“Inside every older person is a younger person – wondering what the hell happened.”
—Cora Harvey Armstrong
“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”
The arrival of a brand New Year (always a treat to be able to begin again, isn’t it?), plus a cockeyed economy, and an article in a scientific journal that suggests we may all now live to 120, have prompted me to think more than I usually do about this strange business of growing older. (Something I try to avoid altogether, ever since my accumulating birthdays seem to be adding up to alarming new numbers!)
Youth wasn’t always the be-all and end-all of people’s ambition, I tell myself (as I hurtle past the mirror, lest my cheery mood be torpedoed by a glimpse of me without makeup!) After all,
Michaelangelo was 59 when he began his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was 54 when she co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Albert Schweitzer was 48 when he enrolled in Medical School.
Isaac Newton was 62 when he became the first scientist knighted for his work.
Grandma Moses started to paint at 72.
Georgia O’Keefe and Picasso were still painting masterpieces at 90.
And the women in my own family seem to sail past 90 or even 100, as if it’s not an issue.
How old would I be if I didn’t ever look in a mirror, I ask myself. To my astonishment, I’ve found that only my outside has morphed with aging, while my mind, heart, soul, spirit remain essentially ageless. Even my body very seldom reminds me that I’m not 38.
Someone once told me, “Age is a great healer and a lousy beautician” – they were right, of course. There’s nothing like the physical perfections of youth, but I have to say looking back, it isn’t until 20 years later that you realize how good you looked back then anyway.
Don’t you look at pictures of you 20 years ago and say to yourself, “Wow! I wish I knew then how great I looked…I might have made different choices”? I do that every single time I go through the family photo album.
So, I admit to mixed feelings about this time business. But here on the eve of 2012 (a year full of portent, no matter what your spiritual or political affiliations are) I want to go on record that I now feel Time is not necessarily our enemy:
- Yes, I’d love to be 35, but only if I could know what I know now.
- No, I don’t feel a day over 40, if I don’t look in a mirror
- Yes, I’d love to ditch that irksome 20 pounds, but I felt exactly the same way at all those other ages, when I actually weighed 20 pounds less!
- Yes, I know I couldn’t be the me of now without having gone through all the me’s of then!
- It’s lovely to imagine the opportunity for accomplishment not yet explored.
Wouldn’t it be exhilarating to imagine having another whole life to live, knowing what you now know? And wouldn’t it be nice if we could also chuck our current notions about attractiveness enough to be able to look in the mirror and say “You may not look young as you used to, but you really look pretty damned good for someone who’s tucked so much living under her belt.”
A terrific quote came my way recently. A man named William Arthur Ward added exactly the thought I needed to pull my musings on all this together. He said:
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
The realist adjusts the sails.”
I’d like to opt for a combo of the last two options: expect the best of whatever time I’ll be spending on planet earth… and stay agile enough to adjust my sails to make that time as spectacular as possible.
Part of that agility, of course, has to do with feeling well and strong. To that fine goal, I’d like to offer in the coming year some of the wonderful alternative healing methods I’ve been privileged to learn in my travels round the world. I hope they have the power to help make your 2012, the best year yet.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc