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I took my dog for a walk in our neighbourhood the other day. I was happily enjoying the cool morning air, chattering about something in my head. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do distinctly remember hearing my own voice. I passed a parked car and saw my reflection in the window, and it made me stop in my tracks!

The body that was taking me for a walk felt so good. Alive, bouncing with energy. The voice in my head, fresh and bubbly. The image I saw, was that of a middle-aged woman taking her dog for a walk.

I am 45 now. I look 45. Time has left its tracks on me…and yet, when I am doing something where I have no visual reminders of my age, I feel 20….only much, much better!

I do not like that I look older. I do not like that I don’t look as good as I feel. BUT, I can accept it, because the inside gains of ageing are offsetting the outside losses by a large margin.

My 20-year-old self-had poor a body image, and a borderline eating disorder. My 20-year-old self-had no tools to manage difficult feelings. My 20-year-old self-felt ashamed of loneliness, sadness and uncertainty. It didn’t even have words to describe these feelings, I had turned it all into obsession with my body and with food. Time has been good to me. I’ve learned and healed and matured. I am lighter and freer at 45 than I ever dreamed possible at 20.

I am a fan of ageing.

Ageing is the accumulation of changes that happen over time. In people, it refers to a multidimensional process of physical and psychological change. The physical body goes through a progression very much like that of other living things. An apple for example starts as a blossom, then becomes a small fruit that grows and swells out, ripening to perfection… then it starts to shrink, losing moisture, wrinkling and decaying until it returns to the soil and eventually disappears.

Life over.

If that was how it worked for humans too, I would agree: delay the process!

We are different though. We are not only our bodies. There is a parallel process that happens in humans, with a completely different trajectory.

Patricia Romano McGraw in her book “Seeking the wisdom of the heart” writes:

“When you are on a spiritual journey, you have found the fountain of youth, because if you continue the journey, you never grow old. You just get deeper and deeper into a place of joy, and you seem to get younger and more lively and glowing as the years go by. That is what the fountain of youth is: to be filled with joy. The spiritual journey that begins here will go on into the next life. It begins here, but it never ends.”

I have seen older people that have been on this journey - the ones with twinkles in their eyes and crows’ feet lining them. Their skin may get saggy, but they seem more comfortable in it with every year that passes.

I am drawn to these people. Excited about the prospect that what is theirs may one day be mine. I look forward to being a wise old lady. One that has years of experience under her belt, that has grown to a solid, strong, nourishing, force to be reckoned with, even if she is housed in a fragile, wrinkled, diminishing body.

There are also older women that are different. The ones with their faces ironed out, with full lips and perky breasts, taking great care to stay out of the harmful rays of the sun. The look of youth is with them… but so is the anxiety. The neurotic “what will people think of me” that teenagers and young adults suffer, still alive and present, possibly only getting worse with age when they have to work so much harder to look beautiful!

I want to embrace each year, growing better and stronger; take good care of my body, but always remember that I am a whole person, not only a body and a face.

Letting go

I cling to what I’ve got,

fearing my quota has been dealt.

What if it’s true

that morning gold belongs to the young?

The firm fleshed, fresh faced,

forever behind me now.

Have I no duty to keep it with me?

Sparkles for today from yesterday.

Gold shimmers in every year,

it has been sprinkled generously.

But what if there will be no more,

the storeroom now closed?

I will only know if I go forward.

Un-dig my dragging heels

and be lifted out of the sand allowing distance between then and now.

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