The mere thought of aging surfaces a myriad of beliefs and assumptions. The most vivid things that come to mind are: retirement, failing health, Medicare, Social Security, limited financial resources, less physical strength and attractiveness, and significantly less choices. The list could be longer. Retirement can be a pleasant thought given the opportunity to spend more time with family and do the things that you always wanted to do but never had time. However, that’s not so true if you are without the financial resources to realistically do all of those things. And this is more likely to be true for baby-boomers coming of age today. Even if thoughtful retirement planning was done, so much of what has occurred socially and economically could and would not have been anticipated in that planning. All of this could be pretty depressing. Alternatively, weighing in as a baby-boomer coming of age that is healthy and not ready to totally fade into the background; I can’t allow these beliefs and assumptions to get in and become my paradigm for what aging means. I have to create a new paradigm for myself.
“By 40 you have learned a measure of wisdom and you have gained understanding through the many tests that life offers. As a result, the years after 40 have the potential to be the best ever…our culture preaches a lie when it suggests that aging is a negative element that must be resisted. The message is everywhere. Advertisements proclaim that wrinkles must get regular Botox injections, saggy face muscles need a surgical lift, aging men need a mega dose of Viagra, and after 50 you better look at planning to take early retirement…maybe sit back at a pool deck, sip on lemonade and drive around in a motor home…Why cash in the glory of our inner wisdom for a temporary outer fix-up? Let’s rise up into fullness and be the most outstanding and fruitful second-half generation that has ever lived.”
Patricia King, dream BIG: How the Second Half of Life Can Be the Better Half of Life, 2008
To have beliefs and assumptions that affirm what we have gained by the age of 50, 60, etc. and what we can offer, changes the view. By focusing less on what we have done and more on what we have learned and gained as a result of all we have done is the new paradigm
Women are particularly vulnerable to the lure of the outer fix-up. As has been highlighted in all of the noise surrounding celebrity award shows, consciously and unconsciously, women are often measured and valued based on outer attributes. There is nothing wrong with striving to look and feel good. But these things pale when compared to the attributes and strengths gained through experience, attributes that are ours to keep even as outer attributes shift. And when we look to continue doing what we have done in some way, the space that we are exploring is very limited. When we explore the space of all the ways in which we can offer what we have learned and gained, the space becomes more open and limitless.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Baby-boomers represent the first generation that, in critical mass, is poised to change the paradigm of age.
I love this quote by Rilke because it reminds me that when we are forging new paths there will always be ambiguity. But if we become comfortable with the questions we will discover the answers by living. As women coming into the age of wisdom we have the opportunities to:
- Establish our own definition for what looks and feels good at 50, 60 and beyond
- Embrace all that we possess because of the wisdom and experience of age and “bring it”
- Forge paths for the second half of life that have not yet been created
- Declare that we are ageless. Goddesses Never Age!*
* Christiane Northrup: Goddesses Never Age: The Secret-Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being