Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the acceptance of aging

I've been looking at and evaluating my body lately.  My 61 year old body.  61!  How did that happen?  I mean, I know how it happened and I prefer that to the alternative, but still, it just seemed to happen so fast. 

I liked the 40s (even though I went through menopause) and the 50s were good years too.  But my 60s, my seventh decade, is taking some getting used to. Who is that person looking back at me in the mirror?  I mean, some major changes have taken place, more I think in the last 10 than in the previous 20 or 30. 

Up until about a year and a half ago OK, probably closer to two years, I worked out at the gym for an hour and then walked on the treadmill for another hour three times a week and yoga for an hour once a week.

I was very buff. Great arms, shoulders, legs, butt, stomach, even my neck, all tight, firm, toned and shapely. Even had some faux cleavage.

But then we completed the move to the country house and although there is a gym here at the junior college, the hours are restricted for non-students and I could never work out a new routine given the times that the gym was available to me (I don't get up early enough for the morning session and by late afternoon, I'm either working on something or ready for a drink). I've also got a list of other excuses. Fact is, I've found other ways to fill that 2 hours a day three times a week. Keeping fit is time consuming.

But now, though, I feel and look slacker. All that muscle turned to fat and migrated to my stomach. I'm not fat at 5'4” and 123 pounds and yet I have a ring around my middle that bulges over the waistband of my pants.  

At 50 I underwent an interior image metamorphosis.  You know, the picture you carry around in your head that reflects how you feel, think you look.  Even with the dim light and the small antique sulfur stained mirror in the bathroom, I could no longer reconcile the image in my head with the one that looked back at me.

I didn't expect to have to make another adjustment so soon.   This bathroom here is brighter, less forgiving.  The mirror is bigger and newer.

The 50s is when the body starts breaking down. That's when gray started creeping into my hair though even at 61 it's still mostly dark, the gray strands only seen close up. But it's also when my thyroid went wacky and I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Hence all the time spent in the gym. And then towards the end of that decade my cholesterol shot up. As ailments go though, these are pretty easy to handle.

I guess the thing I like least about this aging process is my skin. It's no longer smooth and blemish free. Now, I have a texture. It's like my skin stretched and it's getting crepe. Ugh. Even the word sounds icky. Every scar I ever had has come back and sun damage is showing up; scaly spots, brown own personal sun spots. This white northern european heritage of mine doesn't age well. My friend Phyllis from India who is in her late 70s has gorgeous skin.

I don't mind being older. I've lived a good life and I'm still living a good life. And I don't really mind looking older. I have no desire to extend a youthful appearance through artificial means. I see lots of beauty in aged faces and there's a certain freedom in having an aging body.

I just wish I could shed my skin like a snake and have it refreshed now and then.


  1. same page, my darling...I don't know who this woman is occupying my body! I think it's my mother...

  2. Ellen, I feel as if you climbed into my head yesterday and wrote down my thoughts. I am 55, I'm facing this too. I had a long conversation with a female colleague at work who already went through her acceptance of this transition. I'm not quite there yet, and I find myself working out as often as I can. The thing is, that seems to only keep extra pounds at bay and not attack the "loss of waist" and thicker thighs. It's like I am saying to my body, do not go gentle into that good night!

  3. When I talk I hear such a young voice still.It is looking into the mirror that is hard sometimes.

  4. There it is. I was perfectly fine up until 60 and actually thought I looked better than ever in my 50's. Not so any longer. I'm not into any of the artificial stuff either and actually like gray hair but that tube around the middle? Oh well.

  5. Body wash, scrub and moisturize my friend. It works.

    I am only 45, but since I was diagnosed I am limited to what I can do via exercise and keeping my body toned. I, too, am not fat at 5'8, 128 lbs, but my stomach lets me know "Yes Skippy - you have given birth four times and sit ups are no longer an option." It can get depressing, sort of, but what are you going to do?

    I just thank my lucky stars I don't have to replace my clothing [yay! still fits!] and my husband and kids love me for who I am and not what I look like.

    Then I grab my bottle of Advanced Therapy Suave Body lotion and try to get rid of the dryness. My MIL is 79, but has the softest skin because she does it everyday. It's amazing.

    Please promise me if I get to 61, at least my face will stop breaking out? I feel like I am still in high school. :)

  6. Okay Ellen, so here's my question to you. Looking back, would you have done anything differently that might have altered the physical place you're in now? Or do you think the changes would be there regardless?

  7. This morning I noticed the lone gray hair I had on the middle of my head, close to my hairline, has found a few companions; two, I think, maybe three...

