Last night I had one of those thoughts that wake you up out of a sound sleep. It wasn’t so much a dream but more the beginning of a pre dawn panic attack.
I will turn fifty in less than two years. I don’t feel mentally prepared for the event.
We all know the only other alternative to reaching a milestone age is death though who can honestly even consider this an option? I keep reminding myself that aging is better than death but sometimes I have trouble buying into the notion. Though death is indeed the only way I can preserve myself at the tender age of forty eight, I still do not want to see fifty, ever! Even the number irks me. Those fat, rounded edges, taking up far more space in the world than any two digit number has a right to.
I have witnessed plenty of beautiful women, well past the age I fear. They are vibrant creatures, laughing in the face of our culture’s narrow view on aging and defying it at every turn. When I think of them, I feel the hope bubbling up inside me, fighting to come to a full boil but for some reason, it always stops short. Am I spending too much time watching the pot?
I think it might be because though there are gorgeous trail blazers out there, some seem to be mainly a part of the exclusive celebrity or extremely affluent niches. These women are not all aging gracefully with good genes and model nutrition but rather with the kind of “help” that ordinary women cannot afford or hope to compete with. Besides, it is downright dis empowering to try to pretend that we can actually look like our teenage daughters if we only raid their closets and properly apply ourselves.
There are others who are doing it the old-fashioned way but this is so unexpected in our society that the degree to which these women will appear believable to the rest of the world remains questionable. Why should being sexy and alluring well into our forties, fifties, sixties, and even beyond come as such a shock? That mother of back handed compliments, “You look amazing for (insert over 40 age here) is carelessly tossed out as if it cannot possibly be received as anything but. What kind of compliment comes with its own rider that states that no one really expects a woman to look appealing after a certain age? The bar has been set low. What would alter societal beliefs? Would a reproductively viable sixty year old make fifty seem like the new twenty-five?
So many of today’s aging women insist on celebrating their milestone years by doing something new and challenging, something they have never done before which will now set them apart from their former selves in the best of ways. They sign on for 5k’s or even marathons, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, scuba dive off the coast of Belize, enter ballroom dance competitions, take foreign language lessons in a native city, go on safari and journal about the elephants. Name an adventure and it has probably already been invoked and accomplished by a middle age woman. Is this all in a vain attempt to distract us from the real issue at hand, our inability to accept and come to terms with our aging selves? Why do we need to prove anything to ourselves at this age? Are we not good enough just as we are? Having lived all those years, you would think we have proved enough. What ever happened to blowing out the candles and being satisfied with the life you have, just the way it is?
Fifty is not old. Yet the morbid thoughts of a half century already lived along with all the things not yet accomplished weigh heavy on even the most stalwart of women. We are hardwired to see the negative, some more than others. We seem to lack the freedom to define our age on our terms yet that is exactly what we must to in order to be free.
What women doesn’t struggle daily with societal pressures to look, act, and be a certain way even if it doesn’t align with what’s on the inside. Do we even want to accomplish all those things we think we should? Have we earned the right to ask our own questions and choose our own answers?
Comparing ourselves with our seemingly age-less counterparts is a losing game. The airbrushed images of pseudo-youth at any age aren’t going away. They are what sells and they do provide a crazy kind of barometer as to how we are holding up in a world that often views women over forty as invisible.
So where can we go to get away from the noise? We all need a place of quiet contemplation even if that place resides solely within us. The things easily forgotten and crowded out such as customized faith, meditation, and endorphin-producing sweat sessions, hugs from your loved ones, and contemplated beauty in all its forms can guide us through the chaos. The truth is time marches on and there is no way to stop it. All of us are here for a reason even if we can’t always see what it is. So let’s stop perseverating about that inevitable number that causes us so much anxiety. If you’re waiting for me to tell you how, please don’t. I truly don’t know but hope to have an answer by the time I turn fifty.