“Unwrapping a Package Called Aging,” Aug. 27, 2018

When I was too young to know better, I made myself a promise. I’ve made myself a lot of promises I didn’t keep and can’t recall. But I remember this one.

It was just before my 30th birthday. I was a stay-at-home mom with three small children. My 5 year old had just started kindergarten. My daughter, barely 3, was busy helping her teachers run her preschool. And my baby — for whom I’d gained 50 pounds in pregnancy and lost only 10 of it (his weight) giving birth — was a few months old.

I had plenty to do: Laundry, meals, nursing every two hours and answering questions such as, “Mama, if parents can make their kids behave, how did God go wrong with Adam and Eve?”

I was a mama machine. I barely had time to brush my teeth. Aging was the last thing on my mind. Then suddenly, I was turning 30, and it hit me: I’d been young all my life. I took my youth for granted. And that was about to change forever.

Funny, isn’t it? We spend our early years wanting to be older, and the rest hoping to stay alive.

So I started watching women I knew, or saw on TV, to see how they were handling aging. Some fought it like badgers, dying their grays, working out at the gym, getting Botox or fillers or face lifts or boyfriends.

Others seemed to take it in stride, year after year, growing gradually, gracefully and even gratefully, a little more gray, a little more wrinkled, and yet somehow more alive.

What was the difference? How old would we feel if we never looked in a full-length mirror?

One day, driving my 5-year-old and his buddy to school, we passed a car that was covered with a tarp, and I heard the buddy say, “Grown-ups are so dumb! Everybody knows there’s a car under there!”

I laughed and thought, “You can cover it up, but you can’t hide aging. Everybody knows there’s an old person under there trying to look young.”

So I made myself a promise: To grow old with grace and never hide anything: Not my age, my feelings or who I am.

It was a good promise. There was only one problem. I had no idea how old I would get.

At some point I looked in the mirror and thought, “Who is that old woman and why does she look so shocked to see me?”

And so it began. I started coloring my grays. Slathering on night cream. And paying a lot more attention to make-up.

I’m not proud of it, but there it is. Honestly? I wasn’t so worried about how others saw me. It was mostly about how I saw myself. It’s still about how I see myself. I have friends who’ve gone gray and look fabulous. I might try it, too. Tomorrow. But not today.

My husband, God bless him, often tells me I am beautiful. Never mind that when he says it he’s often looking at the TV. I take it gladly, nonetheless. My brother is totally blind. He has never seen my face. In his mind’s eye, I never age at all.

The photo that runs with my column might look more like my daughter than me. I mean to replace it, but I forget. Is that vanity or just forgetfulness?

Occasionally, readers write to say, “Your columns make me think you’re my age, but your photo looks much younger.”

Here’s my explanation: I like to think I AM your age, whether you’re 5 or 50 or older. That photo is 10 years older than I am. Ten years is a long time. But a photo is only an image of our packaging. It says little about the soul within. And it can prevent us from looking further.

The soul can be anything, young or old, male or female, any race or religion or creed. It’s like a book. You can’t judge it by its cover. You need to turn its pages and see what’s inside.

Try it. The next time you meet someone, close your eyes to their appearance and open your heart to their soul.

And maybe I will get a new photo.

 

Comments

  1. Linda Stowell says:

    Keep up the good work. Thursday is my favorite day for the paper because your column is in it. I always come away with something and always feel glad to be alive. Our paper wasn’t delivered a week ago so I tried your Blog. I hope it was the column I missed.

  2. Frances Bond says:

    Your columns always have a take-a-away, but I am still smiling and laughing to myself about aging issues. I have colored my hair for years, but am tired of the effort. Over the last several years when I tell my daughter that I am going to stop, she begs me not to with the comment “mom, you still look young.” So I told her again recently, and she asked me to wait until she has her 40th birthday next year. Still smiling about that one. My son will receive a prom0tion in the military next June. Will definitely keep coloring till then. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Smiling to be continued.

  3. Donna Johnson says:

    I absolutely love your column….I look forward to reading it every Thursday in the paper….You write about so many things I can relate to…I love being a Nana too!!!

  4. Anne Davis says:

    You’re always an inspiration, Sharon. I refuse to look or act my age and I’ve got a big one (as in decades) coming up soon! Thank you for keeping it all in perspective!

  5. Kate Sciacca says:

    Hmmmm…. I think your photo says lots about you! Those smiling, mischievous eyes reveal a joyful soul… just sayin’ 😉

    I keep WAITING for the gray to show up…. I’m a granny for goodness sakes… it’s time! Last week I attended the funeral of a friend who had beautiful silver hair – another friend there with me suddenly screamed, “wait! Don’t move… I think I see TWO gray hairs on you!” She knows how long I have waited…. Hooray! 😀

  6. JoNina Meyers says:

    Perfect! Beautiful! Every age has its own beauty.

  7. Peggy Newton says:

    I do color my hair but that is it .. I am a widow twice. I wear very little make up. I am sixty five. I have started seeing again a man I knew in college. He looks very different. However, his personality is what I see. I feel comfortable about me when we are together. He is amazed it only takes me a few minutes to get ready. He tells me how pretty I look without all that junk on my face. I heard you speak in Tell City.In. You looked great to me

  8. Betty McNall says:

    I have my 60 year class reunion get together in 2 weeks! Some will show age, some not so much, some are gone to there maker, but we will visit as if it were 1958!

  9. Sheila Torres says:

    I’ve tried to grow old gracefully – I do color my hair though. I wake up every morning thankful for another day. We recently made a major move from Florida to NC to be close to our children and grandchildren. I pray God gives me a few more years to enjoy our new life. Your columns always hits home with me. I truly believe it’s because you speak from your heart and soul! The Lord has blessed you with the ability to reach so many of us and for that I am truly grateful ❤️

  10. Karen Juzenas says:

    I pretty much ignore the age thing–don’t color my hair, rarely wear makeup. I recently went back to my hometown and attended a church dinner where I got to visit with people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. I was apologizing to someone for not recognizing them, saying, “You know, we change a bit in 40 years.” The man across the table, a former schoolmate from the ’70’s, chuckled and said, “Not you, Karen. You haven’t changed a bit!” I don’t know if he meant “you never age” or “you’re the same annoying pain-in-the-butt you were in 1976”. But I’ll take it either way!

  11. Elaine Mccaffery says:

    As usual, you are right on spot. I’m getting older ,and not fighting it anymore. Why? Because it’s expensive and I know longer work. So going gray and hair is kinky. Do I like it ? No! But I am trying to accept it. Weight gain? You bet ya! Old age is no fun. Thank you for your columns. It’s the only thing I can depend on to lift my spirits.

  12. Jana Shannon says:

    I needed this today….

  13. I think I need a t-shirt: “Her soul is one of youthful beauty” 🙂 The other day I saw a group photo on Facebook. I knew I was in the picture. I knew exactly where I was standing. But I wasn’t in the picture. “What’s happened here? How am I not…oh….” There was, coincidentally, an old woman with long gray hair standing in my spot. Maybe someday I’ll get used to this aging thing, but today is not that day.

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