Making Peace with Middle Age
Updated: May 25, 2021
I complain a lot about getting older. All the aches and pains that seemingly come out of nowhere. Limited range of motion, extra pounds around the middle, softening muscle mass, underarm wings flapping in the wind.
"Youth is wasted on the young" - Oscar Wilde
With youth comes naturally occurring beauty. It's not like I worked out regularly and ate all the good foods. Quite the contrary. Why?
Because I didn't have to. My body just seemed to take whatever my lethargic, junk food eating self threw at it and it recovered, naturally. Sprung back like a wound-tight coil. I look back wistfully on the days when I could put all manner of crap in my body and not suffer the consequences. Well, maybe for a day or two until it came back to balance.
But then I hit 50 and all hell broke loose. It's like the OFF switch was activated and all that fast moving metabolism came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, just moving throughout the day became painful and stilted. Getting out of bed in the morning and padding to the washroom looks like this now:
Instead of burning through calories just by breathing, my body stores them up in all the noticeable places (What? I'm going to need them through the winter months?) Supple, elasticized skin is out; elastic waistbands are in. High heels and tight skirts went away very early on. Replaced with flat sandals, comfy sneakers, and roomy but still feminine A-line dresses. Last time I was at the hair salon, the young (12?) stylist wanted to cut my hair into a bob. Yes, a bob. I told her it seemed like every middle-aged woman with grey hair has a bob as though we are all one amorphous blob of post-femininity. She looked at me with the blank stare only a youngster can muster for the "elderly".
I've railed against these middle-aged changes for quite a few years now, mourning the loss of my youth, feeling betrayed by age and the lack of control over how my body responds to stimuli. It's all so unfair.
However, I've had a few years to adjust to the shock of the "Who the hell is that?" in the mirror and I find more so now that I like being in my late 50s. One of the first things that happens when a woman reaches a certain age is that she becomes invisible - to a society that prizes a pleasing appearance. People look right past me now, as though I am a ghost of my former "hot", young self, no longer visible to the eye that seeks desirability. At first, I found this annoying and alienating. I felt set adrift from my most powerful attention-getting asset - youth.
But I've grown used to it now and I've found freedom in invisibility. If no one is looking, no one is judging. The standards of comportment and sex appeal have flown the coop. So little is expected of me now that I can be, act, and wear anything I like. I can mix and match colours, patterns and textures to my heart's content without attracting any attention at all. I can feel 100% comfortable in my skin because the only person who cares is me. Unburdened by the harsh gaze of appraisal, I feel myself expand into the person I am on the inside.
They call this third stage of life the Wisdom Years. I love that. And I readily embrace it. Not having to expend a whole pile of energy and time on how I look, and how I carry myself, I can, instead, focus on how I feel. I get to go inward and reflect back on my life and make note of the hard-earned lessons learned. I have way more room for compassion and seeing the big picture. Suddenly, it seems, I've let go of all the things I cannot control which at one time would have driven me crazy.
The body slows down, the mind slows down, and living in the present is more of a thing. I'm grateful for that.