I’m going to write about some deep stuff and it isn’t funny. So skip ahead if you just want to be entertained.
I’m feeling old and weak and invisible and somewhere mixed in — I feel shame.
Wouldn’t I love to understand that! It’s one of life’s monkey mysteries, buried deep in our DNA.
I think it comes from being a woman and moving away from anything that could be described as young, but still being expected to be all Jane Fonda ageless. Remember when Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck? Well, I get it now.
If you read about women and aging, up pop various internet offerings. Most are by thirty or forty year olds who discover a gray hair or a wrinkle and go – wow – and then decide to love themselves anyway.
Yeah, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about having hands that can no longer open jars and a leg that will not budge past a few feet off the ground when I lift my leg to the back.
In ballet when I try to raise my leg in an attitude or an arabesque to the back and I can’t lift it more that a foot or so off the ground, I wonder why this is so. I’m fairly limber but either my back is too stiff, I am not strong enough, or my derrière is in the way. I really am not sure which it is. I just know that with all the might I have, it doesn’t go up very high.
So what? I can’t do a back flip on a balance beam either, and that doesn’t get to me.
I think it’s because I used to do this relatively effortlessly. Legs up in the air was a part of my skill set and I don’t know when I lost it.
Or a front walkover or a back bend. I could do those in my sleep. But one day I stopped and if I tried right now I’m sure that I would never get up off the floor. No one told me never to stop doing the things I did with my body when I was young. No one told me that if I ever stopped, one day all those movements would be gone forever. We were just told to stay in shape. So we went to the gym.
P.S. I did a cartwheel recently and I can still do that. For now.
I think this is coming up because my kids have all left, and in some ways it feels like a second beginning. Only I’m no spring chicken. When you are a mom and working, that’s mostly all you do. Now suddenly there is a vast life to live. If only one can get off the couch and gracefully find it.
I assumed that my body would always feel like my body. When the stiffness began settling in, I hadn’t been pushing myself too hard, but I did move for goodness sake. Jogging and lifting weights and things like that are good exercise, but balance and flexibility and hand strength – those are things I thought less about….and they went pretty far south in the years they were ignored.
I just bought an exercise ball and intend to loosen up my back and see how much progress I can make. On a good day goals like this feel like a fun challenge. But some days I feel shame. Why am I not knitting on the couch, happy with what I have and all that I am?
Why is it so important for me to lift my leg up higher?
I whisper to myself that it is time for me to accept aging gracefully. It isn’t too graceful to struggle in ballet class, barely able to get off the ground when I’m supposed to rise up. Sometimes I skip the center altogether because my body doesn’t feel ready. I’ve wimped out the past few classes because, who am I kidding? But if not now, then when? It will never get any easier than it is right now. Because time will continue to march on, that I know for certain.
This started as a dating blog and so I’ll say this…
I just remembered that recently I signed up for a speed dating session and received an email to inform me that I had exceeded their age requirement. Apparently I have aged out of such things – sorry but you are too old! Up until now, dating and the internet have not limited me because in pictures and sometimes in real life, I’ve maintained some semblance of youthful heat.
But I’m going to tell you a truth: cutting my hair and the past year of rapid aging has changed that. Don’t believe me? I have an email to prove that I am officially over the hill. I’m supposed to quietly find some senior singles group in the basement of a church. Bah!
Hair and eye lashes and all of that can give you extra years in the dating department. It was never intentional, but prettying up did lengthen my dating life. But lately I’ve been over it and I felt like cutting my hair and now I’m sitting on no longer being hot, not in any picture or in any way. I’m really trying to embrace my inner yia-yia spinster because honestly, there’s nothing wrong with it. It sounds fine.
But I’m going to tell you something. else And this is hard. I wouldn’t voluntarily be over it, looking younger and hawt, if it felt attainable. I am all about esthetics and it isn’t esthetically pleasing to see myself with the hair and lashes of a thirty year old anymore. When I looked the part, I liked it. But I started to feel that it looked a little silly. So I’m trying to find an older look and vibe that feels like me. I want to be Judy Dench if I’m going to be old. I need some sense of style, that’s really all it is. I don’t want to sport some kind of default style – I want to rock something new.
If I had gray hair I would flaunt it. I don’t mind looking old at all.
But I’m in a kind of limbo. And instead of going backwards, I want to push ahead as an older woman. With statement glasses. You know what I mean.
Shame. WHAT exactly am I tripping on?
I feel shame because as I type this, there are grounded magnificent people who will rush up to say, “But you are a great human!” And I suspect they will be wondering quietly to themselves why it is that I appear to be obsessing about looks. It would appear so shallow, and not the stuff a strong and accomplished woman should obsess over.
What’s the difference between pride in one’s self, self care and vapid vanity? I ask myself that question all the time and while I’m not one to judge myself I’m going to say enough already, get used to this aging, the faster the better.
Before you discount all this angsting as fluffy drivel, let me tell you a story. A very nice slightly older man from back when I started writing this blog – he was ground zero I believe….well, I’d been loosely in his orbit for some time before he asked me out on a date. One day on facebook I posted a picture and I looked a little smokin’ in my tank top, that’s all I’m gonna say. I had my hair extensions in and I was a bit young and glowy looking. At some point he confessed that it was that picture that prompted him to pull the trigger. Because – hot. By the way he’s now with a very smart and attractive woman his own age. I don’t think she’d ever write a post like this and I want to be her when I grow up, but I digress…
You can hand wave all you want to, but whatever quality he saw in that photo is a quality that when you’ve got it, it opens doors, and when you don’t, well….things pass you by that probably shouldn’t if life were fair. That is a reality of being female, and to a lesser extent male – it is being human to have to deal with external looks. People get points for attractive, and youthful attraction gets the highest points. It’s all based on evolution and chimp stuff. Who we choose to be in our tribe is based on animal attraction. And it is shockingly real. There are even National Geographics and Psychology Today articles that explain how deeply it is rooted. It’s why birds sing songs and display their feathers. I get that a smile and a good attitude and hard won intelligence and wisdom are the best songs and feathers a person can flaunt. But that’s not all, always.
