Really? How did that happen?

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

 

Do you believe it’s possible to age overnight?  I mean literally – gain about 15 years in an eight-hour span of time?  I swear that’s what happened to me last night.  I went to bed looking my normal middle-aged self – some wrinkles, gray roots shining through, saggy skin.  I have pretty much accepted this evidence of years gone by (though I don’t embrace it).  This morning I awoke, headed to the bathroom to ready myself for church, looked in the mirror, and there was a more elderly-looking woman staring back at me.  It was darned near my mother.

While you might think I am exaggerating, even my husband, who is very careful with his words, noticed the transformation.  I had these huge dark bags beneath my baby blues, and under my left eye, I had a red, puffy pouch.  Oh. Crap.  Perhaps once I put my contacts in, I would see it was just my imagination.  Nope.  I still had the almost-black bags of a woman much older who hadn’t slept in a week.  The problem was I had slept well (I’ve had a long snowy weekend – of course I’ve slept!), I don’t have a cold, and I don’t have a sinus infection.  I felt fine…until I looked in the mirror.  Foundation – that’s what I needed.  I began to smear and rub and add and smooth and…there wasn’t enough make-up in the world to cover those hideous dark bags.  Is this it?  Is this how I am going to look from now on?  I can’t afford a plastic surgeon.  What can I sell?  A third job?

As I have wiggled my way into middle age, I have realized that there are many things no one bothered to tell me about when I was younger.  We all expect the gray hair and wrinkles; we expect to lose some of our energy; and we even expect (or hope) to become somewhat wiser.  There is, however, so much more to the aging process.  There are things our older friends fail to tell us; perhaps they had to figure it out the hard way, and feel that we, too, should have to learn as we go.  I disagree, so I am going to enlighten you.

1.  You might have heard that it is more difficult to keep weight off once you hit 40.  Well, let me tell you, it is super hard.  I exercise at least five days a week, sometimes two or three times a day when I am teaching at the gym, and though I don’t eat the healthiest of foods, I don’t eat a lot.  And yet I battle that scale every single day.  My sister, who is 11 years older than I, says if she eats one normal-sized meal, she will gain a pound.  My mother, who is 80 and still very conscientious of her weight, lives on very little because normal meals will cause weight gain.  That fact does jive with the fact that I also like to bake more the older I get.   Just because weight was never an issue in your twenties and thirties, don’t make the mistake of thinking your immune to the middle-age spread.  It will find you!

2.  Eyebrows.  What young 30-something mom worries about her eyebrows?  Sure, waxing or tweezing are part of life, but trimming and filling in?  Did you know that in your 40s your eyebrows begin to do weird things?  There will be some that grow long and need to be trimmed (often).  And there are those that disappear leave patches of skin showing through.   Really.  Aren’t you glad I warned you?

3.  Saggy skin.  We expect wrinkles on our faces, and maybe even our chests.  Did you know your leg skin wrinkles and sags no matter how toned your muscles are?  Yup.  That’s something to look forward to.  When I wear shorts and do a plank, I try to avoid looking down at my legs because the skin is sagging in an attempt to rest on the floor.  And should my belly be exposed for some reason (in the privacy of my own home), well, that’s just disgusting.  It looks like chicken skin.  Saggy, nasty chicken skin.

4.  Despite all of the crazy things going on with aging skin, you can still get zits.  I think that is just cruel.  If we have to be tolerant of wrinkles, we should at least be free of zits – save those for the teenagers.  So, now I have dry, oily, wrinkly, zitty, saggy, bags-under-my-eyes skin.  That’s attractive.

5.  About your bladder.  Now, I am fortunate that I haven’t had leaky bladder problems, but I hear my Zumba ladies talking about having to be careful during jumpy songs.  Even though I haven’t had issues, I had to have my non-issues checked out before my hysterectomy so if there were a problem, the doctors could fix everything at once.  Do you want to know what that test consisted of?  It was humiliating, to say the least.  The lovely nurse stuck probes in two out of three places I don’t want probes to go, and then I had to jump and stretch and cough and push as if in labor….you get the point.  But, hey, I passed the test.  Ask me in a couple of years.  Thankfully when a Depends commercial was on the other night, Addison told Gary and me she’d be happy to purchase them for us when the time comes.  Thanks, kid.

6.  While I was able to avoid doctors through my twenties and thirties, unless I was expecting a child or my allergies were in high gear, I find myself spending more time at doctors’ offices these days.  Heck, I’ve had two surgeries in two years.  And besides my hysterectomy and knee surgery, I have had a recurring staph infection in my eye, and numerous other inconveniences since reaching 40.  In the late winter and spring of 2013, I had something wrong with me every other week – and I am not a hypochondriac!

