Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Aging Isn't a Four Letter Word

Tomorrow, I will be 46 years old. I've been easing myself into the idea for the past few weeks stating, often at the beginning of sentences, that I'm 46. To some degree, this is a comfort to say, knowing that I am really not there yet, toes in the water without the full plunge. It's just another day. But truly, it marks the last year of me being in my mid-40s and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Things change as we get older. Already, I've noticed that my skin is less elastic, wrinkles are starting to seep from the outer corners of my eyes, and when I look in the mirror, I really see a middle aged woman. I'm not fighting that, but accepting it isn't something that I've learned to do, either. I notice changes in actresses who I've watched through the years, those whose ages hovers around mine; Christina Applegate the young tart from the t.v. show Married with Children, took me by surprise in the movie, Vacation, presenting with crow's feet and aging skin. She is definitely beautiful, but looks her age, and she is younger than I am. So, where exactly does that put me?

This photo, from the Laney Gossip site, shows Applegate at the Vacation premiere.
She's gorgeous, and she is also showing signs of getting older naturally.

In the same movie, Beverly D'Angelo made a cameo appearance and was hardly recognizable. The amount of work she has had done to her face made me feel so sad, and truthfully, she was tough to look at. She didn't look younger, she just looked like an older woman who'd had a lot of work done.

These side by side photos of Beverly D'Angelo, regardless of the years between the time they were taken, show a different woman. It's not the age that's gotten me, it's that she doesn't even have the same face.

I've never been under the knife, for anything other than skin cancer, and I cannot imagine spending the money, or taking the risk to do so, electively. While I would like firmer skin, or to erase the lines that are beginning to creep up, I won't be doing it by way of plastic surgery.

The biggest thing, for me, is to get to a place of acceptance. I'm taking care of myself, eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of rest. I've started using a line of skincare to cleanse, moisturize, repair and protect my skin. I'm doing all that I can to put my best face forward. Beyond that, all I really need to do is be okay with the face that I see in the mirror. My husband always says that he wishes I could see myself the way that he sees me. I wish for that, too.

Inside, I have a fear that if I am too accepting of myself, I won't see all the bad things that other people see in me, and will be unprepared when someone makes a snide remark. I worry that if I am too self-accepting, I will let myself go, fall apart, and be an embarrassment to both myself and my family. On the flip side, the more that I worry, the more I have to worry about. I start to improve on how I look and then I think, just a little more and I'll be happy. But there is no end to that way of thinking. There will always be someone younger, fitter, prettier. Happiness will always elude me, if I base it on matching someone else's ideal of beauty.

The only way around all this, in my opinion, is to live in the spirit of gratitude. Instead of thinking about what I don't like, I have to start being grateful for what I do have. Rather than hate parts of my body, I will be grateful that I am healthy. I will focus on what's good and whole, and less on the things that I cannot change. And instead of looking in the mirror and judging myself, I will look at the faces of those that I love and be thankful.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Trendy "I'm Thankful For" Status Update

I find copycat facebook status trends to be annoying. There's one that says something about getting in a sleeping bag and slathering oneself with butter, supposedly in support of breast cancer. There's another, posting solely what color bra you're wearing  in support of the cause. There are the trendy ones that beg for attention, stating something to the effect of I want to see who reads my facebook status, so if you do, post where we first met. All stupid, in my opinion.

There is one that I've liked and participated in for years though. It's the gratitude status that's posted daily beginning the first of November and leading up to Thanksgiving. I hadn't thought to do it this year, however, until divine intervention played a hand.

After a lovely dinner with my cousin T and her friend Lori, we were sitting in traffic when Lori remarked that she was enjoying the ride, and said something about learning patience. I asked her how something like this is learned. She admitted that it's a practice and isn't always perfect, but that she tries to think of all that she is thankful for instead of what's annoying her. She counts her blessings.

When you count your blessings, there isn't room for anything negative. Your mind cannot have two thoughts at once. In traffic, for example, instead of thinking about the traffic, you think instead about the blessing of being in a comfortable car, or sharing time with the people who are riding with you.

I've never been much of a replacement thinker. I've always allowed the thoughts that came into my mind to dominate the inner dialogue. My brain would play scenes and I would react, at least internally, to those thoughts. This is a very stressful way to live. After my night with Lori and T, I started applying the count my blessings practice, and I'm completely in love with reframing my thoughts. Still, it takes practice.

Last weekend, I lost my voice. I'd been run down, doing too much for everybody else and not enough for myself. My body decided that it was going to put a halt on that. Having no voice made it difficult to complain, fight, or do much of anything except rest and yield. Two days of yielding taught me that much of what I battle against on a daily basis is really not important. I don't need to correct the way that something is done, or share a pointless story. During those days, every word counted, because speaking was agitating my vocal chords, so the words I spoke needed to matter. I was forced to lean on others to help me communicate, and I had to find ways to have them hear me when I needed to be heard.

In the midst of my laryngitis, I awoke in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and immediately felt like my balance was compromised. I started to feel like I was at the tipping point of having vertigo. Vertigo is not fun. I've had it more than once, and it's by far one of the most awful things you can experience. I was scared. I went to my husband for comfort, and he sat with me, reassuring me that things would be alright. He would be there for me and take care of me, and he helped to calm me down. At that moment, as I feared the possibility that vertigo might return, I started to think that I would be so grateful if I woke up without vertigo. It wouldn't matter if my voice was still out, or if I felt congested. I just wanted to feel normal.

And there is was. Those grateful thoughts were the jumping point for me to count my blessings. I was blessed to be able to walk normally, to see things clearly. I was blessed to have a husband who would wake up at 3 a.m. with me, listen to my fears and calm them. I was blessed to have a messy house to clean, two wild dogs to walk, a healthy child to drive to school. I was blessed. I am blessed.

You are blessed, too.

I am sharing my blessings daily, and you are welcome to check them out on Instagram (follow me @domesticgoddessltd). I urge you to give yourself the gift of counting your blessings. Start today, and do it every day, as often as you can remember. It's a life changing experience.