Aging Gracefully

As I’ve noted numerous times in prior posts, since the months leading to and subsequent to my 29th birthday this past May, I’ve struggled considerably with growing older. Perhaps it’s really not the age or number itself I fear, but rather all I feel should go along with it. In my life, there are often a lot of “shoulds,” “I wish,” or reflections upon situations I could have handled differently. Too often, I compare myself to others of a similar age, longing for the “characteristic” life I feel they have or portray, without acknowledging their own struggles or hardships. It’s similar to celebrity singer and actress, Selena Gomez, who appears in ads, concerts, and magazines flaunting her pristine hair, makeup and clothing, but privately struggling and ultimately undergoing a lifesaving kidney transplant. From looking at her, I, myself, never would have guessed she was in kidney failure, or even ill with lupus. That’s the thing, though, people so often look at someone and based off their appearance deem them healthy or not. Shiny hair, pristine makeup and clothing, a bubbly personality – none of that is an indicator of health, or at least certainly not always. What appears on the outside is not always indicative of what’s unraveling inside.

With that being said, I recently started to contemplate a news story I heard and was intrigued by. One of the magazines I closely followed and read in the past, Allure Magazine, proudly declared last month they would no longer use the term “Anti-Aging.” So often, I’ve read seemingly countless articles instructing women and even men, on all the latest products and techniques specifically formulated to “combat all signs of aging.” In these articles, without so many words, it suggests aging is something to be feared, or to be disguised and avoided at all costs. A wrinkle around your eye area? Lines around your mouth? Sagging skin? All of these aforementioned supposed, “signs of aging,” come with specifically-formulated products to help avoid, disguise and discourage and are often touted in magazines and store shelves.

Growing Older Quote

Feeling as though they’d finally had enough, Allure Magazine took the first steps towards what I see as progress and a notion I wish I embraced many years ago, but most specifically in the months leading to and after my most recent birthday. In their words in last month’s issue of Allure, they stated, (via – https://www.allure.com/story/allure-magazine-phasing-out-the-word-anti-aging)

Allure Magazine – August 2017:

“This issue is the long-awaited, utterly necessary celebration of growing into your own skin – wrinkles and all. No one is suggesting giving up retinol. But changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we TALK about aging. With that in mind, starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term, “anti-aging.” Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle.”

If there’s one inevitability in life, it’s that we’re getting older. Every minute. Every second. We produced a video recently that featured 64-year-old gray-haired Jo Johnson, who made the poignant observation that aging should be appreciated because “some of us don’t get an opportunity to age.” Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.

Language matters. When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: “She looks great…for her age” or “She’s beautiful…for an older woman.” Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by.”

Courage to Grow Up

After reading this statement and their stance on aging, I couldn’t be happier or more proud. Throughout the years, I’ve been an on/off reader of Allure, but after reading their declaration, their concept resonates with me beyond words. It summons a quote I read not long ago, which read: “Do not fear growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.”

Growing Older Quote 2

Isn’t it true though, when thinking about it? Countless infants, children, teens, young adults, even adults in middle-age, have succumbed to accidents, illnesses, and beyond; ultimately denied the opportunity to age. Instead of fearing aging, it can be seen as a chance to “ripen,” to gain knowledge and understanding. Instead of fearing aging, it can be embraced, wise words can be shared with younger generations and even our own generations. We all have stories to tell, experiences waiting to be recounted, and growing older gives us this opportunity.

 

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Quotable Lessons

What a whirlwind it’s been these past couple weeks! With my 29th birthday arriving earlier this month (on the 3rd), it caused me to reflect quite a bit on my life and in particular, the past decade. To say it’s been tumultuous would be an understatement. Much of it was difficult, painful and at times, excruciating to endure. Other parts of it were dramatic, but positive, in some respects. With that being said, I ushered in the last year of my 20’s feeling loved and cared for. In the evening, my family and I gathered together and shared a couple hours exchanging laughs and enjoying each others’ companies. So often, I find myself in moments drifting away, worrying and fretting about the next day, hour, moment, and beyond. Though, this time, I centered my focus on that present moment, knowing that if I didn’t, I would regret it hours later. Consciously I knew, hours later, I would lay in my bed, reflecting upon the day wishing I had simply enjoyed the moment, relishing in the time with my family. Looking back, that evening was a defining moment in my 20’s, as I felt more loved and appreciated than I could have envisioned.

