Aging: The Inside Story

 

I saw an ad today for a “beauty” system that looked like a torture device. Picture a tiny paint roller with fine needles projecting from the surface. When you roll the device over your face the needles penetrate your skin. The fine print says “No known negative side effects.” I guess pain isn’t considered a side effect. Granted I haven’t tried it, but it sure looks like it would be painful.

I went onto YouTube to listen to reviews expecting to see people screaming in agony as they “beautified” themselves. The first reviewer I watched mentioned she had put a numbing cream on her face for 25 minutes before use. She said not to be afraid of the device. I’m afraid of anything that requires me to use numbing cream.

The theory behind the roller is that it “might” stimulate the production of collagen, reduce wrinkles, cellulite, etc. The holes it puts in your face also help you absorb serums and creams better.

Looking for Youth in all the Wrong Places

beautiful older womanWhat strikes me about this (and many other beauty treatments that are uncomfortable, expensive, and potentially dangerous) is the amount of focus on trying to look younger on the outside. I’ve known people that forgot about their “inside” life because they were so focused on the external.

I’m all for looking vital and healthy. I would love to have the same skin I had when I was 30. But I’m not 30. I’m 59 and happily counting. (There are more senior discounts in my future.) While I want to look vital and healthy and make choices that help me with that, I’m much more interested in FEELING vital and healthy.

Everyone makes his or her own choices about how much time and energy (and what type of time and energy) they want to put into looking “good.” And we also get to make up our minds about what we think looks good. We don’t all love purple hair, tartan plaid, or pearls. Thank goodness for that because it makes people watching much more interesting.

But there’s something disturbing to me about the hunt for pseudo youth. Dying your hair back to its original shade does not, after all, make you that age again. I believe it’s possible to do things like laser treatments, Botox, hair dye, even torture devices for your face because you love yourself and love looking your best. If getting your butt Botoxed makes you feel great then Botox away. But I think it’s equally possible (maybe more likely?) that many women are rolling torture devices over their faces because they don’t like who they see in the mirror. They don’t like the changes that aging can bring.

Embracing Change

You are changing. We all change. We don’t expect the tree we plant as a sapling to look the same in five years. We don’t expect our toddlers to stay the same or the oak tree to keep its leaves all year. Change is part of the beauty of life.

I’ll be honest. I don’t love all the changes I see in my body. I don’t obsess about aging and I’m grateful that I’ve very healthy—no medications, no arthritis, no high blood pressure. I don’t mind that my hair is gray because it’s thick and healthy. BUT I would love to have fewer lines and tauter skin on my face. I WANT to love all the changes including those lines. I’m working on that. My goals are to 1) accept the changes 2) love myself and 3) look and FEEL as vital and healthy as possible.

I do, however, love some of the changes that have come with age and maturing. I love that I’m more direct than when I was 25. I love that I don’t fall into victim mode anymore. I love that I don’t drink alcohol. It saves money and calories and I feel better. I love the community of friends I’ve gathered over the years. I love that I’m strong.

Being Edith-like

Cousin Edith

Edith at 100 years old with her Chevy

I’ve had the good fortune to have some outstanding role models for vital aging in my life. My
grandfather’s cousin Edith stands out. Edith lived to 108 years young. She lived independently until the last few months of her life. The year she turned 100 she was invited to be the Grand Marshall in her community’s annual Arkalalah celebration (yes, that’s really the name.) She walked to the DMV to renew her driver’s license so she could drive her 1950 Chevy, the only car she ever owned, in the parade. Not only did she get her driver’s license for the event, but also she bought a stylish modern dress that I would have been happy to wear at the time and I was in my early 30’s.

But Edith didn’t look 30. While her erect posture and lively movements belied her 100 years, she looked like an older woman. That didn’t seem to bother her. She was able to garden, take daily walks, play bridge, live on her own, and participate in a book group. She stayed active mentally and physically throughout her life. I never heard her complain about saggy skin, gray hair, or achy joints. She was far too busy for that. Maybe far too happy would be a better description. She once said she realized she could choose to be miserable or happy. She chose happy.

