Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aging Gracefully: Why I Can't Stay 29 Forever

A rockin' 3rd birthday party with my besties "The Twins".
Notice my amazing Mexican-inspired dress, bowl haircut and Big Bird cake.
For those of you who don't know, I'm a Labor Day baby - meaning I have exactly 5 days until I turn 30. In case you were wondering, the fact that I'm turning 30 signals my extreme inability to avoid a hangover (no matter how much water I drink!), my inclination towards nights spent at home reading self-help books (for fun!), my sudden desire to acquire as many kitchen utensils as possible (impeccable timing, wedding registry!) and my growing disdain for the likes of Justin Bieber (eww... just eww).

The start of my 20's... at the GA/FL game in Jacksonville with Cait.
While it's hard to see my 20's slipping right through my fingers, I'm beginning to realize it's a blessing.  Really! This isn't just my old friend Denial talking! The 20's were tough. They were full of insecurity and confusion as I stepped out into the world. I made the move to New York City and just like that, reality slapped me square in the face. I ended up in a Manhattan "1-Bedroom" the size of my former closet. Those years were fun (well, minus the closet-sized apartment), but I'm pretty sure better things are ahead.

I was recently reading an article on by Annemarie Colbin, PhD, the internationally recognized health educator, author and founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. She's done a lot in her life, and I really liked what she had to say. She was writing about the topic of aging, and how the process of aging is seen by our culture as a shameful, embarrassing thing (hence our fascination with plastic surgery and botox). When we exist within a culture that glorifies youth and beauty to the point of obsession, where does that leave us when we're no longer young and beautiful?

Shall we have a little pep talk today on age?

Sure, being young is great. I'll be the first to admit it. But there's no true wisdom there, no deeper understanding, no ability to rise above circumstances and see them for what they are. Youth is beautiful and free, but it lacks substance. Dr. Colbin told a story about walking through Central Park with her daughter, on one of those days when she was feeling sad about growing older. She noticed a beautiful, old tree in the park. While gazing at the tree, she heard it "speak" to her. And this is what it said...

"Come over here. You are admiring me now. Look at my wide branches, there is plenty of room for birds to play, to put their nests here. I give lots of shade to heat-weary travelers. I add oxygen to the air, even protect you from the wind if necessary. I am useful - but I am old. My branches are gnarled, my bark is full of holes and pieces have fallen off. I look wrinkled, not pretty. You want pretty, you want smooth? Look around; there are the young ones, smooth and pretty, but they're good for nothing right now. There is not enough room yet in their branches for the birds; they barely make some shade. What counts is function - how you're doing, what you're doing for others - not form. Remember that." 

For all of you out there who have believed the lies of our culture - the constant message that beauty is free of wrinkles, free of stretch marks, free of the scars of life - I have a message for you: Don't let the process of aging frighten you. Whether you are turning 30... or 40... 50, 70, 90, it's all the same. It points to the fact that you are one year wiser, one year more beautiful inside and out (yes, wrinkles and all!), one year better equipped to make a positive contribution to the world AND one year better able to guide someone younger than you with your wisdom, experience and grace. You are indispensable, full of value and beautiful to me and all the other people who have the good fortune of knowing you.

Image via
I'll leave you with one more thought from Dr. Colbin...

"Getting older is like taking a slow balloon or helicopter up into the air: as you go up, you begin to see a broader and wider panorama. You see relationships and connections between points you only saw as isolated close-ups. Having lived through various ups and downs, you remember on the next down that soon enough that too will pass, and some up is bound to happen soon - as well as the reverse. This keeps you from freaking out about the down, and from exalting about the up. 
This too shall pass, becomes the password."

I couldn't have said it any better myself. 

On my birthday this year, I'll be toasting to real, lasting beauty. The beauty that only comes with the knowledge that age brings.

Much love to all my September babies out there!

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