My attention is repeatedly snagged by articles with titles like, Ten easy ways to jump-start your fitness, and How to live longer and healthier, and even, How to be your best self now.
And although I do want to be my best self now, I try not to worry about how old I look because I am determined to accept my age. There are many things I can control in my life, but age is not one of them. I try to take care of myself, body and soul, but things still break, strain and pull. Stressful things still happen, unwelcome news arrives, and sometimes sad things just come to you. These things just come to all of us.
I strive to accept this. But I was recently forced to come literally face to face with an unexpected and unwanted truth.
I say literally because I was actually face to face with myself. I was looking at photos from a recent happy event. I was looking at my own face.
I was struck by how old I looked.
I was forced to recognize the downside of getting dressed each morning in a dimly lit room. It may make me feel better about my daily appearance, but when that same appearance is exposed and photographically frozen a different truth arises. Instead of feeling I look okay for my age I was faced with, wow, I really look exactly as old as I am.
And I acknowledge that I am exactly as old as I am. I thought I was absolutely okay with this, because you know, passing time.
But I guess not.
I was in fact shocked with how discordant my external appearance was when compared with the person I internally perceive myself to be.
I’m not really sure of my inside age at this point. But after viewing these recent photos I realize it is woefully out of step with my outside presentation.
Should I wear more makeup?
Should I actually start paying more attention to all those self-improvement articles?
I don’t really object to growing older, but I am uncomfortable with the discontinuity between how I feel and how I look.
In the photos I did not look the way I felt at this event. I felt happy, energetic and attractive. But if I believe the photographic evidence, I just looked old.
I said to my husband, “I thought I looked good that day.”
He said, “You did look good.”
“But I have so many wrinkles. My wrinkles have wrinkles, and their wrinkles have wrinkles. You could even say I am sporting three generations of wrinkles.”
My husband repeated, “You looked good. You looked just like your happy self.”
He continued, “I was surprised at how I looked in the photos as well.”
And this was my aha moment.
My husband and long-time friend still sees who I am underneath this surface.
He sees the me I am inside.
That is a real gift that I haven’t fully appreciated before. My husband and I started dating at the age of fifteen. We grew up in the same hometown and were in the same third grade class when we were nine.
He can still see the girl I was back then. He can still see me as a shy elementary student. He remembers my teenage years. Underneath I am still a discontented college student, a traveler, adventurer, reader, new employee, clueless new parent and struggling writer. My husband still sees all this, beneath this current older visage.
I see who he is underneath as well.
And even though my wrinkles apparently now have grandchildren, I still have a partner who can see the girl I was, just as I still see the boy I knew in third grade.
Ultimately that is more valuable than any self-help advice.