Aging As Youthfully as We Can

One of the biggest problems with getting older is that everyone else is getting older too. Day to day, the aging process is slow and steady — it comes in daily increments, little by little, so that we barely notice the changes until, of course, we do.

“Where did that wrinkle come from?” we wonder.

Matti

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When did that spot appear?” we think as we look at our hands, our faces, our necks.

“Who is that?” we think, looking at a picture of ourselves, taken when we weren’t aware, weren’t posed, eyes wide open, sitting up straight.

It can be startling to look at the faces of those closest to us, those we’ve known the longest, and realize that, yes — they’ve gotten older, too. I see my grandfather alive in my uncle’s face, my grandmother looking at me through my aunt’s eyes. I see my late father vividly in nearly everything about my brother, and in my husband I see, more and more, the unmistakable quirky characteristics of his late father. There is no escaping the power of genetics, or the slow but steady changes aging brings to all of us.

Facebook has, for the most part, eliminated the sweet softening of memory and how it kept the long-lost friends of our youth from getting older, helping us to retain the image of ourselves as young, too. Now all of my friends are older, of course, and I am reminded of that whenever I log on to Facebook and see their lovely midlife faces passing by on my newsfeed. There are no young loves left to keep safe in a corner of your heart — they’ve gotten older too. It’s odd seeing someone you remember from high school for the first time on Facebook — the years-long distortion of their features, the balding head, the change in hair color , the sometimes unrecognizable plastic-surgeried face, with just a hint of who they used to be. It was because of this that Facebook was mesmerizing when I first began connecting with old friends. Perhaps most disconcerting was — and still is — seeing the children of old friends, often a rearranged version of their parents, a reminder of how young they (and I!) once were.

I think time travel is the most fascinating idea. What would happen if we could go back and watch our families form, grow and evolve? Imagine the experience of knowing your parents when they were just starting out together. What would it be like if I could have lunch with my late grandmother when she was a young mother of 30 years old? Who was she then? How different was she than at the age of 60? Or 90? As far as I can tell, she never changed much at all. Does anyone become dramatically different over the years, or does the essence of who we are stay constant? I think so. For the most part, when I’ve reconnected with old friends after many years, there is still a part of them that I recognize and remember, something uniquely them that never changes. It is that part that makes me feel young when I reconnect to them — the younger me seeking out the younger version of them. It can be exhiliarating.

Seeing the aging faces of my family can make me feel as though time is going too fast — more so for those who I don’t see often enough. I long to get back the days and years when we were separated for long stretches and have a few more times together during those child-raising years. As our lives grew more busy and complicated, as we moved to different corners of the country, it was difficult to see each other in person. Now, at midlife, we are more determined to stay connected and see each other as often as possible. It was easy when we were young to say “we’ll do it next year.” It’s not so easy, nor is it a good idea to think that way now. Those little kids that kept us on the run not so long ago are grown-up people now. Those young parents running around — well, we’re not so young anymore. Except… when we’re together, it’s as if no time has passed at all. We are still young, together.

We all get older. We all age. And we all are reminded each day, when we look at the faces of those we love, that we are doing this aging thing alongside each other, holding each other up, keeping the youngest part of ourselves alive by remembering and by enjoying this moment — aging together while keeping each other young.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

23 Responses to Aging As Youthfully as We Can
  1. Gandalfe
    February 15, 2013 | 9:42 am

    I did a post along these lines where I asked, if I could go back in time, what would I tell my younger self. It’s an interesting exercise to have done. Approaching 60, I don’t feel old at all. But I have to laugh at Betty White who said something about “that bitch in the mirror”. ;0)
    Gandalfe recently posted..Microsoft Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra PicturesMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 15, 2013 | 9:49 am

      Yes, those mirrors get us every time! I don’t feel old either, until I think about how much has happened in my life… that get’s a little overwhelming.

  2. Cathy
    February 15, 2013 | 10:20 am

    Oh, how I love this post. I agree with it all.

    I loved “Back to the Future” because Marty McFly saw how his parents met. I would love to lunch with my grandparents (not in Russia or Germany, though):-)

    Yes, we’re all getting older. We have more wrinkles, gravity is taking over and our belly is a bit thicker. But I’d rather have that than the alternative!

    Thanks for this post.
    Cathy

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 15, 2013 | 10:49 am

      Thanks for commenting – and yes, considering the alternative, aging is a miracle!

  3. Sue
    February 15, 2013 | 10:38 am

    I love this. I often think of wanting to go back in time for various reasons and on the list is seeing my parents when they were younger. Michio Kaku says if someone knocks on your door someday and says they are your great, great, great something or other, maybe they are from the future and are time travelers.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 15, 2013 | 10:49 am

      I would never doubt someone who said they were a time traveler – that’s how much I want to believe it can happen!

  4. Karen
    February 15, 2013 | 10:43 am

    It’s taken me a long time to accept that as I age, I look more and more like my mother. For many years, I wanted to be absolutely nothing like her; these days, I feel more compassion for the young woman she was, and the older woman she became.