The theme of my coaching and retreat work is living a life of purpose well. Spending time trying to rewind time or focusing on what you don’t like about yourself takes time away from living that well life of purpose. I want to invite you to a life as rich, full, and happy as cousin Edith’s for as long as you live.

Your Vital Aging Challenge

1.    What do you value about your aging or maturing process?

2.    What about your maturing process do you want to learn to embrace or accept?

Here’s what I would love: Share your answer to #1 here. I think if we all start celebrating the wisdom of maturing instead of fighting against aging we’ll have more energy for what matters to us. The world will be a better place. And if you share here we can all celebrate each other’s awesomeness. Ready to join me?

Down with Self-loathing!

Woman & mannequinI grew up chubby and have often seen “fat” when I looked in the mirror, even when the scales said differently. Only in recent years have I begun to accept, even like my body.

No wonder I love the trend toward accepting one’s body— curvy hips, belly rolls, the slope of one’s nose, cellulite, freckles… I applaud the women who say,“I’m not covering up these jiggly thighs for your pleasure. I will wear skintight yoga pants if I choose. I will shake these hips and let my flesh spill out in celebration.”

Self love=Self care

Self-love is healthier than the self-loathing that has been the norm. For years I’ve listened to females from pre-pubescent to elderly “dis” their bodies. Too short, too skinny, ugly knees, and the most prevalent, “too fat.” Along with scores of “sisters” I’ve looked in the mirror and asked the proverbial question, “Does this make me look fat?”

All that self-loathing takes a toll. It takes time and energy, which could be spent doing something you love—painting, hiking, snuggling, reading, growing a business… But instead that time is spent putting yourself down or worrying about how your butt looks.

Plus there’s the emotional and energetic toll. Your body, mind, and spirit register that mean spirited talk. And that registering, even for a comment that might seem small and insignificant, takes a toll. It’s a punch in the gut. A kick to the heart.

It’s self-abuse. So you can see why I’m heartened to hear and see the trend in the opposite direction.

I believe in self-love.

For years we’ve been “fed” images by the media of thin, too thin, and photoshopped lovelies. Many of us received the message loud and clear that we too should look just like the women in the ads. And we don’t.

As the pendulum swings to the other side we’re getting messages that it’s acceptable, maybe even preferable to be as Meghan Trainor says in her popular song, “all about that bass.” If you’ve worked long and hard to get your body to look like Kate Moss, only to feel like a failure, you’re probably ready to embrace the current trend to love every bit of you. Love away.

BUT…

Here’s my concern.

I think for some self-acceptance has come to mean “I can eat a bag of Doritos because I love myself and I’m not punishing myself any longer. Rather than watching what I eat I’m learning to love all of me.”

True that punishing yourself is not self-love. Lose the punishment. Yes to loving all of you. But feeding your body foods that cause you to be obese, to be unwell, to not feel good, or have energy is NOT self-love. No matter what you look like.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the well-documented risks of making poor diet choices and being overweight. Stroke, heart attack, cancer, osteoarthritis, mobility issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, reproductive concerns, gallbladder problems, back pain… Self-love does not include behaviors that put you at risk for these kinds of issues.

Pendulum dilemma

In my perfect world:

  • We all learn to accept, even cherish our precious bodies. They are a miracle. (Isn’t it amazing that your body can take a peach or a Big Mac and turn them into energy?)
  • We all make choices that support, honor, and grow the miracles that we walk around in. I’m talking about that body of yours. You know, the one that feels love, can drive a stick shift, and fills out government forms. Okay, so maybe you never learned to drive a stick shift. Still you’re amazing and deserve to be treated that way.

