I remember my fear about turning 40. I thought the gig was over, that men would no longer look at me and that my job prospects were dim at best. Last year I turned 50, and I wish I could say I accepted it with grace, but more with dread and sadness. Even though I don’t have children, I’d become a grandma overnight. I still see myself as a young, vibrant women. However, a quick glance in the mirror (especially with fluorescent lighting) squashes any hopes of my seeing a dewy faced, ageless beauty.
But the fear is not just about looks, it’s about getting closer to death. I used to hear people say from time to that life is not a dress rehearsal. But that’s exactly how I lived my life, always waiting for something to happen, until then I would stay safe and cozy inside my comfort zone. “One day I’ll take those piano lessons.” I know I will travel, soon.” “I would love to learn Spanish, but I’ll do it later.”
You get the picture. These things don’t come unless you make them happen. And I’m now taking action and cultivating my passions and hobbies. For example, today I took a 20 mile bike ride, recently planted a garden, and I’m just about to sign up for tennis and voice lessons. These are things I always wanted to do. I’m no longer saying tomorrow…it’s now.
The beauty of getting to be a half-century old is you no longer have to be in denial. Time is running out. You have no more to waste! The fist step is to practice acceptance. Once you accomplish this you can move on and truly start living –maybe for the first time in your life. You can make it a wild, vibrant, exciting adventure. The trick is not to dwell on how you wish things were different.
So what is acceptance? You’ve heard the Serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a very wise verse used in twelve step programs across the globe. These words from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous sums it up nicely: “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
This is so true when it comes to the aging process. By going out and getting Botox shots, cosmetic procedures and body enhancements, you are in denial and only delaying what one day you will have to confront, an aging body that will enviably die. Until then you will cling to the complements you get when people say you don’t look your age; crave those moments when people ask you what’s your secret. But those comments just delay time, time you don’t have if you want to evolve. You accept where you are in life and then the miracles can begin.
You start building from a firm foundation that will carry you through the second chapter of your life. As I gain more acceptance I witness myself being in the moment as opposed to the past and future. I do what I can in this second, a fresh creative time to explore and express what’s inside. You don’t have to worry about what people think about you. Your mission is to live the rest of your life as fully, genuinely and courageously as you can.
When I think back on my youth I can honestly say I worried about the most absurd things mostly related to my looks and the need for the world to validate me. Yes, I was going out to conquer the world so that I would be important. I wore high heels, short skirts, tight pants and created drama wherever I went. I can honestly say I’m glad those days are gone. This is the time to be who we truly are, shed ourselves of all the outward pressures and expectations that so absorb the young, and become the women who no longer care what people think.
It’s time to show up and be seen, our next act, not a dress rehearsal.