Flowers Blooming 2              Flowers Blooming

Pictured: Flowers spotted while on a walk the day of my birthday.

To that end, I found myself looking for even more quotes than usual, as I embarked on my 29th year. So often, I stumble upon the most intriguing and expressive thoughts through Twitter, of all places. With that being said, I thought I’d share a few of these quotes or statements, because perhaps they might impact someone who may be reading this:

“Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper.”

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”

“Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.”

“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone – profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.”

“Spend your life with who makes you happy, not who you have to impress.”

“If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.”

“Love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.”

“In this life, we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

“Work hard in silence; let success make the noise.”

“Every scar has a story, don’t be afraid to tell it.”

“Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.”

“Those extra 5-10 pounds, that place where your body naturally wants to be – that’s your life. That’s your late night pizza with your loved ones, that Sunday morning bottomless brunch, your favorite cupcake in the whole entire world because you wanted to treat yourself. Those 5-10 pounds are your favorite memories, your unforgettable trips, your celebrations of life. Those extra 5-10 pounds are your spontaneity, your freedom, your life.”

Aging Without Limits

Those who know me, even slightly well, know that I’m a voracious reader, often indulging in numerous books throughout the month, savoring them and then advising others to read them, as well. Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine, offering me refuge from an often stressful and tumultuous life. For me, reading is a comfort, transporting me to the life of another, allowing me to travel from the comfort of home, or wherever I may be. Each page turned is an adventure to embark on, with the words often coming to life.

With that being said, innocently enough I requested a new book recently recommended in one of the many magazines I read. I was excited to indulge in this particular book, having read a brief excerpt. As I typically do, upon picking up the book from the library, I turned the book to the back to learn about the author; a year jumped out at me: 2010. It was the year I graduated college, a year that served as a culmination of four often painful and excruciating years to endure due to emotional and physical constraints. The brief biography of the author stated she graduated college in 2010, as well. Absorbing this fact, I was caught off-guard to say the least and quickly found myself falling down the comparison trap, yet again. There I was, perplexed as to where I would fall as far as a career and personal life and yet held within my hands was a potential bestseller, or at least a published novel, by my peer of the same, or vastly similar age.

Instead of continuing to fall deeper and deeper into the comparison trap, I forced myself to recite this very phrase: “Everyone has their own time.” It is true though, isn’t it? There is no set time, place or moment, that we really have to be doing anything at all. Our life is own, our own story to write and detail each day, each breathe and each moment. The stories I love most are the ones I hear about people who realized this, people who didn’t set a time limit for achieving their goals and dreams. Often times, people who are most inspiring to me are the ones who were brave enough to make significant changes and take significant risks, years or moments beyond when people “typically do.” What do I mean when I say this? I mean, the women who may have had children in her 20’s, who had dreams of becoming a nurse, and abandoned her goals for the sake of her family, but later returned to school in her 40’s to become a nurse and ended up being one of the best nurses a hospital or medical facility could ever ask for. Or, the girl who suffered so deeply from illness as a child, or never was able to travel and later became a travel writer, as an older adult, traveling the world, writing and telling others all about it. Bravery and courage and the ability to continue on, in spite of our difficulties or the ideas in our heads about “how it is supposed to be,” are most attractive to me. Each day when I find myself wallowing about the current state of my life, I remind myself of these people and remind myself that no matter how alone at times or isolated I may feel, (learned from a quote I read last night!): I can always look outside at the sun or moon and know that at that very moment, someone, somewhere is looking at that very same sun or moon.

change-quote

Maybe others can relate to these sentiments, or perhaps not, but regardless, I thought it was important to share, because they are thoughts that help me during life’s toughest moments.

life-limits                     never-too-late

Words Sitting Beside Us

This post is bound to be more or less all over the place, so I apologize for the mess of words it may very well result in. Lately, I’ve been contemplating countless hours about the words some us don’t, won’t or feel we cannot say. They never really go away, even if they are no longer at the forefront of our minds. Or, they may appear or emerge in other ways, like a nervous tic, foot tapping, biting our lips or cheeks, and beyond. Sometimes, we ruminate about them, mulling over what could or will happen if these words and feelings are verbalized or written to someone or something. Therefore, many of us repress them, stuffing them deep inside of us, tucked away into an area that feels raw and unaddressed. It never leaves though; it sits and sits, and sometimes, when it becomes too much to bear, the words spill out in ways we never intended, or not in the way we hoped.

