Day 12

Why do we look so unkindly upon wrinkles? Why are wrinkles seen as less desirable than a “less-wrinkled” face? What’s up with being so concerned with “the signs of aging?”

I am enamored by the character lines on a person’s face.  One of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen (in a photograph) belonged to Mother Theresa.  The stories her face tell coupled with her child-like-wonder-and-awe eyes leaves me with a feeling that is hard to capture in words.  The closest I can get would be: warmth, tenderness, compassion; strength; wisdom; a life-fully-lived.

"Use Me Up"

Lately, I’ve added a “breath prayer” to prelude my morning meditation.  A “breath prayer” is basically a request to one’s Divine/God/Higher power.  Mine goes a little something like this:  Today, use me to bring love, hope, comfort and peace to the world.

When I look at the wrinkled face of Mother Theresa, I joyfully wonder if perhaps her “breath prayer” wasn’t something similar but included the phrase “Today, use me up, to bring love, hope, comfort and peace to the world.

Use me up.

The way I see it…which is often not the same way much of our advertising, thing-driven culture sees it…wrinkles are a status symbol.  They suggest a life of intention, focus and drive…a life that hasn’t had time to ponder whether wrinkles should or should not be upon the face.  Wrinkles suggest a kind of “using up” of the body and the unveiling of the spirit beneath.  I am speaking my absolute truth, when I say that I find an aged body as beautiful as that of a younger person.  Neither is more or less than the other…they are just different.

Our cultural obsession with youth leads me to question why we are so afraid of not being youthful?  I’m certain that a good deal of our fear of aging is the fear of becoming less sexually attractive, which is, where many women garner their power and sadly what many women consider as their only source of power.

Several years ago, I was walking with a young girl in our program.  It was the last day of our Girls on the Run experience together. Her name is Madeline.  She must have been about 9 years old at the time of our conversation.

“How is it Madeline, that you and I ended up together?” I asked.  “What’s that all about?”

Madeline paused for only a second or two and then responded with the confidence of a person much older (and wiser) than her years would suggest.

“Well, you see it’s like this,” she said.  “God has an idea…but he has a problem!  He needs to get the idea down to earth.  So what he does…is wrap a body around the idea so it can be sent here to be born.  Now the ideas inside are all really great and all really big and sometimes they are so big, it might take lots of bodies to come together to get the really big idea out.

And that is, of course, how you get your gifts and talents.  They are God’s tools to help you get the idea from inside of your body out…before your body dies.”

This is, without question, the most profound explanation, I’ve heard for the connection between our human and spiritual selves.  I believe Madeline nailed it!

What Madeline suggests here…is what I’ve instinctivelly known since I was a little girl.  There is something, the me, the what, the essence riding around inside of this body…and in order for it to shine, radiate and be its greatest potential, i should care for and treat my body with respect…so that the essence of me isn’t distracted by an unhealthy body, but is instead working in loving unison with it.

The care required is quite simple really…eat well and move a little bit every day.  It is, I believe, when we are overly distracted by the body–illness caused from lack of care or an obsession with our body’s appearance–when we’ve lost the balance, as Madeline has portrayed here so beautifully, between our human and spiritual experience.  Both are necessary, but an over emphasis/obsession on either, can at least from my view, keep us from fully experiencing this opportunity we’ve been given…this opportunity we call life…human and spirit intimately woven together

Why do you think we are afraid of aging?  What do wrinkles say to you?  How do you explain the dance between our human and spiritual selves?  Join in, won’t you?

12 thoughts on “Day 12

  1. I wish I understood. I have friends that say they will never say they are a day older than 30. I tell people my age…loud and proud. I am proud of my body. It serves me well and continues to amaze me. I push it to the limits and it responds. I have carried and fed 4 babies with this body. I have run millions of miles with this body. I am not what you would think of as a runner. I do not have a beautiful curvacious body. I have a body marked and scared by time and by the events that have happened to it. I am proud of ewach and every mark and scar. The wrinkles and grey are beginning to come. I see it all adding character. Adding to the diverse terrain…the fabulous roadmap …that is my past, present and future.

    No wrinkle cream, no hair dye, no botox would be worth covering up the experiences that have brought me to this place in my life. With age comes wisdom but one has to be willing to accept the age in order to accept the wisdom as well. I embrace my age, wonder in my beautiful body and pray that my girls will do the same as they grow older.

    1. Kristine, I really like your metaphor of diversifying our bodily terrain! What if the Earth didn’t have terrain… BORING! Thank goodness we had a geological wrinkle that created our local mountains or my skiing would’ve been rather unenjoyable last week.

