I never thought I’d be musing about aging, but now that I'm looking back at my mid 40s and 50 is closer than I'd like to admit, things have shifted. And I don’t just mean figuratively! I find myself digging deeper into a very shallow well of references that speak to this stage in my life. I’m used to seeing visual reference points of women pushing 30 or 40, and reading their discussions about what they're experiencing, but I’m not finding many for this weird in-between age where I'm equal parts reluctantly letting go of what was and embracing what is as a 47 year old woman. And knowing that change starts with me, I decided to stop digging and start writing.
For me, my 20s were about picking up the pieces and recovering from losing my parents, moving to a new country and starting my business. In my 30s, I was enjoying my career, and building a framework for the future. Now, in my 40s, I feel like I’ve had the epiphany that the future is now and I’m aware of time in a way that I've never been before. I’m seeing how time has changed my mind, body and spirit and how fluid those elements are. And, as changes hit me with more frequency, I’m constantly getting to know myself over again. In turn, the opportunities seem more present now that I’m 47. I have the choice to mourn my more youthful self or embrace and discover who I am today. I know more now and yet I’m still learning and I see many women in their 60s and 70s embrace their natural beauty. So, I pose the question to myself - “Why is accepting the aging process so hard?”
Being an artist and a creative, I live in a very aesthetic realm and I have ideas about what I find attractive. So, I often wonder how to mesh that with allowing the aging process to unfold in a healthy and natural way. Because if I don’t, am I not just covering shame with a mask? I think the core of what drives me to having negative self talk is that I feel less than the ultimate vision of what I have in my head. Just like the many times I’ve seen something that I love the look of, whether it be those jeans or that dress, only to find myself disliking them because I don’t like how they look on me - it’s disappointing. And this isn’t about losing those few extra pounds, this is about a childhood indoctrination, watching the patterns and behaviors of my mother who taught me how to perfect self critique. I learned that it was never enough, you could never be skinny enough, pretty enough. At my age now, I find the inner dialogue too exhausting and frivolous to want to care anymore. And yet there are many parts of me that still do.
My mother didn’t have a healthy relationship with her body. I remember growing up watching her start many crazy diets and exercise fads, compare herself to others, define for herself what she found beautiful. I would hear her state all the things she hated about herself… and it sunk in. The message I heard was your body could be something to love or loath.
When I was around 9, my mother started spraying Sun In on my hair… remember that spray that made your hair turn blonder with the sun or a hairdryer? I didn’t really ask her why she did it, I was too young to question much, but looking back I imagine she was trying to change me. When I was 14, I remember telling her one day that I thought my friend, Hayley at school was really pretty and asked if she thought Hayley was prettier than me. She said, “she is, but you’re pretty in your own way.” I was caught off guard and wasn’t sure what to do with this information that suddenly punctured my innocent orbit. Since it came from my mother, it felt like very valuable feedback even though I couldn’t understand it because it was neither a full insult or a full compliment. But this story isn’t unique. It’s quite rare to hear people talk kindly about their own appearance. How then, when faced with real change at various stages of our lives, can we expect to be equipped with the tools to handle these changes with compassion and grace? It can feel impossible sometimes. Aging is so much about physical change but what I’m wanting to try and focus on more is peace of mind, mental health, learning to love what is and finding skills that will bring wellness to my whole being. Above all else, what I want to find of most importance is that I’m healthy and happy.
Regardless of the fact that I'm currently struggling with this in-between age, I have a strong desire to keep digging for resources that support women like me who have similar challenges. I know for me, when something is demystified, it feels more normal. It’s helpful to hear frequently that lines on your face are beautiful and natural, a few extra pounds are sexy, peri menopause and menopause can be a journey that leads to good things, that achy bones and muscles are not curses, but are little daily whispers to remind us to keep moving our bodies. Aging doesn’t mean losing relevance and vitality, it in fact increases our relevance and vitality by offering us opportunities to shape society through our wisdom and experiences. I’ll take more of all of that.
I know I don't have the answers, I’m just trying my best to be my best. Nothing is absolute or static, and by sharing my thoughts, hopefully this lands with you, and that you’ll feel there is a community here where conversation can be helpful in normalizing whatever you’re going through. As always, I look forward to your thoughts.
