Saturday, March 17, 2018

A conversation about aging gracefully; two things

Yesterday I was lying on the soft mat at my gym, when I looked down at my black leggings and realized they were inside out.
Yep. There it was, two mountainous seams running down both my inner legs and god knows if there was one on my backside.
Oh crap. How did I not see this?
For a whole second, I debated about heading to the locker room and immediately fixing this embarrassing fitness-faux pas. Only the vision of me hobbling on one leg at a time, leaning against the wall while I yanked and stretched myself back to respectability popped into my mind.

 Forget it, too much work.

Afterwards I made another surprising choice (for me); I didn’t rush home, pink faced and self-conscious.  Instead, I ended up doing a bunch of errands still wearing my leggings down the bright aisles of the grocery store, into Macy’s to pick up my new glasses, and back into the sunny parking lot, every bit aware of the women walking behind me.

 La de da de da… feeling exposed but oh-well.

Only each time I thought about my seams, I started giggling. I felt like Dudley Moore in that limo scene in the movie Arthur, when he bursts out laughing hysterically for no apparent reason and explains to the prostitute,
“Sometimes I just think funny things.”
Don’t you love that scene?
The idea of expressing your insanely, goofy self with a brazen freedom, without a care about who is around or who even gets the joke?

As I’ve gotten older something radical has been happening inside me. And I’m convinced it’s the je ne sais quoi of good aging, the equivalent of hitting the beauty jackpot only instead of gold coins spilling out at your feet, there’s a new perspective.
I notice it in the little moments.

Like when I walk into a room of strangers and I’m more focused on how the other person is feeling, instead of me. 

 I no longer worry if I’m dressed Ok.
(If I feel good, that’s my answer)

 I’ve stopped pretending I care which hairstyles are best for my age group.
(see above reason)

 And when I occasionally dress without my glasses and show up in public with my clothing inside-out, I’m the first person to laugh at myself.

I’m not sure when these internal shifts began, but I do believe aging with grace involves a transformation of our soul, mind and heart as much as our physical bodies. It means opening ourselves up to a new way of being in the world, and this requires us to be real and honest and brave about the person we want to be.
I'm still figuring it out.
But for me, aging means being empowered in two specific ways.

1. Myths about our Self

2. Other-ness

1. Letting go of old myths about YOU

Take my example with my leggings.
At first glance I know it looks like a silly thing.
But not long ago I would have been cringing at my mistake, convinced that everyone’s eyes were riveted on my protruding seams and that of course, they were snickering as I walked away.
The Younger Me would have rushed home to change, unable to tolerate the embarrassment of having my defective self on full display.

And there’s the key word. Defective.

Without realizing it, I would’ve attached meaning to this experience based on some outdated and hurtful myth about myself I still carry around.  
Old beliefs about who I am-- that when triggered, --evoke a rush of cobwebby feelings to the surface again.

You know that feeling when you finally talk in person to someone you’ve only heard stories about, only to find out that they are nothing like the impression you had of them?

Well, we can walk around with distorted views about our Self too.

Aging with grace is teaching me about letting go, period. Not only in how I deal with my relationships and valuable objects but even old critical ways of seeing myself.

This means facing some of our earliest experiences, when you didn’t have your wise, adult perspective to explain how it wasn’t really your fault because you were only a child.
And how as a child, you were only trying to do your best and by-the-way, you shouldn’t have felt so alone.
P.S. You were always enough.

Holding on to an old narrative about yourself keeps you from growing. 
And it prevents you from loving your most tender parts: remember the You that spoke from your small, petty self and said mean things to someone you love?
The You with the jealous feelings, and the You that made that bad decision?

Luckily aging makes us smarter.
We know that disowning our messy, flawed parts doesn’t make them go away. It just keeps us from feeling whole and lovable and we deserve more from ourselves.

Finding our kinder voice

The reason I’m sharing my "inside-out" story is not because it’s special or unique. Its value is only as a little nudge. Something to make you think about how kindly you treat your own awkward mistakes.
And maybe you can relate.
Because here's the truth, 
I still felt that old twinge of self-consciousness while I was walking around in my leggings.
But here’s what’s different now.

Those feelings are no longer ME. 

Now I’m able to create enough space between myself and my emotions to view them from the eyes of an observer.
I am not my feelings and I am not my thoughts.
I know this sounds basic, but that’s a monumental step towards being happy.

My kinder voice sounds like this:

Oh look. It’s that old feeling of ‘being different’ again. Of thinking that I’m the only one who does something like this and this wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t something deficient and lacking about me.

Cleo Wade the poet and writer, gave a beautiful example of this type of mindful awareness at her recent book signing.

