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OUR BODY AND THE AGING PROCESS

August 30, 2012

I found this wonderful painting on the blog “Watch Me Paint” by Carol Douglas. Pay a visit and watch her paint!

As many of you know, I am a believer in the beauty, wisdom and viability of women over fifty. We are a generation that has struggled to establish an identity that is different from our mother’s and grandmother’s. As we shape shifted our way through life exploring a new-found freedom, we stepped out of the kitchen and into the workplace. We used our gifts in new ways even as we struggled to hold on to a few of the old traditions like “motherhood”, “hostess”, “beautiful companion”, “caregiver”. It has not been an easy marriage, the old and the new.

We continue along the path of discovery as we turn fifty, sixty, seventy and beyond. Now our focus has turned to the issue of the aging and aged woman. We are not comfortable with the previous generation’s identity as “senior citizens”, but we are not altogether clear on what our replacement identity is, what it looks like, how it is valued in all its many facets. We are not always comfortable in the skin we are in, and we are seeking resolution to this discomfort and often our bodies take the brunt of our dissatisfaction and attention, as if it were their fault. We long to erase the years, minimize the scars of our lives, and disappear into the fantasy of eternal youth. Beyond the body we have more questions that may be a bit easier to answer.

We ask ourselves and each other, What does the process of aging mean for me/us? What do I want to be like when I’m “old”? Do I still have value as an aging woman, as a contributor to society, a loving sexual partner, an intelligent, creative person? Does society value me/us? Do I like and accept what they see when I look in the mirror? How do I value myself in a society that values youth and beauty? Should I put effort into keeping up appearances or is this unimportant? Should I have a face lift, a body tuck, dye my hair and work at looking and acting as young as possible? Or am I just running away from the inevitable? Is there something more important to consider?

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes reminds us of the beauty and power of the aging body in her wonderful audio The Dangerous Old Woman, Volume 3: The Joyous Body, Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype. According to Dr. Estes, “The body is wise. The body is the consort that was born with us, a being in its own right, the one who records all of our adventures and misadventures, informing us, healing us, acting as the sensory being who loves us, and is loyal to us for life. As we age we come to know and value the consort all the more.” She unpacks these words for her listeners in a wonderful series of stories, explanation, and instruction steeped in her own profound knowledge and wisdom. A Jungian Analyst, poet and story-teller, Dr. Estes takes her listeners on a beautiful and enlightening journey, one that provides a more insightful way of viewing our body as we age.

The aging body is a thing of beauty in its own right. As a “consort”, it is our treasured companion, a valued partner, a vessel that accompanies us through all of life, teaching, informing, providing pleasure and sensory information that is vital to our overall well-being. When we try to silence its message, minimize its importance, reshape its natural beauty we are not treating it as we would an acquaintance, let alone a friend or a lover. Perhaps we should entertain the idea that aging is a thing of beauty in itself, in all of its forms, while caring for the body as if it were a loved one.

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The Gift of Age

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2012 7:56 pm

    Gorgeous painting! After a passing glance in a mirror or window I always murmur to myself, “You really have to go on a diet.” Yeah, there are a few extra pounds but mostly what I’m seeing are the effects of gravity – from the Latin ‘gravitas’, meaning weight, dignity, seriousness. At this point in life I should have some extra weight and dignity. I have earned each sag, ounce and crease. They are emblems of courage and mirth, sorrow and play. My culture tells me I should be smooth-skinned, stick-thin, and blonde. My soul whispers, “Don’t touch a thing. You’re perfect as you are.” Which do we trust more, soul or culture?

  2. August 31, 2012 7:18 am

    What a beautiful, inspiring post. I totally agree with your opinion that the body is wise.

  3. September 5, 2012 12:22 am

    Beautiful painting! So peaceful & grace-filled. Thank you, Dorothy, for giving me yet another thing to ponder, You have a way of continually providing me with plenty to think about!

    I will admit that my body has served me well all these years & I am grateful. If I ignore my brain when it whispers things like, “You need to look younger” or “You’re really beginning to show your age!”, I feel much better about the miles I still have to go.

    It’s all about attitude & I plan to remain young in spirit until I’m no longer here. And I plan to keep smiling which, ultimately, makes me look younger! ^_^ Thanks Dorothy!

  4. March 4, 2016 6:04 pm

    I love your blogs so much! Thank you for it. You are more then welcome to take a look at mine and give me honest constructive feedback; it is very new.
    wisdomfromthegalaxy.com

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  1. To Cleave or not to Cleave, that is the Question | Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully

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