Tuesday, 21 June 2011

treasuring age

There was one thing that kept occurring to me as we walked around the zoo yesterday: I am aging.

teenaged gorilla deep in thought
There were so many younger parents walking around with babies and toddlers - parents who looked so much younger than the last time I went to the zoo. Should you really be parents already, I asked them in my head. The last time I was at the zoo, I'm pretty sure I was one of those younger parents. But I still like to see myself as a "young parent." And then it struck me that I just may have some seeing problems. I see myself as barely older than a youth, but I'm pretty positive that others see me as much older than that. Perhaps (hopefully) they see me as the age that I really am. And that should be a good thing, right?

I asked my husband about it, and he said, "I still think I'm about 28." (He's not.)

28 feels about right to me too, because it was a magical age when I could still be considered a young adult, yet have the privileges that come with adulthood, and none of the responsibilities like parenthood or mortgages.

Usually I'm OK with aging - with welcoming a new age while mourning what's lost. I see this in the way I look at my own kids - I miss their young years, but I love where they're at now, and I'm excited about what's to come. I hope to live into and embrace whatever age I am - to see its potential gifts instead of yearning for the past.

My husband once heard a speaker talk about the way that we interact with babies compared to the way we interact with youth. When a baby is in the room, people smile, talk in engaging (sometimes highpitched) ways, and interact physically by holding, rocking, cuddling. Adults make direct eye contact, try to make that baby laugh, and meet that baby's needs in whatever ways possible.

With youth, it's not quite the same. What if we approached all children and youth with the same kind of enthusiasm, love, and engagement we bring to a baby? What if our eyes lit up, our arms went out, and we showered love and attention no matter what the age?

What if we could all treasure the unique age and stage we're at?

It's not every day that I cheer when I see a little grey hair poking through my dark locks. Actually, it's not any day.

When I went with my grandparents to see the senior's residence they'd be moving into, I cried. Because everywhere I looked, I saw old people. And I knew that my grandparents weren't old, even though they were in their 80s/90s. In fact, they weren't really any age to me; they were just Grandma and Grandpa, with an age that never went up and was filled with warmth and love.

And I guess that's how I'd like to be seen - as someone who grows in love, and who treasures life no matter what the stage/age.

not afraid to show wrinkles
"Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life - it gave me me. It provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life." - Anne Lamott

5 comments:

  1. Right there with you. I still feel as though I haven't completely left my 20's... Guess that's why every once in a while when I really look at myself in the mirror, I'm a bit surprised.

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  2. A woman at work yesterday (I'd guess in her fifties) at the lunch table was talking about how your early 20's are the happiest time of your life... no kids, no house, new in your career, Freedom! I find I really have to resist this fantasizing about the past, about the early 20's - I want very badly to enjoy the here and now and not look back over the fence. I am certain that my 20's were filled with angst and insecurity at times, and plenty of drama undoubtedly. So in a way I'm relieved to be out of them. Hello middle to upper 30's - hello not young and not old self. Hello wrinkles and grey hair. I love the Lamott quote - moving into the self that has been waiting there my whole life! Thanks for these thoughts Rebecca.
    Melissa

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  3. I loved your post, and I suppose it's not altogether surprising (given my upcoming birthday of a shocking nature) that I'm thinking about aging too. I've read pretty much every publicized study on aging lately and there were two that I'll quote (loosely). The first one was a bit disturbing. They asked women and men at what age they started feeling "old." Women: 29. Men: 62!! what the heck? and they explained it that women associated feeling old with their appearance, (???) whereas men associated feeling old with sexual and career performance!

    So, my small anxieties about my appearance lately are apparently 10 years behind schedule. However the second study was more uplifting. It was about reported happiness. Apparently people all report feeling happier starting in their mid 40s! and it has everything to do with what I would call contentment: family, career, just being more happy with who you are. so maybe when you let go of those concerns about appearance you get more content with who you are. maybe that's what it takes! letting go. (Ha!) even for us who like to think we are not caught up in appearances. loved your picture of the elephant.

    Marcie

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  4. I had a conversation JUST TODAY about a gal who was finished with the baby stages (she has three young boys) because she was nearing 30 and somehow, suspected that the "baby stage" belonged in the 20s!! I chuckled to myself (more than a hop, skip and jump into the 3rd decade!!). I don't feel old, most days, tend to look at others at the same stage as I am as "older" than me. Funny eh :)? Every so often it sneaks up on me. And I have to chuckle again - I am finding some "silver" mixed in with the "gold" - at this point I leave them be; to me each strand of gray is well earned!!!!

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  5. Pam: I've been thinking about mirrors, and which reflections we use to tell us who we really are...
    Melissa: definitely - I think I romanticize certain ages - of me and my kids. I think - weren't those baby years wonderful? forgetting the sleepless nights and tears and fatigue and diapers that went along with them.
    Marcie: nice to hear you're a late bloomer. I guess I am too! Good to know that the best is yet to come.
    Leah: silver and gold sounds much more lovely than the stark contrast of ebony and ivory.

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