There was a segment on the program, Sunday Morning, yesterday that brought me to tears. It was entitled “Late Bloomers” and as Jack and I watched it, we both were filled with deep emotion. For me it felt like hope and an affirmation that life is truly meant to keep expanding, as we ourselves are.
For many years, I’d believed that the depth of our talents and creative abilities would surface and grow as we aged. It seemed like evidence of this was rare, but I still felt it, and it seemed to be connected to the way we perceived youth and beauty. I even wrote a paper about this, over 20 years ago, when I was a student at Harvard Divinity School. But at the same time, I was experiencing a huge inner struggle as I felt I’d lost my youthful appearance. I was 35 at the time.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with looking good and gaining the attention of the opposite sex….and I got quite a lot of it, but that began to change in my late 30’s and with that decline in attention, I experienced disorientation and a questioning of my value. “If I couldn’t attract a man, what good was I?”, was a question that, even though I don’t like admitting it, consumed a lot of my time.
Much of my creativity went into keeping my body in shape and trying to maintain a youthful appearance, and I felt there was a war of sorts going on inside as deeper and more meaningful parts of me were emerging and begging for some “air time”. I was fighting becoming “old”. I didn’t want to be unattractive (and as un-politically correct as that sounds, it was my belief that old was not pretty, at all) and did not believe that my inner self, talents, and abilities, were as attractive as my outer shell, which was now, to my horror, slipping away; sagging, bagging wrinkling, bulging, and greying.
But some part of me also hoped that there was something inside beyond my looks, something which was rich and wonderful and that glimmer of belief was like a golden thread that led me through a very necessary change from focusing on my outer self to allowing my inner self to emerge…and I like it…a lot.
Focusing on the body can become an unhealthy obsession, whether it is on our beauty, or even on our “health”. Eat right, exercise, sleep, do yoga, take the right vitamins, drink plenty of water…all of these things that we are told are “good” for us, can also make us to forget that we are so much more than bodies. How many times do we ask someone, “How are you?” and the answer is about health, the state of their physical bodies, or the “health” of one of their family members. Few people think to say, “I am a wonder!” or “I am opening up in a way that is delightful!”, in response to that question.
But it is a good question. How about answering, “I am growing, I am expanding, I am becoming aware of new thoughts and revelations that have only just been revealed to me.” We are more than our bodies, but where we focus is where we will be led. I want to honor my body but not worship it or make a Herculean effort to preserve it and prevent it from changing. I hope to hold it lovingly, let it go its way, and keep my focus on what I want to experience more of in this life: love, happiness, creativity, and the sense of wonder that comes with change and growth which is what this life is all about.
“When your ideas about yourself change, so does your experience.” Seth, from The Nature of Personal Reality
P.S. My ideas of beauty and youth have also changed as I have come, more and more to accept myself. I look at Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and think , “I love the way that those women live and look!” and this is, to me, a sign of my own growth.