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.