I do not mean to be glib or suggest that we pretend it’s all unicorns and rainbows. Let’s face it, there is a lot of poop involved in aging too.
I began this blog and community on a bit of a whim back in April, launching in June to celebrate my 60th birthday. Providing voice to, and sharing the stories of women who are not ready to be put out to pasture was my dream. My hope was to build a critical mass that would reject the cultural narrative surrounding aging. Collecting portraits of women, untouched and unfiltered, just real, and sharing them with the world was my goal, knowing that I was not the only one who found them beautiful. I wanted to emphasize that sixty is not the new forty and where we are is where we are.
Now, I want to do even more than that. I want to work with you to change the societal narrative on women and aging in our culture.
How do we do this?
To start, we relish and accept where and who we are at every age. Reject the culture that tell us all the things we need to do to be better. Enjoy our Frappuccino or days on the couch with a book and begin new projects. We reject the culture that taunts us with the fruit of eternal youth. Let go. Become real. Chose to see who we are today and celebrate the life we have right now rather than lamenting what has been lost. That is a waste of time.
I do not mean to be glib or suggest that we pretend it’s all unicorns and rainbows. Let’s face it, there is a lot of poop involved in aging too. But we had poop as babies, teenagers and young adults too. Right?
Let’s come together and reject the cultural narrative that suggests our existence, as it is, is not welcome. Stop ridiculing ourselves with aging jokes and reject the rich consumerism that wants us to know that with this beauty cream, this workout program, or that diet, we will defy time and be eternally youthful.
Since the moment we were born, we have been changing, often to great celebration. I celebrate every single moment watching my granddaughter grow. Learning to lift her head, the discovery that she can move, stand without support, and her sounds that are beginning to form words as well as her exploration of anything she can grab. Her growth is incredible to observe. Growth always is. Who decided that once we hit menopause the growth we might experience should be dreaded?
I celebrate my inner strength and my unwavering voice. My new body is responsible for producing two miracles, and why not celebrate that? There exists inside me an ability to express love and share the wisdom I’ve gathered from all the experiences I’ve had, both good and bad. Celebrating these continued discoveries, and trying to be grateful make all the difference.
Change is a fact of life. Impermanence is a reality. Acceptance is peace.
I suspect we don’t fully accept ourselves and the changes that travel alongside our aging process in part because of societal influences. The advertising, our workplace, health care providers, often tell us that unless we grab at the fountain of youth and worship mightily we will become irrelevant. Invisible.
Don’t buy into this.
This work requires that I pay a great deal of attention to the societal messaging aimed towards women over 50 and for the most part, I find it discouraging and discriminatory.
But here is something truly interesting, this media would not be thriving without an audience and that audience includes you and I.
All I’m suggesting is that to place our confidence in any guru that pretends to have the answer to the changes we will experience is not realistic. Sites that expound on how to retain a youthful appearance through diet, workout or beauty product are overwhelmingly popular and yet they do not make us feel beautiful. We focus on our outward appearance and perhaps neglect our inner selves, the one beautiful thing we have control over.
We should care for our bodies, absolutely. Wanting to look good is not a bad thing, not accepting our imperfect bodies is. A healthy diet and exercise plan is something that is important throughout our lifetime.
The narrative I want to see is one that prioritizes reality, acceptance and celebration.
Look again at the women I’ve interviewed and photographed here. Are they not vibrant, reflective, inspiring, beautiful? I think so, too.
As I said in one of my most popular Facebook posts:
Sixty is not the new forty.
“60 is not the new 40 nor is 70 the new 50 and what you are on the outside is just not as important as what you are on the inside. It just isn’t. I love clothing, cowboy boots and good hair days. I enjoy getting my nails done and wearing makeup. I really get off on great shoes and pretty underwear. I suspect I always will. It’s just that I know for a fact that those things do not tell the story of me and if push came to shove, I could live without them.
But I can’t live without me. The 60 year old me. The one who wants to touch others and be touched in return. The one who wishes to spread love to other women, especially as they age. The one who wants them to see the beauty that shines from their insides the way that I do.
I hear from women over 50 the same thing over and over again, “I feel invisible.”
You are not invisible to me. I want you to be seen. Be heard. From the inside out.
Our bodies are the vessel with which we have the opportunity to spill loveliness out into the universe, and our hearts are the organ that has the potential to heal, soothe and love. Our brains provide the power for critical thinking, for decision making.
How freaking cool is that?
I’m a proud 60 year old woman because of my inside, not my exterior.
And if I read one more dang article spouting nonsense about my age or ignoring the beauty of my body and soul RIGHT NOW, as it is, I may scream.
And I give you permission to scream too.
Cherish where you are. Be proud. Own it.
You are not invisible to me.”
Sixty is not the new forty.