    It made me smile and it made thoughtful too. I smiled because my Piano Man says "You'll so beautifull witchy when you get some grays." And it made me thoughtful because my grandma's hair was completely white at the end of her many decades; a cloud of curls... "I'm beginning to look like her." I said to myself. And wondered if I will be as wise as she was.

  8. Ah, the crone years...if we are lucky, we'll all get there and wonder who is that person in the mirror...

    You might try doing some exercise tapes in your living room...any exercise would be good for you and tighten things up again if that's what you are after...

    I also was a gym goer in late 30's and 40's...then the situation was okay until mid 50's when menopause hit and I gained so many working on getting rid of those...crones should warn each other that the pounds will cling to your body during young ladies remember that; it's important...

  9. I don't like gyms, with all of those contraptions resembling devices of torture. So that's why I'm out running/walking trails almost every day. Cheaper than a gym too. I still have a muffin top, though, and maybe it is just a part of being 62. Or too many glasses of wine.

    I've noticed that when my hand shows up in a picture it looks incredibly ancient; I think the photo makes it worse. It's the photo, not the hand!

  10. Hmm - I probably have more gray hair than you do (should I ever decide to stop coloring my hair). It's a legacy of my grandmother who was completely gray by the time I was born.

    One advantage of carrying extra weight is that my wrinkles are kind of plumped smooth - but that's the only advantage. I'll be 50 in 2 1/2 years - I'd like to enter that decade with less fat & more wrinkles! And maybe a completely gray head :)

  11. a good honest post. at 48, i started seeing a different person looking back at me, and my skin doesn't snap back into shape as i lose weight now. still reconciling this phase...

  12. Getting old is so much fun ... not. I do sometimes look in the mirror and wonder where I went.

  13. i look at bodies as collections of awards and medals, experiences written in the texture of the skin, the folds containing hidden stories. for example - stretch marks - the story of the journey of my beautiful children silvered and smooth on my wife's belly. steven

  14. This post strikes many nerves with me, thanks for your honesty. I'm struggling with the image in the mirror too, wondering who I am and where I went. Menopause messed me up pretty good in my mid 40's and I'm in the early 50's now hoping for a sea change, for more pleasant phase to commence. I'm 2 inches shorter and 5 pounds heavier than you, and I'm starting to resemble my grandmother. I try to remember the twinkle in her eyes and her joyful demeanor and try not to be a cranky and depressing crone.
    I don't believe what anyone says - our skin does what it does, and no amount of lotions or scrubbing or treatments can stop the march of time. My dermatologist told me there is nothing you can put on the outside of your skin that can change what happens to it as we age. I think of lotions now as touch therapy and smell goods for me, and surrender to the wrinkling thin skin. But I can't look at my hands anymore, or my feet, or I will start to hyperventilate.
    There is no easy way to age, gracefully or otherwise. My Dad always said getting old beat the alternative, and I'm trying to stay positive like him, but some days are easier than others.
    Thanks for your honesty. I like to know what's coming at me.

  15. Well put, Ellen. I'll be turning 65 next month and have been noticing these same things happening to my body. I have that same roll around my mid-section and just can't get rid of it. Like you I'm not going to the gym & haven't been on a regular basis since I hurt my hip last February.
    I don't mind the sun spots on my arms as much as I mind the crepe-paper skin. I keep thinking that working in the yard replaces the gym, but maybe not... or maybe there is no hope for reversing some of the damage.
    I'm just happy to be here!

  16. yep--never thought I would feel that way but it is so true...trying to motivate my mind into seeing with compassion rather than criticism...

  17. It's hard to reconcile. But there it is.

  18. I find not wearing my specs when looking at myself in the mirror helps.

  19. Not there, but hope I live long enough to be. Yes, skin rejuvenation would be nice :)!

  20. The secret to beautiful skin, at any age, comes from the inside out. Lots of fruits and veggies, and anti-oxidant foods, plus a good vitamin for hair, skin, and nails. (I use one from G.N.C.) And of course, working out. If not at the gym, then, at home, to keep the skin and muscles toned. It takes work, but it can be done. :)

  21. I can't even go there--don't want to think about it even. I better get off my --- and go to the gym.

  22. Ugh. I'm trying to tell that face that looks back at me every morning that I love it. After all - it looks like my grandmother and I loved her...

  23. Wonderfully said!

    I know now why some old people covered their mirrors.

    I like the idea of shedding my skin. Tis sad that the young woman inside me still thinks she can do all things...that has been the hardest part of growing older for me.

  24. Sigh.. I know the feeling all too well. Mirrors and photographs are eye-openers.


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