Being. Older. Love. Acceptance. Wrinkles.
Yesterday, on a rainy, Sunday afternoon I was reflecting on how much I love my fifteen year old dog. I had recently read an article about how many elderly dogs are abandoned to shelters, because they have outlived their usefulness in their “families.” This hurt my heart, as I truly can’t imagine it. The only time I have ever wanted to sell my dog to the gypsies was when he was about five, and I thought he was old enough to know better and he thought he was too young to care. Dolce Vita Evans can not hear most of the time and when he can, he ignores whatever I am requesting of him, unless it involves a pig ear. He putters around the house with his achy hips as a constant reminder of unconditional love and the importance of appreciating everyday.
Based on a number of observations, I have come to the conclusion our culture does not value age. We abandon elderly dogs. We Botox our faces so we can look more similar to the 20-something version of ourselves. We spend thousands of dollars on personal trainers, with only a fraction of our motivation circling back to our health, but instead bolstering our self-worth that is based on having an I-go-to-spin-class-everyday-and-yoga-every-night bum we could bounce a quarter off of and convinces us our best years are not behind us. (I just finished Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and Rising Strong where she discusses that the #1 shame trigger for women is STILL body image. This did not surprise me, but it is always interesting when something is confirmed by research.)
I make a habit of not weighing myself, because it does not seem in line with my commitment to living a balanced life. So, how interesting when I stepped on the scale last night, and I quickly declared my commitment to some sort of, any sort of, weight loss regimen. I immediately started a food log, and began asking friends for nutritionist recommendations. Oh crap! I am fat, and I didn’t even know it. Objectively, I find this ridiculous. I work out regularly and am a healthy person. Do I enjoy cheese, wine, and toast? Yes. Am I overweight? No. But in our society, I would likely have a more “ideal” body image if I lost 15-20 lbs.
This blog is not about body image in particular. Or age in particular. It is about self-acceptance. I have found a common theme in myself and many of my friends. Who we are “supposed” to be and who we really are has become so interwoven we often can no longer tell the difference ourselves. So then, who are we? And more importantly, have we become so comfortable with our ability to navigate the world being who we “should” be that we are afraid to even explore who we really are. I am very good at navigating social situations. Imagine my surprise when I realized I don’t like cocktail parties and all the superficial chit chat. Gasp. I have always been inside reasonable body standards for society. What if I wasn't? What else will I discover about myself? Do I actually not like Champagne? (Okay, I don’t think I need to be afraid of that.)
I am doing some personal coaching. One of the exercises we are currently doing is mirror work. (If you aren’t familiar, check it out. Very powerful stuff.) The gist is that you have to look at yourself in the mirror and practice self-acceptance and love by saying things to yourself. I am pretty comfortable speaking in front of large groups. 200, 500, 1000. Sure, I get nervous, but no problem. But put me in front of a mirror looking at myself, and I am supposed to say nice things about how much I love myself and choose myself for who I am? Aaack! Ewwww! Uncomfortable alert. Put me back in the comfort of the auditorium. My biggest challenge in life is not being with others, it is being with myself. At first, my coach had to adjust the language to use different words, because I was so uncomfortable using the word love. I blame my Scandinavian heritage! We aren’t touchy feely people. Or are we? Anywho. I digress. This morning, part of the message from my coach was this:
The best way to solve any problem is to love yourself. Love everything. Your mind, your body, and your soul… No more judging. Just self-acceptance.
Oh universe. How you always know how to poke me in the noggin. I don’t know how to shift our society so we appreciate the perspective of time and the depth of perspective gleaned from age. I don’t know how to create a world where women can touch their belly without igniting a feeling of shame for the cookie they just ate. I do know, I believe, deeply in that part of myself not controlled by logic, practicing self-love and acceptance holds the secret sauce, password, key to it all. If we can love ourselves we can be joyful and we can set the world on fire with all we create, because we have removed what was in the way.
I haven’t figured this stuff out. I still wonder if my face would look better without the looking-more-and-more-like-my dad wrinkles on my forehead. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit to reading an article on that crazy cayenne pepper, maple syrup, get-fit-fast cleanse thing. But saying it out loud helps me. I am committed to clearing this stuff out of the way so I can make the impact on the world I am here to make. I know that to do so, I have to love myself. Saying it still sounds a little weird and woo woo, but I know it is true. To succeed in business, you have to practice self-acceptance. To succeed in love, well duh. I hope it helps you too. I hope the dialogue can create some space. Tell me about it. Maybe we can unlock this thing together.