For me, the words I don’t say sit beside me each day. They follow me from place to place, like a piece of lint of dust that simply won’t disappear until it is properly addressed. Other times, when I HAVE spoken up, a sense of relief washes over me and I am amazed by how fulfilling and cleansing it was to finally release the emotions and words building inside of me. In some instances, I’ve been shocked to learn others have harbored nearly identical sentiments to me, wondering why I waited so long to speak the words I felt couldn’t. So many times, unnecessarily, I’ve walked around berating myself for feeling as I do, thinking as I do and for my inability to speak the truth, words that very well could set me free from emotional duress. The words I often choose to not speak sometimes become my shadow; I can always see or feel it lingering in the background and even when I focus all my efforts in ignoring it, it never ceases to escape.

Instead of focusing on how my thoughts and words will be received, my goal for the impending year is to focus on speaking the truth in ways that are respectful, truthful, and accountable. I’ve found from past experiences that when we focus so much on how our feelings and words will be received by others, the words we do end up sharing are the furthest from what we intended and thereby, we are left feeling unheard and the pain/unspoken truths still sit beside us. Thoughts and sentiments can eat away at us, bit by bit until we reduced to silence or whispers. It pains me each day I see others doing to this to themselves, because I know, firsthand, how deeply painful it is. Ignoring or repressing it doesn’t make it disappear, or even numb it, despite what we might think. Those little jabs at our loved ones, self-defeating judgments of ourselves when we look in the mirror  and beyond – all of them, I truly believe, are the those unspoken thoughts and feelings rearing their vicious heads.

So, if I can say one thing as we make our way into the holidays and the New Year, it is to speak your truth. Speak it loud and speak it clear, because others can only hear you if you take the risk and remember, no matter how hard we may try, others opinions of us cannot be controlled by us. We have no power over someone’s thoughts of us, we only have power over how we present ourselves, the words we say and the choices we make. My hope is that you’ll make the choice to make your voice heard, speak the truth and speak it clear.

A “Forever” Broken

Happy Holidays! It’s been awhile since I last posted, but I hope your holiday season has been a pleasant and enjoyable one, thus far. These past couple weeks have left me feeling nostalgic, given the arrival of old friends in the area for the holidays and past memories and sentiments starting to surface. From the latter portion of my middle school years through high school, I had a solid and defined group of best friends. It was always the 5 of us, with several of our other friends occasionally mixed in. It felt good to be apart of a close knit gathering of friends, people I could turn to in both the pleasant times and the less-fortunate occurrences, or so I thought at the time.

The holiday season for my friends and I always culminated at one of our house’s, where we would trade gifts and laughter, watching our favorite movies and eating all of “our” snacks (typically the much-loved Goldfish crackers, Oreo’s, Doritos, and a bunch of other packaged goods). Prior to our holiday gathering, my mom and I would scour the mall for what seemed like hours, trying to select the “perfect” gift for each of my friends without emptying our wallets. It was an annual shopping event I almost enjoyed as much as the actual holiday gathering. Often when we finished shopping, I would count down the minutes until I could finally present my friends with their gifts and cards, eager to show them how much they meant to me. To be honest, back then, I operated under the impression that we would all be best friends forever. I envisioned rooming with one of my friends in college, having wonderful adventures and escapades traveling through Europe and beyond. I believed all would work out and we would have a life filled with nothing but fun and excitement. Back then, it all seemed so simple and like a puzzle that could be easily solved with little difficulty.

My senior year of high school, or truly, the end of junior year, my friendships started to fall apart. Broken down by stress and my own self-defeating thoughts, my priorities and focus started to change. The same friends who I shared so many laughs, parties, and adventures with, began to fade from my life. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing for me to admit, given it’s been over 10 years at this point, but their absence still hurts. Given the outpouring of social media today, (in particular, Facebook), I will occasionally spot photos of them (the few who are still friends), planning their bridal showers and weddings, seeing their adult lives mold together. It’s hard to not search for myself in some of those photos, as I can easily step into my basement and retrieve scrapbooks created for me by two of those friends, showcasing all of our smiling faces huddled together. On occasion, I’ll even see one of my former friends in the area, in a store, and they will avert their eyes, pretending like we are two random souls simply shopping in the same store and maybe in a sense, that is what we are now. It’s often hard for me to reconnect to the teenager I once was, or truly believe it was me. Cognitively, I know it was me, but given all the life experiences since adolescence, it’s hard to establish that emotive connection to my former self.

