect process ….in my paintings and in my life.

Onward. More paint added, more adjustments made…..better, but still not right. Put it away again for the day. I became amused at myself having become a woman obsessed with this particular painting. Every extra moment became devoted to working on it. I can be persistent, if nothing else…!

Still not right…but getting better …..

And then, it actually began to look like what I was attempting to paint…..this animal was beginning to show himself on the canvas! Such excitement and relief!

I have finished the painting now, and it is good enough.. I still see areas that are not quite “perfect”…but it is good enough. It is actually a gift for a dear friend, so I put even more pressure on myself….it is a surprise gift and I want it to be a happy surprise….Ah, the internal voices within and their constant chorus and judgment. Yet, I am happy to say that I have added other jurors to the group who speak much more on my behalf with kindness and compassion and a more objective eye….and I am grateful. So grateful. I am continuing to interview more of these positive jurors….it will be an ongoing project for the rest of my life….

As with most things in life, there has been yet another lesson for me in this process. Perhaps it is one that some of you may be able to relate to as well?

Don’t give up on your life…..the canvas is not done yet. and things can be painted over and shifted while you are still alive…..you can keep working on things….you can keep going. Don’t throw out the canvas before you get to see what might become a masterpiece. Your life. Your canvas. Your palette of colors. Your glorious imperfections that add to the overall beauty of who you are and all that you bring to this world. You are unique. You have beauty that is uniquely yours. You are a work in progress, and not done yet…..not while you are still here. You are beauty in the making. Walk away from whatever you are working on if you need to for a while….it’s ok to take a break. And things may look differently in the morning. Take your time. Be patient. Laugh at all the versions of your life that may not be quite what you were exactly hoping for….and keep on going. The canvas has more to reveal. So do you.

Your Voice is Everywhere

I have been a fairly quiet person for most of my life (all my past significant others may beg to differ on this…..as one on one I can be quite verbal….and have a lot to say….!) I worked as a social worker in my career (have been retired now for almost two years). One of the comments that a psychologist gave me that I truly appreciated was that I work quietly in the background to do the best work that I can…..that I don’t call attention to myself or my work, but rather just attend to what needs to be attended to. Quietly.

So here I now am, and I find that I need to pay attention to all the ways that my voice has expressed itself. I had a dear friend recently walk into my home and say “This is you.” That got me thinking…a lot….

So I look around at my home, and I see that, if someone wants to know me, all they have to do is to look. I live in a home that resembles a cozy cabin, with lots of wood, and a “lived in” feel and look. My house is surrounded by trees, which I love. I have books spilling out everywhere. My art work (I have been painting more these days, now that I have more time) is there for others to see. My paintings all have pieces of me in them.

I have this blog. It’s interesting to me which of my friends follow this, and others that prefer other methods of getting to know me. No judgment, but an interest in noticing this. I pour my soul into this blog as well. And it is there for anyone who does me the honor of reading it. They will know me, and often in a way that others may not take the time to find out.

I dress very comfortably most of the time, especially now that I am retired. I make no major fashion statement, except to say that comfort is first and foremost the primary ingredient. I color my hair lighter these days, for fun (and so that the roots don’t show as much now that I am older…..and to help me feel brighter…) I struggle with weight, and the fluctuations in my weight are there for all to notice.

If someone pays attention, you can tell my mood for the day by how I walk, how I may or may not interact with those that I run into….how much eye contact I make, how much I reach out to pets passing by…..whether I smile at strangers or not……whether I venture out into the world or have a day of solitude within my home….We show ourselves in so many ways.

I get shy sometimes, and yet am pushing through this – both with this blog and with my paintings. I have had the honor of having several of my paintings accepted into a magazine. I am astonished that this is happening now, when I wondered what kind of life would be left now that I am no longer defined by my career. How lovely (and sometimes a bit anxiety provoking) to be noticed and appreciated. How different for me to put myself out there more…..how against the internal rules of not calling too much attention to myself….

Why not? Why not claim the right to express our voices everywhere? We really already have been expressing our voices out there, for those who take the time to notice. So, since we are already seen, why not embrace it more? I don’t need to yell and scream to be seen and heard, but I also don’t need to try and hide anymore. My voice is everywhere anyway. So is yours. So….let’s claim that voice, express who we are, and enjoy this journey….while we are still lucky enough to be here and be alive. We deserve to be here. We deserve to be heard. We deserve to be fully alive.