Instead of investing in our negative emotions we can choose to acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t cling or overwhelm us.
Instead of telling myself, “Oh my god I am so embarrassed,”
I can say, “I feel embarrassment passing through my body right now.”
I can resist over-identifying with negative emotion.
I will feel it.
I will respect that this feeling is telling me something interesting,
but I will let it move through me without judging.
Because this emotion is not Me.

This is the kind of self-love that is better than any miraculous skin creams you can buy.

2. Freedom from Other-ness.

I explain Other-ness like this.

  • When you’re in grade school you look at the prettiest girl in your class and you admire her and you desperately want to be included at her birthday party.
  • When you’re 15, walking with your best friend on a crowded sidewalk from school, you gaze longingly at the 16-year old’s driving their own cars around town.
  • When you’re 19, without a boyfriend, you sigh and wish you were 21 so you could hit the bars and be included in a world that looks populated by new and imagined friends.
  • When you’re 35, you start to miss your 20-year old body.
  • When you’re 40, you wish you were more like the friend at your child’s school, who appears to be balancing motherhood and career in a way you’re not.

 You get the idea.

We are profoundly aware of the Other Person.
Only it’s not the awareness of the Other Person that’s the problem, it is the silent comparisons we’re making inside our heads.
As I get older I’ve decided to be like the suspicious Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, right before she yanks back the velvet curtain exposing the Wizard.
No more wide-eyed girl believing the illusion that some Admired Other has all my power.
The mysterious thing I’m seeking.

 Instead of looking at someone we admire
and asking,

·  Why am I not more like her?

· Why is my life not like that life?

I think we should start with the truth.

You feel like something is missing.

That’s ok.

But instead of going toward the empty place inside you for answers,
you project your dreamy ideals on to someone you admire. Someone who seems to possess what you’re missing.
Only one problem.
This kind of gazing outward for your happiness continues at every stage of your life unless you deal with what’s really missing inside you.

It’s ok to gaze over and see what someone else is doing, but when you end up feeling bad about yourself or dissatisfied with your own life afterwards, it’s time to look deeper.

Rejecting smallness

Energetically, each time we compare ourselves with another person we are choosing to keep our world small and compacted.
This feels like ‘stuck-ness.’
Either we end up feeling inferior in some way, or we end up feeling superior which means that we’ve been judging some poor, unsuspecting person’s lifestyle or their face, or their weight in secret.

It’s the opposite of living a big-hearted life.

Let me give you a personal example.

I was at a wedding recently, standing in a group of women I hadn’t seen in a while and after several minutes of cheerful conversation one of the women left the group.
Within seconds, the remaining friends began whispering.
The comments weren’t meant as negative, these were nice women. But the topic was whether this woman had any “face work” done because she apparently looked great.

I stood there feeling confused.
First, because I hadn’t noticed anything different about her, but mostly because this conversation happened only seconds after she left the group.

 And I couldn’t explain why, but I felt yucky.

Since then, I’ve thought about this situation. And I realize that even “positive” judgments can be a slippery slope, because we’re still judging someone. Maybe even comparing ourselves in the process.
I’m not saying I never do this kind of thing, but I’m aware that it feels wounding to my soul.
And while I don’t always realize ‘smallness’ in the moment,
I do know when someone’s words feel like the opposite, inclusive and loving.

I realized this recently.
I follow a yoga teacher on Instagram and a while back she addressed some “haters” who made hurtful comments about (of all things) her feet.
Instead of lashing back, she pointed out that we are all mirrors to one another and she said,

 “What hurts me is knowing that you can never say hurtful things to another if there wasn’t some part of you that’s being hurtful to yourself.”

She continued to speak from a place of forgiveness by asking the haters to meditate on the negativity they directed at her and ask themselves this question,

“What is it that you dislike about who you are?”
I felt so impressed by her lack of ego.
Maybe because I spent too much of my 20s and 30s being worried about what others thought of me.
But I recognized this as sign of a generous spirit.

This is what I believe aging gracefully looks like in real life;
I see it in the words of this thirty-something year old yoga teacher.
It’s not about being a specific age, it’s not about having a firm body, and it's not about looking like some version of a fashionable Diane Keaton.

It’s about being a certain kind of woman.

Maybe for me this means walking around on a sunny day wearing my black leggings inside-out as a statement of defiance: I am not my latest goof-ball mistake nor am I my latest success.

I am so much more than what you see on the outside.

And so are you.

I'm sharing this post with these friends:
Amaze Me Monday #257
Life on Lakshore Drive Party
The Scoop
Inspire Me Monday
Home and Garden Thursday


Simply LKJ said...