Friendship Quote

In reading this, one might wonder, well, if I truly feel such sadness and remorse about these former friendships, then why not reach out? The simple answer is, I have. There have been through the years, many unsuccessful attempts via Facebook – messages that have been read, but ignored, and perhaps there is a reason for it. If they have moved on, then it is their prerogative to remain silent.  That being said, we all make choices for whatever reasons we do. Sometimes, we make decisions/choices for self-protection, wanting to shield ourselves from future emotional and/or physical pain. Other times, we make choices or decisions because we truly feel it is what is best for us in that moment.

Given how much has changed in my life these past 10 years, it’s often difficult for me to even believe these friendships even existed and weren’t figments of my imagination. Though, I know, it is only steps to my basement where those scrapbooks sit, crafted for me by those very friends, holding all the memories and moments I once held so close to my heart. It is a part of my past and though it can be hard to reflect back on it, I’m still glad it happened.

Everything We Don’t See

It’s been a rough couple weeks for me, to say the least. It’s hard to place into words how it’s made me feel and where I am, emotionally right now, but nonetheless, I am trying my utmost best to pull through and keep my head up. I know that life can change at any instant, in both a positive and negative light, so I keep looking towards the future with the hope that life gets better. What I can control, I try to do so with good intentions. Like I’ve said before, intent is one of the most important aspects of life, or at least, to me it is anyway. It was something I learned at one of my old jobs. They used to stress the importance of intent in everything we did. I worked in a customer service department of a health insurance related company and the entire day consisted of me assisting individuals over the phone with their health insurance issues and questions. I didn’t always feel the most confident in my abilities, but the main thing the company wanted us to focus on was our intent. If our intent is always to help, then the other steps of correctly answering the customers’ questions or resolving their issues comes second. We can always find another co-worker, supervisor or employee to help us in answering the customer’s question, but if our good intent is missing, then all is downhill from there. When I first heard this perspective, it was a new concept to me. For most of my life, I had always focused on how well I could answer questions and resolve issues. For instance, throughout school, in math class, the goal is mainly to answer the questions correctly, and so I never really considered the steps I took in getting there. I later realized that we can take many of the correct steps and still come up with the wrong answer, but as long as initial instinct and intent was on the right path, then that is really what is most important.

What I more or less mean, is that we don’t always see what successes we’ve made, or how much we’ve accomplished through life if we don’t have something tangible to show for it. In other words, just because we don’t have an abundance of wealth, a large amount of “friends,” the largest house or a closet full of designer clothing, does not mean we haven’t been successful or made good choices in our lives. It doesn’t mean we haven’t helped someone by offering a helping hand or listening ear. It doesn’t mean we haven’t inspired a child by fully listening to them and encouraging them. It also doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful just because our faces aren’t blemish free, or our hair isn’t poker straight, sans free of frizz and split ends. It just means we are beautiful in a different way, a way that is unique to what is thought to be conventionally “beautiful.” The meaning and connotation of beautiful is so very different to each and every person.

My aforementioned thoughts were more or less inspired by a quote shared by my cousin on Facebook. A couple days ago, I was innocently trolling through Facebook posts, when I stumbled across my cousin’s, which spoke to and resonated with me in more ways than I can truly verbalize. Perhaps you’ve seen it before or maybe not, but all the same, I thought it was best for me to share it in hopes that maybe someone else who could be reading this, might be as inspired or intrigued as I was:

“It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves ugly, because we don’t really see ourselves. We don’t watch ourselves sleeping in bed, curled up silent with our chests rising & falling with our own rhythm. We don’t see ourselves reading a book, eyes fluttering and glowing. You don’t see yourself looking at someone with love and care in your heart. There’s no mirror in your way when you’re laughing and smiling and pure happiness is leaking out of you. You would know exactly how bright and beautiful you are if you saw yourself in the moments where you are truly your authentic self.

Reading this lead me to question, when am I my most authentic self? I’m my most authentic self when I am laughing with those I love most, forgetting about all the insecurities, failures, missed opportunities and chances. I’m most my authentic self when the disappointments and sadness I feel are pushed aside because I’m having too much fun and joy seeing my niece smiling and waving and experiencing all the goodness of life for the first time. I’m most my most authentic self when I look outside at the leaves beginning to fall and see not a missed opportunity at a changing season, but a chance for a pleasant and fulfilling future filled with love, happiness and success.