By the way I have a son who has told me that looks really aren’t important to him. He’s all about the personality. And he means it. And he’s cute. So there are men out there who have transcended the female looks thing. And I raised one. Woop!
But when I was a teenager, I didn’t have that “it” quality and I felt shame, because I was one of the last asked to dance at dancing school, and I didn’t get asked to “go around” with any boys my own age. It didn’t define me, but I did notice. Mostly I felt a little sad for myself, and for the boys with whom I didn’t even register, because I knew I had good stuff to offer and we were missing out. I never thought that I wasn’t enough – not in any way. I also liked the way I looked as much as any teenager. I just didn’t felt seen. Tracy Lucky was seen and I heard that she died young from too much alcohol. So no need to get preachy here. I do understand. But I still had to live with not being chosen. And my inner child remembers every minute of it.
Sitting on those seats once a week facing the picked last thing was embarrassing. I knew I was too good for that. But I had to endure it. By the way it was a bad system. I hope schools quit setting kids up like that but last I heard you could still buy roses to hand out on Valentine’s Day as a school fundraiser and Feb 14 you gotta know that some very worthy people are gonna feel the unlove. It stinks, and I wish our culture would wisen up.
Dating has sort of been the same at times. Only I’ve aged into a woman who does get noticed, or did. Not perfectly and not always by the right men, but I can be noticed if I play the game and keep myself presentable as defined by modern hottie standards.
Noticed isn’t much to party down about. Noticed by whom is a very good and more important question. I am a bit hopeful that there are some quality men who will notice the older me when the time is right.
But as for appealing to the masses in online dating, I’ve just said, nope, and mostly meant it. I quit the eyelash and hair extensions, got a matronly bob, and while that resonates with a part of me, there is a separate little part of me that will not shut up that says that I will fell better when my hair grows out.
Shame. I am ashamed to even think this way.
I am ashamed that I blasted into 2019 with a huge drive to take off a bunch of weight and that my body kind of went into defiance mode. I got so amped up that I didn’t sleep. And the cortisol and postmenopausal thing combined sort of blocked most of my efforts. I was attempting to turn back time, and regain a bit more spring in my step. I wanted to feel lighter, not so weighed down by aging. I wanted to move better, and free-er.
And I still do.
I also ordered a hand grip to regain some hand strength. Why yes, I did that.
All this reminds me of Grace, in Grace and Frankie. Grace and the Adderall scene was the best most honest thing I’ve watched in forever.
I feel shame when I can not reconcile the person I now am with the person that I’d like to be. I have discovered that I can be a lot of things if I set my mind to it. But I have not found some interim good enough place where I’m energized but also accepting of where I am now. I’m either full force ahead or wanting to retreat entirely. I’m only mildly tolerant of the present. Eckhart Tolle would not be pleased.
I’ve given myself this year to mend what is broken, and to discover how to step into new shoes. I need to feel true limitations and accept them or else I will be forever beating my head against a wall. Yet I’d like to challenge all that I can, because FOMO is real and why limit one’s self artificially? I’m learning Spanish because I never did fully become fluent in anything other than English and it’s about time. I’m dancing because I love it and one day I won’t have a body to dance with. I will never give up on music, so I press on. I have only rarely made peace with my looks as a woman… because I didn’t make these rules that I am a victim of. But I’d like to make a lasting peace, I really would.
I’d like to make peace with all of it. A failed marriage. Wonderful and challenging kids. Having to work but also loving to work. Being single over being with the wrong person but also figuring out if there is any right person at this point in my life. I’d like to just make peace with a little more of it, and struggle a little less.
Here’s a take home:
I think is that we are such a me me me culture that we put far too much emphasis on the self, and when the self shifts or crumbles, it is as if our very world is shifting and crumbling.
But it isn’t. The world is still young and vibrant, even as parts of us are dimming. Last night I saw beautiful young dancers dance a ballet. I can do my barre class and look to them for inspiration. I still lift my own body a little in my seat when I see a dancer take flight. They can leap and twirl and I can feel it, just a little bit.
All this superficial rambling has lead me to an answer. The answer is to continue to grab all that one can and experience all that one is able. And when we are not able, we can still enjoy watching others. We can still support a next generation, and say, “Go for it!”
We must find a balance between self love and exploration and engagement with others. Our culture has made real life connecting with people a challenge that must be overcome in order to reach that balance. We need more investment in others, and less in ourselves.
Enough of this we stuff. I can only really speak about me – myself. (Just so you know I spend most of my time thinking about other people so I’m not as into just me as this blog might suggest) Only when I’m alone does this stuff come up, and this can be filed under one of the challenges of being single – it’s easy to spend too much time staring at your own navel.
I want to be able to get out of bed with spring and purpose and mastery – and I want to look in the mirror and see me, and move on without feeling bad about my neck.
I know that is asking for a lot. I know I could lie to myself and say I’m already there. Because I should be there. If I kept my mouth closed about all this struggle no one would guess that I’m not there.
But the struggle is real, and real is the one thing I know I will always have going for me. I am a superstar in that department.
I think I’m gonna grow my hair back. I need some feathers and a pretty song to sing. I just want to sing for the right reasons. And I’m getting there.