How I Leaned to Embrace Aging
"But what if when we looked in the mirror, we saw not an object but a person, the way we see the people we love?"
A very long time ago, I thought everyone over age 18 looked the same: old.
More recently, I thought the same thing about people in their late 60s. They, and those who had managed to hang on even longer, were not my people. And now, suddenly (honestly, I don't know how this happened), I've discovered I am one of them, having crossed, while I was busy living my life, to the other side.
Even when I, a 68-year-old woman, think of a 68-year-old woman, I think of a white-haired, plump grandma type. For the record: I am toned, blonde, and... at home often walk around topless.
I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm happy when I see myself in the mirror. When reality is less harsh in some ways than expectation, the result is usually a nice outcome.
Do you have a mirror nearby? Go take a look at yourself. I want you to be aware of what you're thinking as you gaze into the glass... To your critical eye, your face is an object, one to be judged, manipulated, and adorned to please other people.
But what if when we looked in the mirror, we saw not an object but a person, the way we see the people we love? Close your eyes. Now imagine your best friend's face. You probably got an image of a face along with lots of feelings about the person who belongs to it.
The one thing you most likely did
not do was take an inventory of the myriad shortcomings of your friend's features, the quality of her skin, her personal collection of spots or wrinkles. But when you looked at yourself a few minutes ago: different experience, right?
There is a better way to see yourself, and I guarantee it will affect the way you feel as you deal with the aesthetic insults of aging.
Psychologist Tara Well, has been researching the effects of mirror meditation, in which subjects gaze at their reflection for 10 - 15 minutes in a meditative state while having a kind intention toward themselves, allowing them to see how their thoughts affect them through changes in their facial expressions. Well found that in 8 sessions over 10 days, the meditators reported decreases in stress, depression, and anxiety, and a significant increase in self-compassion levels. Women who do this meditation regularly generally report feeling more comfortable with their appearance.
Though I've found it easier to accept the losses of aging largely because of this mirror exercise, that doesn't man I don't take liberal advantage of the many options available- at home and in the dermatologist's office- to keep what I consider the most egregious aging insults at bay.
Because I am generally a kind, happy person, I don't like looking like I'm thinking, Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. That's why I regularly have Botox or Dysport injections to minimize the lines that can make you look angry.
One last piece of advice about self-reflection: No matter how unlovely you think you are, you're never going to look better than you do today. As the late, brilliant Nora Ephron urged: "If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're 34." I'd say 64, but maybe that's just me.