Season Quote

What it Takes to Know: A Month of Reflection

It’s hard to believe about a month or so has passed since I last posted. At the beginning of this month, I embarked on a new venture in the job realm. While I was apprehensive about it, I decided to take a chance, feeling as though the possibility of success and at least some type of learning experience could come of it. That said, the morning of the first day, I awoke with a sense of fear and dread, questioning what I’d gotten myself into. Did I act on a whim? Should I have given my decision more thought? These were real, true wonders I had and I could feel my sense of dread growing with every minute inching me closer towards my 8:30am start.

What I walked into is nothing I’d like to describe. In fact, I’d like to keep most of those thoughts for my own private reference and reflection, but what I’d like to share is mainly what I’ve learned, even if it might seem cliche, or obvious to some people.

  • The easiest and quickest way to be sad and lonely is try to be someone you’re not. Whether it is through working at a certain-type of job or environment, spending time with people who don’t understand you, don’t respect you, or most importantly, celebrate you for who you ARE, quirks included.
  • I like to do my best, whether I am going to receive a benefit or not. It doesn’t matter to me if I will gain something monetarily, emotionally, or anything else. If I am going to do something, I will strive to do it with all my heart. It doesn’t matter if someone else has snubbed me or lead me astray, I will still try my best to do what I feel is right.
  • Intention means more than doing something the “correct way.” For instance, I didn’t always complete each task the “right” way when learning new skills in different jobs, or in school, but what I’ve learned through the years is that if my INTENT is to help, or to do something with all my heart and effort, than that is what really matters.
  • When I make a mistake, I OWN UP to it. I don’t deny that I haven’t always made the right choices or decisions, whether small, insignificant or not, but I will always admit to it. Sometimes admitting to certain mistakes are easier than others, but I will still admit fault where and when warranted. I’m not ashamed to show people I’m not faultless. Yes, I have quirks, insecurities, fears, worries, sometimes I can come off as a perfectionist, sometimes I can talk too fast, sometimes I can obsess over things other people might give little thought to. These all make me who I am, but I’m not trying to pretend.
  • What I’ll never understand is why people choose to behave one way towards another person and then completely turn around and snub them in the worst of ways. I’ve contemplated this for weeks now, as to why other people choose to bring other people down. I will never understand why or how people would be able to obtain personal satisfaction and gratification from knowing they’ve hurt someone, insulted them, or made them feel awful. I could never understand or imagine someone feeling remotely happy or pleased with themselves knowing they’ve made their coworker hang their head in shame, or sit in their car sobbing to themselves, feeling as though they are worthless. I know that as individuals, we really shouldn’t give people the power to decide our fate and feelings, but sometimes, feeling badly when someone has used repugnant words or expressed negative and discerning emotions towards us, it is beyond difficult to not feel badly. For me personally, throughout my life, I’ve been guilty of internalizing the way other people treat me. I’ve taken their harsh words and emotions and used it against myself in ways to cause myself even more pain and for this, it makes me human. It makes me human to admit I’m not faultless and sometimes I care too much about what others think and how others perceive me. When it comes down to it though, my goal in life is to never make someone feel like they need to question who they are, or be ashamed of who they are. Everyone has something about them that makes them unique and rather than question or criticize these quirks or creative differences, I’d rather be the one celebrating them.
  • I’d rather make someone smile each and every day, then be the one who is making them cry. Enough said.

So yes, this month has been one filled with tumultuous emotions, tears and smiles. This month brought the celebration of my niece’s first birthday, and also allowed me to make choices and reflections on my life path. While others might question my choices and scratch their heads wondering about my reasoning, that’s not for them to decide. Not everyone’s path is for everyone else, and you know what? That’s exactly how it should be. It all goes back to that one Robert Frost quote I’ve come to know and highly regard: “I took the road less traveled and it has made all the difference.” I first acquainted myself with that quote on a college admission essay question to Northwestern University. I never thought that very quote would prove to follow me throughout the course of my life, a decade later.

Belief Quote

Nonetheless, here I am. I’m filled with ideas, dreams and goals. I try to see it as not a mess of a life, but more so a maze. Yes, a maze, that while the path is not always crystal clear, or easy to navigate, but one filled with adventure and promise, and though I might have to work a little harder than some to get through it, I tell myself, “don’t worry, you’ll get there soon.” For now, I’ll enjoy it and tell myself, life has ways of surprising us and to trust it’s process.

Belief Quote 2