Wrinkles & Writing

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about aging. I loved Ashley Judd’s media slam recently in response to some bitter attacks, which really had to do with both our culture’s horrid-emphasis on beauty for women, as well as aging. But then, yesterday, I saw a marvelous post by Julianna Baggott. More on that later.

I never expected to have the opportunity to grow old, which is a little odd, I know, but true. Apparently, it’s a common experience when a person loses a parent at a young age. My father died suddenly when he was 41 and I was eighteen. So, in thinking about my life, I thought I would die young, maybe make it to 45, but no need to plan for retiring, etc. And, when I was diagnosed with cancer at 48, I was fairly certain I had bought a few extra years and would be checking out before age 50. But, thankfully, with a diagnosis of “cancer light,” I faced a future with potentially more years than I had ever expected.

It created a weird problem for me. I might get old? I never gave that much thought. Perhaps like many creatives, I never had a “set in stone” life plan. I had a few givens that I wanted to achieve — I wanted to marry, I wanted to become a mother, I wanted to work at something I would feel good about — that I was doing what I could to make my corner of the world a little brighter. But, getting old? The weight our culture gives that word made it stick in my throat like a dry biscuit.

The fact is I’m fifty-one. I don’t know if I will get “old.” I know that I have certain physical issues that make my body at times feel quite old. But my mind feels pretty sharp. My interest in living an artful life is only growing, not diminishing. I’m a habitual smiler, so I’m developing deep wrinkles from the edge of my mouth down to the sides of my chin. Someday, they will give me a distinct bull-dog look. And, know what? I don’t mind them all that much. I just think of Joshua Kadison’s lovely song, “Beautiful In My Eyes,” and my favorite line, “When there are lines upon my face, from a lifetime of smiles….”

So, at long last, I return to Julianna Baggott’s post, “I Want to Age like Jane Goodall. (What about Kelly Ripa?)”  (I want to go to title-writing class with Julianna Baggott!) I encourage you to check it out and read the whole post. And, if you’re not a regular follower of Julianna’s blog, consider becoming one. One paragraph in particular resonated with me:

“I’m guessing the trick of Goodall’s aging however isn’t a simple one. (First of all, it wouldn’t be right not to mention that Goodall has a classical beauty and always has — beautiful bone structure …) But her current beauty doesn’t require one to just steer clear of cosmetic surgery. No. Hers is an active beauty. Goodall is lit from within. Her beauty — which she radiates with incredibly high wattage — is a very specific beauty — that of purpose.”

When I wrote earlier that in my younger days I didn’t have a clear life plan set out, but I knew I wanted to “make my corner of the world a little brighter,” that gave me a sense of purpose. Now, as I look at my past, thankfully I have few regrets. And, as I look to the unknown, I’m glad that writing gives me another avenue to work on my purpose. I’m thrilled when I hear from a writer who has enjoyed or gained something from a blog post, a story, some sentence or phrase that flew from my fingertips. I’m ecstatic when someone then shares that information with others. (Yes, I do get all happy when a blog post is shared on twitter or facebook. Call me a lame-o, fine, but this lame-o is smiling.) Writing has helped my “corner of the world” expand. And that makes me smile, a lot.

Hope you’re enjoying earning your wrinkles! Happy #writing, if that’s on your agenda.

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12 Comments

  1. Posted April 20, 2012 at 11:45 am

    In my youth, when I listened to my elders exclaim, complain, and declaim the strange changes of aging, I thought I was listening to people give me advice on something that they either knew better than I, or something that I wasn’t going to let happen to me. Both are true, and both are false. I realize now that each person who talks about aging is marveling at something they’ve never experienced before. I feel both relief and irritation at the increasing ways others either overlook me or turn to me for leadership – just because I was born earlier. Sometimes I want to be anonymous, sometimes I want to be seen – aging simply changes the reasons. Thanks for the thoughts, especially on the beauty of purpose – it’s gratifying to know I’ll be gorgeous at 100! I’m passing your post on to my Girls Trek Too group on Facebook – sorry if that adds lines to your face. ;)

    • pam
      Posted April 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Cara, so, so true: “I realize now that each person who talks about aging is maveling at something they’ve never experienced before.” And, thanks for introducing me to your Girls Trek Too group on Facebook. You all look like my kind of people. :-)

  2. Barbara Fay Wiese
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for adding the song link! I never heard that one before. Our mind image and our body image so often diverge, throughout our lives. If we haven’t bought any of the earlier lies about ourselves, aging comes dragging along to try to beat us down. My grandmother said, when asked how it felt to be 90, “Well, I don’t know. I feel pretty much like I’ve always felt!” At 66, I do not have an image of myself at 90. I’m just going to have to patiently get there . . . or where ever “old” is for me, one engaged day at a time. I wonder if I’ll ever feel like I’m “there” or if it will always seem like something off in the future.

    • pam
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Ah, Barbara – I always appreciate your wise comments and this one grabbed me, “..I do not have an image of myself at 90. I’m just going to have to patiently get there.. or wherever “old” is for me, one engaged day at a time.” Yes, yes, yes!!

  3. Posted April 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

    All I could do in December 2010 was bemoan the fact that I’d be 70 in 2011. Never wanted to be so old….As irony would have it, in an emergency room visit in another state on Christmas night, I was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer, etc. A month later I was released from the hospital for chemo. Spent that dreaded 70th birthday fighting for my life. Happy and healthy, looking forward to 71 next week. Still hate the wrinkles and sagging body; still love the Grateful Dead.

    • pam
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Dear Sheila – I’m hoping this finds you enjoying a wonderful 71st birthday!!! Yes, I too love the Grateful Dead – smiling is the best way to go. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. Keep up the good fight. Peace.

  4. Posted April 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    This is a great post Pam. I have had to adjust my attitude towards aging lately too. I hope I made you smile, I re-posted on Twitter and facebook.

    • pam
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:15 am

      You absolutely did make me smile, Darlene! Many thanks for deepening those smile wrinkles. :-)

  5. Lina
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

    One thing that has always stayed with me was having Lillian Hellman speak at my graduation. She stood there, bold, sharp and very wrinkled. The first thing she did was address them. “Yes, I’m wrinkled,” she said. “And I’ve earned every one of them.”

    May we all, as we age, have equally good stories to accompany the visible evidence of age.

    • pam
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

      Lina – I love it! How bold and refreshing — she faced them and moved on and expected everyone else to too — and, clearly, they did. Thank you for stopping by.

  6. MJ
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I dropped by to say a quick thanks for the encouragement to finish (I’ve gotten up early to write the last two days! Hurray!) And what do I find but a post that speaks to exactly where I am. So, double thanks, Pam.

    • pam
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Double “you’re welcomes,” Mary Jo. Smiles all around!

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