Love this Leslie. I recently completed a Bible study. Two things that stood out and really took hold in my heart are 1) when negative thoughts about yourself come to mind...maybe something you were told when you were younger, to question "who told you that?" and 2) Hurt people Hurt people. I think this is what that yoga instructor was trying to get across. It really is eye opening when you dig down deeper. We all also felt that comparison was rampant among women! Why, why, why do we do this to ourselves and to others? Don't get me wrong, I am just as guilty as the next person. A work in progress. But, now that I am more "mature" in life and my faith, I do find that by doing so I make myself feel awful...either because I feel I don't measure up or because I know I am hurting someone else in the process. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

This was a great post! I really needed this today. I am finding that the older I get the more I can laugh at my mistakes as long as they didn’t hurt anyone but me. I enjoy your blog so much, even if I don’t comment. I’m computer/IPad challenged, but getting there. Thanks again for this wonderful post.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

With age comes wisdom. It is a shame that it take a few years under our belts to realize that WE ARE SMART, FUNNY, BEAUTIFUL, KIND and so much more. We may not be as fit as we want but maybe we are healthy. We may not be as savvy as we want but we are smart, and sophisticated in other ways.

Women sadly are so much more insecure than men. Women look in a mirror and see every wrinkle, grey hair, bunch of cellulite and stretch mark. Men look in the mirror and they sometimes see what isn't there, they preen like peacocks even if they are overweight and their hair is sticking up like they just put their finger in a socket.

Women are conditioned from a young age from magazines, and now social media, that how they look and the closer they are to model material the better.

I thankfully grew up with a mom who loved me for me. She instilled in me that no matter what I looked like or how much I weighted I was beautiful, funny and worthy of being loved.

As for aging I say this. First and foremost no matter your age, you have to move it or loss it. Fid something that you love to do and that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life and do that. If it is yoga, pilates, running, walking, zumba, no matter just do it. I personally love to walk, snowshoe and I love hot vinyasa yoga. I am going to start weight training because they say as you age it is the most important thing you can do. That and balance, balance is the first thing to go as you age.

Second, find a way of eating that works for you. For me after all there years it is eating in moderation and not consuming too many carbs after lunch.

Third, you are the most important person in your life. If you do not take care of yourself than you simply cannot take care of anyone else. Make sure to have regular check ups, exercise, etc.

I am aging gracefully as I say, although I have no plans to ever erase my laugh lines and crows feet I will not lie I plan n dying my hair for quite sometime. I have had greying hair since I was 18 so it is something I have always done and it makes me happy.

Last and most importantly, BE HAPPY. Find ways to make yourself happy. If you are happy you will be so much more healthy.

Life is precious and oh so short don;t waste it worry about your pants being inside out or if someone else is looking at you or talking about you. Who cares, the only opinion tht matters is your own and I am here to tell you that if you look in the mirror you are going to see a beautiful person staring back.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Leslie. It is always so nice to have a discussion about things that matter to women of my age. Have a wonderful evening.

kddomingue said...

This was a wonderful, thoughtful post. It has taken me the better part of five decades to overcome my childhood and teen years. Almost five decades to start to believe that I am enough just as I am. It's a shame that it takes some of us so long to come to that realization and be comfortable in our own skins. I hope mamy, many people read this post and pass it on.

michele said...

So very rich with nuggets of wisdom and light-filled reflections from the inside out blogger. Here's my favorite: "Holding on to an old narrative about yourself keeps you from growing." Amen. Letting the old go creates a spaciousness where a beautiful unfolding narrative can bloom. To let it go usually requires forgiveness, and is there anything that facilitates a new, lightness of being better than forgiveness? So much of aging for me is learning to better hold all the paradox (like how much suffering exists in a world with a loving God) and begin to love it as I SEE more clearly that everything belongs. Love and peace to you, sister. xox

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

This is a post full of wisdom and acceptance, Leslie. I have found aging to be freeing...I don't really look for approval from others much anymore, and I try very hard not to judge others. Life is about SO much more than what we see on the surface.
I would never have noticed your leggings, I don't see that well anymore! And I make myself laugh, even snort, all the time...I do some funny stuff and I get my own jokes.
Love to you, sweet friend!

Carla from The River said...

Thank you,
while my boys were growing, I had a woman in my life that judged EVERYTHING I did. I began to worry about if my boys would act up in front of her, they had to be perfect, everything had to be perfect. As time went on, I began to see how awful this relationship was for me. In year 2012 I cut the relationship, I had too, it was not healthy for me or my family. It was painful. She was mean! I cried and it took time for me to feel strong again, because of the words she would say to me.
Out of this, came a stronger me. One who shared with her boys what people can do to each other and how we can be different.
Thank you again for the powerful post.

Vannessa@Luxuria said...