Eternity in the Eyes of an Infant

Have you ever had a moment when you lost all track of time and space and were totally in this moment, right now, right here?

I have had moments like this before…..sometimes while painting, sometimes while walking on a beautiful beach, or a quiet sacred forest, or gazing into the eyes of an animal…..

The other day, I gazed into the eyes of an infant….and it was the most sacred moment. This lovely baby is less than three months old, the new baby girl of my sweet young neighbors. I went to visit, and when this baby’s mom asked if I wanted to hold her, I quickly said YES! ( I wanted to be respectful of space and distance and safety, so I had not asked, but was thrilled when the chance to do this was offered).

I took this baby into my arms, and she looked into my eyes (there is an old soul there, definitely) and we held eye contact for what seemed like hours, although I know it was only minutes. And when I talked with her, she made sounds in response, her eyes never leaving mine for a moment. Locked – together – in the moment. Everything else faded away.

I have never had children. I was an only child, so I didn’t get to be around other children or babies much. And yet, and yet – I felt like this moment was familiar, comforting, loving….

To gaze into the eyes of a life just begun. To gaze into the eyes of the future and feel that spark of hope once again for time to come. To gaze into eyes that do not hide, do not pretend, do not shy away, do not retreat from full contact. I could not look away. ( Why would I want to?) I saw humanity, life continuing beyond my life, the life yet to be lived, and the moment that we were sharing right then and there…..It touches me still. It will be with me forever. This gaze the other day with this sweet little baby allowed me to open myself into my own heart more…..to feel life in its fullness…..to be totally present to life at that time.

Where have we lost this connection? How did we learn to look away, hide our souls, cloud our eyes over with protection and walls that guard and shield? What difference would it make if we could gaze once again into each other’s eyes (and hearts, souls) and really see each other? Really be present with each other in our trembling brief time on this earth? Really witness the spirit within each other that unites us…

I saw eternity in that sacred moment, in the eyes of that infant. I saw her, and myself, and mySelf……We are all such glimmers of light and love that can shine from our eyes. May we relearn this more and more…..May we see eternity in each others’ eyes….and maybe, for a moment, feel how we are really not alone at all…..

“Anti-Aging?”

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!

Groundhog Day – Embracing Our Shadow

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today – predicting 6 more weeks of winter….

What about when we see our own Shadow?

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, talked about archetypes and our Shadow, our Dark Side….. defined as the parts of us that we may not want to admit having, the “darker” side….the side that we can project onto others or act upon unless we are aware of it and know how to work with it.

So, I saw my Shadow today as well. As a matter of fact, I have been seeing my Shadow for a while now. It’s not easy to look into the eyes of my Shadow – I have learned in the past to judge it, deny it, push it away. But the Shadow is there, and is, actually, I realize, an important part of me that I need to see, own, and even embrace – as it has things to tell me and things to teach me and things to warn me about.

My Shadow can be impulsive, jealous, afraid, enraged. My Shadow is all the parts of me that I had worked hard to push away or “rise above” in my past. Now, as I enter the later part of my life, I realize (and am still learning) that the Shadow is a vital part of me, a part that I need to acknowledge and understand and embrace – so that we can work together.

Just as the lotus flower needs the mud to grow and bloom from into the light, so we need our Shadow to learn from. We need the rich muddy soil to grow from, to learn from, to bloom from as we reach and strive for the light. We need both the dark and the light. Indeed, we are both dark and light, shadow and spirit, dark impulses and loving impulses. We contain it all – neither one nor the other, neither good nor bad, neither dark or light. We have it all. We are it all.

If we can see this and embrace this, we will be able to own it and work with it rather than acting out from it as we try to deny it and pretend it doesn’t exist in us, but rather only in others, who we then act out against rather than admitting the darkness within each of our own selves.

I am kind, loving, and work to do as much good in this world as I can. But I can also be jealous, possessive, insecure, irrationally (or so it seems) angry, mean-spirited, impulsive ….and more. And I can be abusive, especially to myself.

So this is what I see and this is what I can work with. Sometimes, I even notice, my Shadow rises up to protect me from perceived harm ….seeing it even before I may realize that it is there. It can offer insight, wisdom, understanding into why I may behave in certain ways, and why others may behave in certain ways. It can teach me to become more balanced and whole. It can teach me that accepting all of who I am (which does not mean that I have to act out from my Shadow) will help me better express all of me. It can help me unleash my creativity -which needs freedom from all the rigid and strict rules and regulations in order to be free and come out.

