I am 51 years old. Fifty-One used to seem old. I am not old. Old people do not do the stuff I do. I recall an interview with Gloria Steinem. The man interviewing her said, “Well Ms. Steinem, you certainly don’t look 43 years old.” Her reply? “Well, honey…this is what MY 43 looks like.
I come from a long line of very youthful folk. My mom was running and practicing yoga until the day of her death. She actually did run and practice yoga on the day of her death! My father, an avid sailor and squash player, was inhibited a bit by his years of cigarette smoking, but he would walk a brisk 18 holes of golf, in no time at all.
My brother was an elite cyclist and my two sisters, are both athletes, but did not have the same benefits that I did…both being born long before Title 9.
The youthfulness of our lineage isn’t only in the way our bodies show up, but also in our attitudes. You can see it in our eyes. My mom, known for her progressive attitude and authentic spirit had a sparkle in her eye that was very child-like. She approached life with a youthful curiosity and a willingness to share her vulnerabilities. As she grew older, there was a tendency even toward being “wacky”, a characteristic that most people who knew her would definitely mention.
My dad, less open, at least until he got sick, always seemed older, but once he knew the years remaining in his life were limited (he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 60) he, too, became more child-like, open and fun-loving. There was the return to his eyes of a beautiful and youthful twinkle…something I had never known existed, until then. I am so grateful.
Over the last week or so, I’ve come to a peace that I haven’t known…or at least remembered knowing. Being able to just be my full self, show up without absolutely anything to prop me up or protect me from my own fears of not being accepted…and know that I’m okay…the world is okay…allows me to fully engage with those around me. I am here, present and full on!
I am laughing a LOT! I just don’t take myself too seriously. As a matter of fact, the Naked Face Project now has a kind of rich humor about it. It’e like our culture had been playing some kind of practical joke with my sense of identity…that being old meant being ugly or somehow less attractive or desirable…that if I am not made up, I would be taken less seriously. That not being pretty would make me less desirable. These are simply untrue. The only “thing” that makes me ugly, less attractive or less desireable is how I see myself. Whether I have on make up or not is of no consequence. I can take it or leave it…and I’m beginning to see that since it doesn’t matter, its highly likely I won’t return to it. (The verdict is still out. Deciding what to to bring back in, will be the interesting part.)
I was at the gym yesterday and took a glance in the mirror. I started to giggle…it’s like I’ve been duped for so long, by an advertising industry gone haywire, into thinking that looking old or young mattered. It doesn’t…not one bit. As a matter of fact, I swear to you that I feel like I look younger. My skin is in better shape than it has ever been. My hair is thicker, or so it seems. It’s like the more I fought aging or the more I tried being “pretty” the older and less attractive I became. All those products seem to have done very little other than to actually create a need for themselves. In other words, the more of them I use, the more of them I need to hide, cover up or fix whatever “issue” I used them for in the first place. I’m not sure if this is perception or reality, but what I do know is…I feel more child-like, more spontaneous, more fun, more humored, more open and more ME and it is THIS element that I think people are seeing in me these days. Even my teenage kids said something about how much lighter I am about “stuff.”
There is a comfort in my skin, this sense of confidence in knowing that I am truly, truly a much needed force in the world and so are you. I’ve got a child-like kick in my step, a new curiosity about things,
It’s taken me a while to get here, and what I do know, for sure, is this sense of comfort in my skin has an ebb and a flow. I mean…life is like that. It will certainly “ebb” again in the future, more than likely at some kind of transition or highly-stressed period of my life. In my 20’s, I may have found this comfort, peace with myself, through running, or relationships, and yes…the beauty props. But what I’m discovering is…it’s all okay. There is a process of coming to peace wtih ourselves and there is no one RIGHT way. They are all good. Every last one of them. They are all beautiful…we are all beautiful, really, in just courageously taking the journey.
I am so grateful for having the opportunity to work with 8 to 13 year old girls. I think it was with them. where i first allowed myself ro be vulnerable. Kids are like that…they just let us be ourselves no matter how we show up. They ask the hard questions and expect an honest answer. Because they are still so comfortable in their skin…it frees me to be comfortable in mine. So…in honor of them I’d like to share a little something that will probably bring a smile to your face and a good feeling for this fabtastic Thursday! The top ten things I have learned by working with kids!
So here goes:
TOP TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED BY WORKING WITH 8 to 13 year old girls!
1. When you are happy, it is perfectly acceptable to stop whatever you are doing and go into complete “Dance, Dance Fever” mode. Don’t think too hard about this. Allow the dance to be interpretive and come up from your soul. If this means doing a full-blown “worm” on the floor, go for it. If it means, cartwheels and/or break dancing, don’t hold back, brothers and sisters. Dance, until you can dance no more!
2. When you are sad and you feel like crying…cry. There is no reason in the world, not to. Crying is not anything to be embarrassed about or to restrain yourself from doing. Crying can actually feel good.
3. When you are hurt, either physically and/or emotionally, let someone know that you need their help and their love. Don’t be afraid to say “Hug me. I’m hurt.” You’d be surprised how much that helps in the healing process.
4. When you are angry, let someone you trust know first. Tell them everything. Get all the mean parts of your anger out of your body before you actually confront the person who has angered you. Being human isn’t always a piece of cake and sometimes we think really mean things. That’s okay and just part of being human.
5. Trust yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, trust whatever it is that is giving you that feeling. Nine out of ten times, you are right.
6. If you have something to say, say it. Why the heck would you ever want to hold back an idea on your insides when there is plenty of space outside for the idea to live? Share your big ideas even if they seem utterly undoable or ridiculous. You’d be surprised at how many other people might also have the same idea, but just not know or have the words to express it.
7. Daydream. So, maybe sitting quietly isn’t something that adults do very often, but lying on your back, watching butterflies and making shapes out of the clouds in the sky all provide direct routes to the deeper ideas in your imagination. Your destiny is found in your dreams.
8. Stare at people. Sure, this will make them uncomfortable, but every once in a while a stare leads to a connection and a connection is where friends are found. (The best place to stare at people is on an elevator, so says my daughter, Helen Barker.)
9. As you get older, the fashion magazines and the “age police” will tell you what to wear and how your body should look. They just make that stuff up. Wear whatever you want to wear. If you feel like wearing red cowboy boots with a pair of running shorts, this is perfectly acceptable. The human body is pretty cool. Take thirty minutes sometime and just see what your body can do. Leap. Jump. Fly. Skip. Dance. Amazing! Let your spirit be your guide!
And last but not least… the topper, the whole enchilada, the icing on the cake and the cherry on the sundae…
10. Love people. Love them “just because.” Love them with all of your heart. Tell them you love them…tell them a lot. Tell them every day that you love them. Love them with your words, your body and your eyes. Tell them you love them with cards that you decorate yourself, with gifts that you made with your own two hands. Love because you are love. Love. Love. Love.
What would be the top one or two things you have learned the children in your life? What inhibits you from being child-like? What one or two things do you promise you will do this week to celebrate the child in you? Let me know!