    My only concern about a time machine would be that I’d be sorely tempted to intervene at certain points to make things “turn out better,” thus disrupting the time-space continuum and most likely destroying the world, not to mention the universe.

    Why yes, my kids do watch a lot of sci-fi, why do you ask? :)

    Karen
    Karen recently posted..Wendy goes old schoolMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 15, 2013 | 10:48 am

      Yes, destroying the universe would be a problem…

      I don’t look much like my mother- I take after my late father much more – and I see his face often when I look at myself these days!

  5. Sienna Jae Fein
    February 15, 2013 | 11:02 am

    I was a young teenager when I said sympathetically to my mother (she was about 38), “It must be hard to get old.” She replied that growing older was entirely comfortable because everyone else was growing older too. “What if all the people you loved were to remain young and it was only you who grew old? Growing old with those you love is one of the privileges of being alive.” That’s what you’re saying here, Sharon, and I love this article.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 15, 2013 | 1:39 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Your mother was very wise!

  6. enchantedseashells
    February 15, 2013 | 11:51 am

    really enjoyed this, well sort of, as I check out my wrinkly neck. I wish there was an exercise that’d get rid of all that extra skin!
    enchantedseashells recently posted..He who tugs at my heartMy Profile

  7. Ginger Kay
    February 15, 2013 | 12:22 pm

    This is the best reason for not losing touch with friends from our youth. Nobody else sees us the way they do. The same is true for our spouses and siblings. My sister will never be a middle aged woman to me. She’s the little girl, college student, new mom, and middle aged all at once to me.
    Ginger Kay recently posted..Everything is EducationalMy Profile

  8. Grown and Flown
    February 15, 2013 | 2:10 pm

    You put your finger on it with FB. That startling moment when you have to remake a memory and replace a gorgeous 17 year old with a 50 something in your mind. Not sure I wanted to remake some of these memories. Lovely post, Sharon.
    Grown and Flown recently posted..How Social Media Forever Changed ParentingMy Profile

  9. Haralee
    February 15, 2013 | 6:17 pm

    I love this post! I was a movie extra about 15 years ago in a movie set in the 40′s and with the dress and hair and make-up I looked like pictures of my Mother at that time, it was shocking and wonderful.

    I accidentally bumped into an old college friend in an airport and I kept trying to see a glimpse of the girl I remembered. The alcohol and messy life she told me about wiped that girl so all I saw was a stranger I used to know as a different person. It was sad.
    Haralee recently posted..My Celebrity Crush on Golda MeirMy Profile

  10. Val
    February 16, 2013 | 8:52 am

    Aww… so sweet. I thought I’d freak out at aging (I’m 35) but it doesn’t so much anymore. And I think you’re right in that we have to be DETERMINED to stay connected.
    Val recently posted..BelovedMy Profile

  11. Barbara
    February 16, 2013 | 7:47 pm

    Reconnecting with those friends from my youth has been the best part of Facebook, even though, as you said, it’s often a shock to see their faces for the first time because in our minds they’ve never aged. But gradually I get used to their ‘new’ faces until I forget what they looked like then. And I realize it’s the essence of themselves that I connect with and that keeps the teenager (or whatever age we were friends) alive and well. We now get together as often as possible, even with those we didn’t know well in school.
    Barbara recently posted..Five Things (A Day Late)My Profile

  12. Mindy
    February 17, 2013 | 2:00 am

    I recently met up with a cousin whom I hadn’t seen in forty years. He spotted me waiting for him right away, saying I looked exactly the same. I find that hard to believe, but in his face too, I still saw traces of the boy I once knew. As much as we age, we still retain a spark of what was left behind.

  13. Donna Balon
    February 17, 2013 | 8:03 am

    You mention time travel, I would love to go back in time.
    Perhaps I’m biased but I do think that midlifers look better than previous generations. I see myself as older but not old. If I make it to 80, I’ll be old — but not now.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 17, 2013 | 3:40 pm

      No, I don’t see myself as old either – just old ER!

  14. cJoy
    February 17, 2013 | 3:35 pm

    I would love to have lunch with my great grandmothers – I thought I was the only one who thought about things like this. Yes, I see my parents in my brothers & myself. Thankfully, I also see them in my babies.
    cJoy recently posted..TemptationMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 17, 2013 | 3:39 pm

      I think the older we get, the more we consider these things – don’t you?

  15. Laura Wallis
    February 17, 2013 | 6:52 pm

    What a lovely post! Sharon, you are amazing writer! So grateful I found you. Just discovered you via Twitter. Will be back! Oh- didn’t want that Arnold reference, but, oh, well!

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 17, 2013 | 7:11 pm

      Thanks so much, Laura – so glad you found me – Twitter is great for finding new people, isn’t it!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

CommentLuv badge

Trackback URL http://www.emptyhousefullmind.com/aging-as-youthfully-as-can/trackback/