Such a beautiful post Leslie. However, I am not there yet. I would have been the girl that ran out mid-class to change the leggings and maybe not even coming back to finish the class. The thing is, if I had seen your leggings on you I wouldn't have thought twice about it. But if it was my mistake I would have been cursing myself all day long. Clearly, I need to re-read this post again ;-) xx


Great post Leslie, you are very smart and this "article" you have shared with us belongs in the best magazine !
I am in my 60's and I am a very secure woman about myself, starting with my looks and weight. It doesn't mean I don't take care of myself, but I do it in a no stress way. I watch out for my weight, eat healthy, and take care of the inside as well. Dress the best I can for my body and age... not frumpy though ¡
What I want to say is that you are totally right, age gives such more love and security with one self that young age doesn't, as then all we do is bash ourselves in most cases. Wishing we were that girl that's so thin, so tall, so pretty, such hair, etc..
I'm pinning this to read later on again.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Hope you do it again, share your thoughts I mean. It made my day !
Have a great week ahead.

Robin in Umbria said...

can we talk? Off the record?
Have loved your blog, since the beginning.

Blondie's Journal said...

The second part of your post was so, so meaningful to me, Leslie. I tend to judge myself in comparison to others, I judge myself all by front of a mirror, or in what I'm doing on a day to day basis. I agree that we hurt others when it's really ourselves who hurt. I always seem to realize the things I've felt or said are so incredibly off target after the fact. And I never seem to learn.

I am pretty much good with myself except for my weight. I'm a good forty pounds over, and I'm very out of shape. I always feel that it's a sign that I'm not taking care of myself, or sadly, that I'm lazy. I beat myself up with this every minute of the day. There aren't going to be any excuses here, I've run out of them just in time to realize that I can't believe them myself anymore. Worse, I have major low back problems that are insane. They are degenerative, not a result of trauma or an accident. My doctor told me three years ago that my pain would lessen once I dropped the weight. You would think that this advice, my insecurities, and dressing in tunics and plus size clothes, would get me off my ass. Well, its all another story. If I have the surgery, I'll be inactive for a while, much like I am now because of the pain. PT is nothing like going to the gym. Its terribly slow baby steps.

I've gotten off subject. I do invest a lot of my self esteem in how I look obviously. I am meticulous about skincare, makeup, hair, nails---everything that I may be judged by...from the 'others'. Outside of writing, from my heart and soul, but quite edited (I'm not an entire open book!) I don't think people "get me". Don't feel what I have to say. Such terrible confidence.

Okay, we need to chat. Someday. Seriously.

Jane xxxxx

Unknown said...

Wow! This week I also wore my black pants inside out to a meeting. I cringed thinking how could I do this and thought "I am really getting old" laughed and continued wearing them that way the rest of the day. Most of my life, books on self improvement (positive thinking, dieting, getting along with others etc.) were my reads. Must say they all helped me to look outward and inward. Now at 74, finally a good place has been reached. I accept myself and can see that all along I was on a good path. I know my loving heart and that is what matters.
I sometimes think, what if I really don't care much about things, will this diminish me? Thanks for a wonderful, thoughtful post.

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Another wonderful post, Leslie. So thoughtful. Your opening reminded me of the time about ten years ago when I showed up with two different tennis shoes on. I won and even thought about doing it purposely the next time. I didn't because my teammates gave me too much ribbing. Have a great week.

Art and Sand said...

I love all your posts, but your "think" posts are my favorite.

I thought I commented before, but I saw that I didn't when I came back to read the post again. I plan on mentioning it in the caption of my Instagram post today.

You have ALWAYS come across, both in your blog and in person, as someone who has it together AND someone who truly cares about others.

I came to accept who I was in my 30's. We joined Gourmet Group when we moved to town in our late 20's. We lived in the smallest house, drove the oldest car, had the least money ... Another woman who was closer to my circumstances asked me if I was embarrassed when it was my month to post. I told her that we always had such a fun time when we were hosting - more fun than at some of the other houses. I realized that people enjoyed being with us and sought us out beyond Gourmet Group. Jump forward 41 years and nearly every couple out of the 20 original members of the group are divorced. Many are still working and tell us that it must be so nice to live at the beach and play all day.

Melanie said...

What a fantastic and insightful article! I've been following you on IG for quite some time, but am new to your blog.

At age 55, I am now finally more self-assured than I've ever been in my life. I don't feel the need to be so perfect on the outside, because I'm certainly not perfect on the inside. I try to take good care of myself, physically and mentally, but I do still beat myself up a lot because I am a perfectionist. I love your story about the inside-out pants and not changing out of them, but instead, choosing to laugh at yourself. Wonderful attitude!

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