      Anyway, to Molly’s question of “Why are we afraid of aging” I think we need to look at what you said about wisdom. I think you are right that with age comes wisdom, but we have to ask, “To what end?”. Simply put, what does wisdom get you these days?
      For our ancestors wisdom was life… sometimes literally. I’d venture to say this was true as recently as 100 years ago, and I’ve heard that in some cultures it still is. But in our modern western culture wisdom gets short shrift, and sometimes I wonder if we are on a tragic path to make wisdom flat-out irrelevant compared to knowledge.
      I am in a writing group with an older gentleman and I love the chance to listen to his true wisdom born out of a life that has included the post-war ’40’s… the Cold War military in the ’50’s… his career in Detroit’s glory days in the 60’s and 70’s. But it seems like these types of elder/junior, wisdom-oriented relationships are struggling in the face of technology.
      So wrinkles are not new. Crows feet and gray hair are not new. These have been part of aging forever. So what is new about aging? Perhaps what is new is the risk of becoming irrelevant.

      I think that is one reason we fear aging… because one of the aged’s most valuable assets, wisdom, is falling victim to modernity.
      So how do we overcome this fear of aging? We need to re-value wisdom! How do we do that? One person at a time I suppose, but it is still a good task for all you marketing types out there. There are 9 magazines in the checkout line… how do we get Mother Theresa’s picture on at least ONE of them? And oh by the way, this idea of promoting the virtue of wisdom is certainly not original to me… “Walk with the wise, and thou shalt be wise; But the companion of fools shall smart for it.”– Solomon, 1000 BC

      1. and P.S. one thing I would say about skin in general… I am fair… blonde hair and blue eyes… I just had to get the Blue Light Treatment at the dermatologist, so whether you want wrinkles or not WEAR SUNSCREEN!

  2. I received this link on Wednesday of this week and was thinking about photo #9, “A Wrinkle in Time”:

    Funny, as a young man, I lost my hair rapidly. (heredity was not on my side). My best friends always joked about it in public during my college days and I was just devistated, (in the 70’s, male long hair was in, remember the “hair rock bands”).

    Then when I entered the business world, I realized how much an asset it was, people took me for an older, wiser man, and this boosted my confidence, a blessing in disguise.

    Beauty? Who’s eyes you looking through?

    I agree, I wanna slide into home plate, bruised….stained…..exhausted .

  3. I think that our fear of aging is closely tied to our fear of death and our own mortality. I see more and more that those trying desperately to hang on to their youth are those who have not yet delved inside themselves to find their “big idea” {as Madeline so beautifully put it} and to figure out how to share their gifts with the world. They feel like their best days are behind them and that’s all there is. It’s like a race against time that you’re never going to win. Here’s the paradox ~ the point at which you’ve started to discover your soul and its purpose is the point at which you feel yourself able to slow down, enjoy and appreciate every minute that comes your way, share your gifts, and express your big idea. This is also the point at which we feel more youthful and stop trying to hang onto our appearance of youth at any expense. Another of the amazing complexities of this life!

    1. Holly…you’ve hit the paradox right on the mark. The more we embrace or allow, the less it resists. Aging is like this…when I just allow it to occur, time slows down and there IS this beautiful sensation that all the work I have or need to do…will be done. Thanks so much for joining in.

  4. I turned 30 in December, and for the longest time I dreaded it. But then when I finally thought about it , I realized that I didn’t REALLY dread it; I dreaded it because I thought I was supposed to. But this birthday was the best one yet – I am at a place where I am making choices based on hope, rather than fear, and choosing abundance, rather than restriction, in all areas. It took me a while to get to where I am, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I look forward to my 30s!
    And I have a ton of silver hair, which shows up quite noticeably in my almost-black hair, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. People tell me to dye it, but I’m not going to yet. I feel like I earned it. 🙂

  5. When I turned 30 I dreaded it as well. This year I will turn 40 and I couldn’t be more excited. The difference is then I was focused on myself and my problems. Now I have found a peace within myself and look outward to others. Or is it because I focus outside myself and try to be a positive influence in this world and try to learn from others everyday that I have the peace within me? I am grateful that I have slowed down and am able to enjoy life. I want to be that ray of sunshine that warms other people’s hearts.
    After I look back at my life and reflect on the things that really mattered -the happiness or hardships, victories or struggles, the wrinkles and grey hair really seem insignificant. The other day my 19 year old daughter gently touched the growing wrinkles in the corner of my eyes and said, “Mom, you are beautiful.” I know when she looks at me, she sees the love I have always had and always will have for her. That is one of the many joys of growing older.

  6. I really don’t know why we fear aging, or what is so terrifying about mortality, I just know that I do fear it. I don’t think my mother is any less beautiful than she was 20 years ago, I just know that when I notice more lines on her face that I am terrified of the day that I will lose her. It’s hard to make peace with it.

    I love what Madeline said, and I love Holly’s interpretation of it…I think many of us do fear that we will become irrelevant in our old age and thus our death if we don’t make the mark we feel we need to make on the world. But I also know that often that mark is not clear until a person is removed from the world and you fully realize the void left in their absence. This is a doozy of a question…brings up a lot of emotion in everyone I have shared it with.

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