Enough of the ugly.  Now, what is good about aging?  Lots.  But that’s for another blog.  I gave you younger people a lot to absorb.  To plan for.  To dread.  You’re quite welcome for the warning.  Enjoy your young supple skin, strong bladder, normal eyebrows, and energetic body.  It can be gone – overnight.  While you sleep, instead of the tooth fairy, your own personal middle-age fairy will be visiting.  Prepare, my friends – take down the mirrors, purchase Ponds and anti-acne wash, load up on workout capris, purchase an eyebrow pencil and little scissors.  It’s coming…

old-lady-driving

I am beautiful, strong, and wise

The picture below would be an awesome inspirational quote, but then whoever wrote it had to go and ruin it by putting ‘learnt’!  Really?  Learnt?  Apparently he or she ‘learnt’ nothing from an English teacher.  Okay, enough.  Ignore that error, and focus on the meaning.

I hear so many women put themselves down every day.  Heck, I hear thirteen year old girls put themselves down.  Face it, most of us have trouble accepting compliments; rather than just saying thank you, we have to counter with something negative: Oh, I’ve gained some weight; My hair looks terrible today; My face is a mess.  Why can’t we just say Thanks?  We need to be able to say that we are strong, even when at times we feel weak.  We need to acknowledge our beauty, without pointing out our flaws.  Do we have fears?  Sure, but we have many more fearless moments.  Admit you are wise.  The greatest lessons we learn come from our mistakes and from the difficult moments we face.  And every time we make it through those trying times, we become a little wiser (by this point, I should be a genius!).  And I hope we are all lovers – lovers of our family and friends, lovers of our jobs and hobbies, lovers  of the lives we are blessed to live.  I hope the hate we have felt and witnessed has caused us to love deeper.  And we need to laugh every single day (working with junior high students makes that one pretty easy).

Why is all of this important?  Because we are teaching our daughters, nieces, and other young girls in our lives to focus on their flaws.  We need to redefine what beauty is.  How would you describe beauty?  Perfect skin?  Long, flowing, shiny hair?   a thin body?  Or is it a smile that causes others to smile?  Is it a contagious laugh?  Is it when someone stops what she is doing to help someone else?  Is it a young woman who enters a room with confidence?   It is difficult to say, “I am beautiful.”  Try it.  Look in a mirror and say it.  Can you do it?  I might start, but then I see the wrinkles and the gray hair that’s fighting its way through.  And I notice the chub gathering around my belly.  And, crap, there are those brown age spots planting themselves on my face.  It’s easy to say all of that.  I can name every flaw on my body.  And when I do, my girls begin to find their flaws – I want them to see their beauty.

I see their kind eyes and their strong legs.  I watch as they step up to help others, and I see beauty.  I listen to Addison play the piano, and I hear my father’s beautiful notes echoing through hers.   I listen to Bethany talk about working with students, and see the joy in her face; that’s beautiful.  I see Morgan mothering her son – gorgeous.  I watch as Tamara talks with her kids and encourages them to stay true to themselves, and I witness pure beauty.  I see the pictures of Krista rock climbing in Lake Tahoe, and see her strength and courage, and I think nothing is more beautiful.  I want all of these amazing sisters to know the depth of their beauty, strength, and wisdom.  However, if they continually hear me picking apart my flaws, they will do the same.

We, all of us, have to strive to be better, while realizing we are enough.  Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s one that makes perfect sense.  We should always work to learn more, to be healthy and strong, and to experience all we can.  We owe it to ourselves to become the best version of ourselves that we can.  But we also have to realize that we are enough.  We are beautiful the way we are; we are wise; we are strong.  We need to quit comparing ourselves to others, which many times makes us feel that we never quite measure up, and just try to be the best women we can be.  What makes you feel strong?  Do it.  I feel strong when I complete a good workout or have a great run.  Oddly, I feel strong when I am sore – that means I am able to work out.  What makes you feel beautiful?  My husband makes me feel beautiful, but I need to work on feeling beautiful without depending on his compliments.  I feel wise when I learn something new, whether it be in a magazine or book I read, or something I have randomly discovered.  I feel wise when I can share what I have learned.  Do what makes you feel wise.

So, since I am a teacher, I feel compelled to give you an assignment.  For the next week, give compliments.  Not just to your family or close friends, but to strangers or acquaintances.  It will make you feel good.  And, here’s the challenge, when you receive a compliment, just say thank you.  Don’t criticize yourself, and don’t give someone else credit.  Just say thank you.

You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are wise.  Go out and show the love, face life with no fear, and laugh!  Goodnight, Beautiful Friends!
inspiration

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