© 2015 Marica

Never too old

“One rule of the game, in most times and places, is that it’s the young who are beautiful. The beauty ideal is always a youthful one. This is partly simple realism. The young are beautiful. The whole lot of ’em …. For old people, beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and more clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies … there’s an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other.”
– Ursula K.Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind [Source: Article by Maria Popova in Brain Pickings]

Age and beauty … one of these things always links to the other. It is part of our autopilot programming that begins from birth. You know how the story goes, the older you get the less beautiful you are perceived to be, and if you are considered beautiful you are either chronologically younger or you have mastered the illusion of looking younger than your actual age.

We are bombarded daily by all kinds of messages that reinforce these ideals as a normal part of our culture and thinking. Yet, does it serve us well. I know it is impacting how I experience my ageing self and I hate how this makes me feel. These days I look in the mirror and wonder who is this woman staring back at me. What has happened to the woman I know I am – the one with a fire in her belly that is bursting with energy who is being guided by the wisdom gained from whatever life has flung at her – she isn’t the woman I see in my reflection.

At lunch today my 11 year old nephew unwittingly raised this topic and I kind of pounced on him – little did he know I have been doing a lot of thinking and research in this area.

“What does beautiful mean to you?” I asked.

He didn’t know what to say and I let it go.

As I looked at my parents sitting at the table with us I saw two stunningly beautiful people – both on the outside and the inside – who also happen to be old. They are both well into their eighties. Despite all the effects of age that have forced them to slow down, they still care about how they look to themselves and to others. What I see when I look at my parents is not restricted by physical appearance. What I see is defined by the story of who they are as people; how they have lived their lives; their integrity, strength, courage and intelligence; the role models, support and inspiration they have been to so many; the overwhelming love they have given so freely to their family and everyone they come into contact with. What I see when I look at my parents goes way beyond the surface of their skin, their beauty lies deep within – it is as Ursula K. Le Guin says, “It has to do with the bones.”

I had to smile when my mama pulled out of her handbag some nail polish and she turnned to her 17 year old granddaughter and asked, “Will you paint my nails for me?”

See, we are never too old to do anything we want to do. As we get older we may not be able to do everything for ourselves but this is no reason to stop doing it if it matters to you. One of the lessons of ageing is to learn to ask for help and accept it when it is offered.

My 84 year old mama looked hot with her painted toenails and fingernails when my niece had finished. However, this didn’t change how beautiful I think my mama is. Her beauty goes way beyond what she chooses to do with her nails. It is so good to be reminded of this especially when I look at the reflection that stares back at me on a daily basis.

11. Every day do something for someone else.
12. Every day love yourself.
21. Every day seek the support of others. You are not alone.
27. Every day pain is a sign of growing.
45. Every day you are a different person.

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