Sending lots of love,
Wow! I could have written that exact post. I’m 47 as well and although I try every day to embrace the changes (and there are many, good and bad) I’m having a hard time with this! It’s comforting to know it’s not just me, and it’s not just women our age. Here’s to our future, and excepting ourselves!
Thank you all so much for the lovely messages. It means more than you all know to read these comments and see that we are connecting on something so personal and yet so normal. I don’t have the function on this site to respond directly to each comment, so I hope you all see this. Sending love and appreciation xoxo
What a great article Caroline you touched on so many topics that are important to women of all ages being 72 now I can relate to what you said and also I have decided to purchase the book on healthy aging that you recommend -it’s fabulous! I recently decided to allow my hair to be its natural color which is white with gray undertones it was difficult to see the change from being brunette and I feel I’m doing a service to myself by excepting and embracing it. You’re wonderful shops have items for all ages of women that are gorgeous and you are such an artist thanks for the blog and keep on writing!
Totally enjoyed your reflections on aging. At almost 65, I still feel young at heart. I’m going to keep that attitude. But still can’t believe I’m that old!
My 52nd birthday is quickly approaching and I’m super excited to celebrate another year on this planet. I absolutely love birthday cake too so it’s a perfect day to indulge! Today I am wiser, I have more confidence, I’m happier in my skin and I listen to my body. And yes I do wear turtle necks, long sleeves and long skirts but that’s ok. My body has changed and so has my style. I have decided to embrace my 50’s and I focus on being the best version of myself. Self love, positive thoughts, smiles, rest, fresh air, love, beautiful food with loved ones, laughter and most importantly fun is my recipe for aging. Your life is what you make of it.
What a nice short read on a Sunday afternoon! Your article made me smile, I feel like your smile shined through as you were writing this. Thank you :)
What an honest and sincere share. I felt similarly in my late 40’s, too. And, I feel it now in my late 50’s. If it were up to me, I’d stay in my 40’s for about 30 years. When I hit 50, I was sure that would be the realization of my former definition of “old age”. It was a naive definition — as if I would soon be headed for a nursing home. Instead, I remember what a dear friend who was 20+ years older than me said: in your 50’s, you don’t give an F. I used to cringe at that, but she was saying — I know myself at 50, I know what I’m going to get to and what I’m not, I know that I’m never going to look 30 again and I don’t care, I know that I look and feel more comfortable in my own skin even with some extra rolls and curves. She was so right on. People ask me for my advice now — professionally and personally. I still have many things I want to achieve in this life — but it took me until my 50’s to know that going at my pace and on my own terms is OK. I don’t need someone else’s permission or approval.
I visited Solvang last weekend to meet with two friends — one in her 60’s and one in her 80’s. During a 4 hour visit, we touched on so many topics. I felt so recharged and supported. That’s what women have to do for one another as we age — support, encourage, talk through, love.
Thank you for asking the deep questions as you reflect on your life — it is inspirational as everything you examine with your kind and open heart that the rest of us can chime in, add to, and hopefully support you. Cheers.
So well written and the very essence of the word relatable is expressed so clearly in this piece on aging. I look frwd to reading your blog on the weekends, because of the sincerity and honesty that pours through; thank you for this. Its a rare occurrence in our society. I found as I hit my mid 40s I am more interested in aging well in terms of good health, and feeling well rather than being too concerned with grey hairs and moving differently (ie slower) than I used to. But I must say, that I am so much more secure within myself and just don’t care about some of the things that used to take up space in my head. Letting go was definitely was a deliberate process before my 40s but in my 40s I gotta say, I just dont care about that which seemed so vital in my 20s and even in my 30s. Thanks so much for this openness and sincerity on your thoughts on aging. Its this kind of sincere wisdom that really helps people…well, sincere wisdom and those gorgeous floor pillows I keep eyeing at the store and am trying to figure out where to put them in my home. I mean, I need a spot to sit and read the blog!! :)
Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful, honest, and true – this really resonates and I think it is so important for women to support each other as we create together a new narrative for what beauty and aging really mean. Sending love.