My Shadow is a part of me- and came into being for a purpose. I can deny her (and thus give her more power in that I am not then consciously working with her) or embrace her and learn to integrate all the parts of me into the complex being that I am. To embrace the rich mud and soil and all the nutrients therein so that I can grow and bloom and become all that I can be.

So, I saw my Shadow on this Groundhog Day, and I look forward to more Winter to explore in quiet solitude all that makes me who I am. And to connect with others on this path so that we can all see and hear each other – and maybe even let our Shadows speak with each other, be seen, heard, acknowledged, understood, and…perhaps even…. lovingly accepted.

The Art of Listening…

I often wonder why people will ask me how I am, and then seem impatient if I actually try to answer them honestly. I now joke with friends that I am going to start, if this happens, responding with “If you don’t want to know how I am, then I suggest that you don’t ask me.” It has become a way of saying hello, I think, to ask ‘How are you doing?” But, what if…..if you can imagine for a moment….what if we asked that and then stopped whatever we were doing to really listen to the answer to that question. What might happen?

Here are some things that I think that might happen.

We may hear what another human being is struggling with in their day to day life….and we may not feel so alone with our own struggles. We may help another feel more heard and seen and form a connection that is deeper and more meaningful. We may learn, once again, that life is not easy – but that we can perhaps ease a bit of the pain that sometimes comes by being present and really hearing each other. We may be amazed at how someone opens up to us when we really mean to ask that question – how they have been hungry to share some of their experiences and feelings.

I don’t think that it has to be a long conversation, although there are times that this may happen. I believe that even a brief moment of connection can touch our spirit and soothe us….that a moment of genuine contact can make a more lasting impression than longer conversations of chit chat. {I don’t mean to invalidate chit chat, as I think that this has a place as well, but not as a steady diet.)

Maybe we feel that we have to try and come up with a solution or advice. I honestly think that people mostly just want to be heard, not necessarily to be given our advice. To listen to someone is to validate their experiences, their feelings, their present moment in time. To not give advice is actually to believe that people most often do have their own answers, but may not be there yet.

I can try and do my best to listen to you, to sit beside you, to be with you – even in quiet moments in between the words as you simply experience whatever it is that you are going through….and to try and let you know that I hear you. I am there beside you. I see you.

Isn’t that the greatest gift of all? I believe that deeply listening to someone is one of the greatest forms of love. It comes with time given, and with true attention. It is a quiet, yet incredibly powerful, form of love that is felt in the spaces between the words. It is saying to someone…..”I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear what you are feeling. I want to feel your spirit and hold it tenderly in my hands and heart. I want to let you know that I am here and that I see and hear you. You deserve to be heard and seen. You and what you have to say are important to me. You are important to me.”

I feel this, dear readers, when some of you take the time to respond to my posts, and am deeply grateful for this…for all of you who do this. You make a difference in my life. And I thank you. And I am glad to offer the same to you.

So….how are you doing?

The Small (Powerful) Quiet (Patient) Voice Within….

I visited the Dark Place again this weekend. I never know when another visit to this place will happen….it is unpredictable and sometimes sudden in its appearance. It has many faces.

The face this past weekend was the face of self-doubt, self-recrimination, dark thoughts and hopelessness….a place of grief and sadness and pain. It is a familiar place, and one that is never far away. It is a type of home, one that is not comfortable or cozy to go back to, but back to it I must go when the call comes.

The call this time came about relationship issues and loss. Relationships lost, hopes of relationships lost, friends lost, fur babies lost, youth lost, opportunities lost, a huge segment of my life gone already and a questioning of myself and wondering just what I have done with my life and what do I have to show for it….

The voices in this dark place are relentless and loud. Negative, critical, shaming, judgmental, catastrophizing, predicting a bleak future, however long of a future that I may have left at this point.

Looking in the mirror from the Dark Place is painful. The names and judgments and self disgust can be overwhelming.