So maybe you’ve ridden the pendulum to one side: “I need to wear a size 2 or my life is over” or the other “My curves are beautiful so I don’t need to worry about what I eat ever again.” Seek your perfect balance point. That point will let you, on most days, love the body you have. And because you love that body you treat it accordingly, discovering what it loves, what nurtures it, what heals it.

I hear some of you saying, “But my body loves sour cream and onion potato chips.” You might love the taste of those chips. (I do too.) But I’m asking you to go deeper. How do you feel when you eat them? How do you sleep? How easy is it to move? How much energy do you have for the things that you really want to do?

I find that I don’t feel or look as amazing if I eat lots of chips and sugar. I think more clearly without them in my world. I sleep better. I stay healthier. And all of those things help me live the life of my dreams.

My goal is to make a self-loving choice with food more often than not. (If you see me in line at my favorite health food store with a pint of Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica Coconut Bliss and a spoon you might not want to take that moment to suggest that I make a more loving choice.) But stalk me at my favorite health food store and you’ll find my cart is usually filled with healthy, non-sugar, non-chip foods.

But not always. I’m not saying be perfect. I’m saying be loving. To your cells. To your heart. To your head.

The pendulum swings. Riding it to the middle can be challenging. Having the support of a coach can make a world of difference. Coaching can help you find a place where you feel like you’re making choices rather than being driven by your cravings, your habits, or your emotions. You can find a place where you accept yourself AND learn to make healthy choices your way.

What do you think? Are you on one side of the pendulum? What are your ideas about finding and managing your balance point? I’d love it if you’d share them here. Might help me or someone else on one of those less than balanced days.

 

Are You Paying Attention?

Self-care isn’t something that’s nice to do.Now-later

It’s essential.

I’ve known that for some time. True in my own life and that of my clients. But I’ve been quiet about some of the services I offer. Afraid to promote too heavily. Afraid of rejection. But all that changed for me about a month ago.

On a Sunday a friend who’s an author and international trainer had a stroke. This woman, a key figure in her industry, has touched the lives of many. Today she’s relearning to walk, do laundry, use a computer…

On that Tuesday another friend, a man with a brilliant mind and big heart, passed away after an 8 month dance with cancer. His kindness and belief in me were life changing when I was in my 20’s. His professional life was all about being an advocate for those in vulnerable situations.

On that Thursday his wife, my best friend from college and the maid of honor at my wedding, received her first chemo treatment for ovarian cancer. My friend was a social worker. Currently she works as a nurse practitioner in an emergency room. If you’ve ever complained about a health care practitioner without people skills you can appreciate how important this woman with skills in nursing AND counseling is to her community.

Big Heart, Brilliant Minds

The world needs people with big hearts and brilliant minds. We need the gifts, the life purpose, of these creative and caring souls.

I can’t say that if any of them had made different choices they would have avoided the events of that week. But I do know that people of a caring nature, the massage therapists, coaches, teachers, social workers, artists, etc. I work with often neglect themselves in the pursuit of helping others.

They skimp (or skip) on their workouts. They work late in order to help someone. They eat a fast food meal because they’re too tired from giving, giving, giving.

Yes, I’m talking about others, but I fall victim to this pattern as well sometimes. Thinking that finishing a project is more important than getting to bed. Telling myself I need to work “just a little longer” when what I need is to walk. When I pay attention and take care of myself it always serves me.

My takeaways from that week:

  • Take good care, really good care of the precious body, mind, spirit that you’ve been given.
  • If something’s important to you spend time with it. Friends, family, your pets, a favorite hobby, your purpose in life…
  • I need to be bolder about my message. I’ve stayed too hidden. I need to let people know how I can help. My genius is in helping people with a passion sink firmly into their purpose in a way that is sustainable. I can help them get out of overwork and overwhelm and onto a path that gives them energy and wellness. All while still doing the thing that they’re meant to do.

How about you? What can you commit to doing this week in service of your wellness and your purpose? Commit to it here!