My husband was looking through an old box from the basement for something his uncle had given him when he graduated from high school. I heard him chuckling and calling my name and insisting that I have to see “this”. “This” was an old photograph of me and a bunch of letters I had written to him back then. I don’t know how to explain this encounter I had with the old or should I say, young me. She looked so fresh, young and naïve. She was pretty and new. I hadn’t thought about her at all. In fact, I had forgotten her. She reminded me of the look of our new kitchen when we first built our house. Today, the cabinets are dinged and a little chipped, worn out, and yet every scratch mark or ding reminds me of an event or a meal prepared. Similar to my kitchen cabinets, my face today reminds me of all the events it has encountered or survived. The battle marks are reminders of a life well lived through many firsts, accomplishments, disappointments, fears, hopes, lessons, and hardships. Perhaps the face of the past, is prettier to look at, but like a raw fruit, it merely represents the potential of a ripe one and ask anyone who has had an unripe pear, it does not taste good. Yet the fear of going past our prime or turning brown as in the case of the pear, keeps us fighting to stay or look young. Reading the letters I had written back then, I realized that the person who wrote them all those years ago, is still amazingly close to who I am today with the exception of a sense of wonderment at what tomorrow has to bring. The only real difference between us is the fact that I have lost that sense of wonder. After all, I know who I married, how many kids I had, where I lived, what I did, etc. The big surprise gifts of life have already been opened, and the surprises at this point of our lives tend to either be the not-so-good ones or the ones that involve our younger loved ones, in other words, it is seeing life through their younger eyes. So, what if the surprise party is over? The after party can be even more interesting if we are willing to let go of what we think a party should be like.
In the same box were some pictures of the two of us together. Amazingly, even though he looked younger too, I think he looks better now than he did back then. I realized that, men tend to be that way. They age more gracefully as it is said. But then perhaps it has nothing to do with aging and the physiology of it all that shows up as the lines and sagging stuff that jiggles at times. What if men look more interesting with age, because they become more interesting as men? Growing up is valued in men. And what about women? Do we just get older and all that is left is the outer shell that no longer looks like it used to? Interestingly enough, character actors in Hollywood, like Meryl Streep still make movies. It’s the sexy, pretty women of 10 years ago well known for primarily their outer gifts, who are cast aside despite multiple plastic surgeries to retain their youthful look. That tells me that there is a market even in Hollywood for interesting women of a certain age. And if that is the case in the entertainment business, then it is certainly possible for the rest of the world.
So, my question to me and all of us women who are getting older is “what do you value the most about yourself?” And if your answer is anything other than a specific body part, then the next question is “how often do you embrace what you value?” How we show up is a consequence of what we believe to be true. If we look at ourselves as has beens, then the world will see us the same way. As always is the case, it involves inner work. In order to change mass consciousness, we have to change ourselves. If we value the journey and accept the bruises and tolls it has taken on our physical selves, yet see ourselves as better, more self-expressed, self-fulfilled and even lovelier than we used to be, then the world will receive us the same way. Are we ready for the after party not expecting it to be like the party? Are we ready to embrace this moment and the person that we are right now without all the “should haves”, “would haves”, and “only ifs”? I certainly hope so.