And yet…..and yet….even in the midst of this version of a personal hell….I am aware of a quiet voice within. This voice waits until the most recent rant is over about whatever the fault of the moment is that the voices choose to focus on. It waits….and then, quietly, says….”You know that is not true.” The Dark is relentless, attacking, storming, engulfing….and yet…the small quiet voice is there, waiting patiently until the quiet interlude comes again. And again, this quiet voice of sanity and balance says…”You have made mistakes…yes, You are human. But you are not a mistake. And you do not deserve this attack on you.”

And on and on it goes….until the Dark becomes tired….Until the voices are fatigued. And the quiet voice is still there…..” You are ok. This shall pass. You are ok. You deserve to live and to love and to be loved. You deserve to be here…..”

That, I believe, is the Voice of God (Universe, Spirit, Higher Power, Presence, Higher Self, Soul) within. The part of us that knows we are doing the best that we can, with errors, and that we are human, and lovable. And forgivable. It reassures me that even during those times of visiting the Dark, that it is always still there…waiting….never leaving…..and that it will speak in its owntime.

I cannot feel that Essence as much when I’m in the battles of the Dark, but I am reassured, that even in those times, I am aware of this other part of me that I have worked on, have struggled to get to know, have delighted to find, have claimed and lost again temporarily, but found again.

We can remember, I think, that we have this other part that is always there, though quieter at times. That quiet voice is more powerful than the rest, as it prevails and never leaves…accepts that there are dark times, but does not accept that this is all that I am.

I hope to remember that about others as well, when they are struggling with their own version of the Dark Place. And I want to remember that about myself. And I invite you to remember that part of yourSelf….that has never abandoned you (even if it has been quiet for long periods of time). And, to, as we continue on this journey of aging and life, to honor that part of us, that quiet voice – to know that there is all the power that we need right there…and it will wait patiently…until we come home to it….until we come home to ourSelves.

“Time Has Not Been Kind” ???

Have you ever read the articles, with photos attached of course, about various movie stars with the line “Time has not been kind to …….”? What does that even mean? Are we supposed to look at these human beings who we have put in impossible positions of having to keep up a certain look or physique or standard and now see them with horror, disgust, and disdain for how they have changed over time?

If they don’t have plastic surgery, there are remarks about time having been cruel to them. If they get plastic surgery, there are also plenty of comments about how that is not working out so well, either. It’s a no win situation.

And,, although I am pleased to see the revolution of some older women now being seen as models and the articles talking about their beauty, I am also aware that these women that I see also often fit the societal standard of what is beautiful I do not mean to take away from their beauty and am glad to see different and older ages now being shown – but I am also aware that most of us are not what they are, in terms of beauty (as it is defined in our culture)….so we have yet more images to compare ourselves to and come up short against in comparison.

We all age, if we are lucky enough to live that long. And aging brings lines, and for many of us, extra pounds….it brings skin that doesn’t bounce back like it once did. This is the reality.

I wonder, though, is there a way we can begin to see this and ourselves with kindness and love and appreciation and even admiration for the strength of the survivors that we are? Must we be told to be horrified that “time has not been kind”? Can we ever learn to see those lines and less than perfect bodies as signs of lives well and fully lived?

And what , I wonder, do all these messages about how we are to react to aging do to us when we look at our own evidence of time passing as we gaze in the mirror? Are we to judge ourselves harshly for not looking as we once did? Are we to then quietly sink into invisibility and the background so as not to offend others or be found as less than? Are we to love ourselves less?

Some of the messages about aging are blatant and I am glad to see that we are naming them more and beginning to refuse these deathly labels. Yet I am also aware of how insidious and buried and unconscious many of them may still be….and how we have learned to not even see them, to accept them as truth and to learn to see with the eyes that judge, ridicule and condemn. And, do we do that to ourselves when we look at our own image?

Is looking at aging in the face (literally) too frightening an acceptance of our mortality and slow walk toward our own death? But, if this is true, must we die before we actually die? Can we not live more fully, loving ourselves each step of the way, and learn to embrace who we become and what the becoming looks like on the outside?

These are not questions that can be easily answered. But, maybe, we can continue to ask more of the questions, become more aware of the messages on how we should see ourselves, and begin to perhaps say “no……I will not minimize myself, will not sink into the invisible background, will not see myself as less than or someone that needs to be cast aside.” We have earned the right to fully live, to see ourselves fully – including all the feelings and passions that older people are sometimes seen as no longer having.

It is not time that has been unkind. It is all the judgments that we make about it.

We are still alive. Let us not die before our time.