Aging without fear.

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A few weeks ago I shared the picture above on Facebook.

It was sunny.  Charming was happy.  It was sunnyI was happy.  It was sunny (did I mention that?).

I felt content.  And, in a way I can’t capture in words, I felt like myself.

I’ve experienced this so rarely lately I shoved my iPhone at the Tornado and instructed her to snap a picture.

When two friends responded with the same sentiment (below) I went back and examined the image she’d captured.

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And I agreed—kind of.

I’m not one to denigrate the compliment-giver and brush off niceties (you should see the bags under my eyes!), yet it immediately brought to mind some musings about aging.

I do think I look young in that photo and I do *know* it’s all a result of my happiness leaking out from within.

I’m brazenly confident enough to respond I look better than I did at eighteen because a quarter of a century later I’m *finally* comfortable in my own skin.

Finally.

The thing is my healthy changes moment occurred early.

I was in my 20’s.   It was a decade when 40 seemed old and the thought of ever turning 50 was as bizarre as imagining myself a mother.

As a result, in recent years I’ve experienced what I refer to as my aha! part deux.

A refinding of my voice– this time outside the weigh-room.

I never regained the weight I shed, yet I’d sometimes spy photographs of my younger-self and feel a twinge of longing.

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  • No matter how I maintained my loss I didn’t look the same 2+ decades later.
  • No matter how I maintained my loss parts of my body now sag, wrinkle and show signs of wear.

Being the misfit I am the thoughts registered—yet I didn’t obsess.

To the child’s emerging horror—I’m more Sally O’Malley than afraid to age.

My aha! was sparked, however, when I read people who are happy about their age lived longer than those ‘bothered’ by it.

Seven and a half years longer.

While I’d never used the word bothered with regards to aging—-I’d happily adopt the adjective happy if it snagged 7.5 more years.

I’d *happily* embrace each wrinkle and piriformis pain sag if it ensured 7.5 years longer with family and friends.

I immediately formulated a 4-pronged approach to procure me those 2737.5 days:

1.      No comparisons. I would not compare myself to others or to my younger self. I would strive to be the best Carla I could currently be. Period.

2.      Choose optimism. To know me is to realize I’m already an optimist.  Any latent negative tendencies were squelched by the study’s reminder we optimist-types live longer.

3.      Live without regret.  For me regret is about loss. It’s a form of grieving for what might have been.  I choose to be content where I am and open new doors as I age.

4.      Treat my body with love and respect. For me it’s gluten-free eating and consistent (moderate) exercise.  For others it may look different.  A gift of aging is we learn to honor what our body needs.

Now?

I mustache you a question:

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(aging-happy is aging-silly)

  • Regardless of chronological years–have you experienced an aha! moment about aging?
  • Do you have a fifth prong you’d add to my aging-approach?

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m a few months away from 30 and I’m trying to figure out if I care, like care in a way that other people think “oh no I’m where I’m supposed to be” way. I’m just finishing up an undergrad degree while the getting engaged and pregnant go on the back burner due to money restraints. If I went back to being 20 or 25 I wouldn’t change anything so I guess I shall trudge on these last few months of being 29 and I’ll use this milestone birthday as an excuse to have a party at the very least.

  2. says

    You’ve written on age before — and I’ve responded before but must do so again. Thank you for this post. I don’t know why I have a weird obsession (less than obsession but can’t think of the word) with aging. I’m always thinking about how old I’m getting and how I’m afraid I will keep looking older. Posts like this REALLY help me think differently and you are such a role model for me on this (and other things as well, like mothering!). Anyway, I think you are right and I must banish this silly anxiety because it does absolutely NOTHING positive for me. Thanks Carla ;)

  3. says

    True happiness is ageless. You can be 100 years old with a radiant smile and people will say you look good and happy. It’s the best accessory! I’m trying to not compare how I used to look (age wise) and look more at where I am now.

  4. says

    I am so much more comfy in my skin at 36 than I was at 18. I wish I had known so many things than, I would have shown off my cute tummy more, now it is all stretch marks from my babies, and I still show it off. I embrace my freckles, I don’t hate my nose anymore, getting older has some great benefits

  5. says

    As Cliche as it may sound, I firmly believe AGE is ONLY a #! I feel you grow more as a person, you don’t “age”;)

  6. says

    I don’t think of myself most of the time as approaching 40. But then an ache nags a little longer or another gray “sparkle” arrives. There are little signs here of there but otherwise I feel great and don’t really care about the number. As long as I can keep doing what I love, then all is good.

  7. Healthy Mama says

    I’m not there.
    I scrutinize myself in the mirror all the time and worry over each line.
    I am not sure why either.

  8. says

    I learned long ago that only I can bring myself happiness. I stopped looking for happiness and soon after it started to grow within me. Love this post!

  9. Izzy says

    I find the no comparisons interesting.
    My whole philosophy is not to compare to others (thief of joy!!) but I do compare to myself and that’s ok.

  10. says

    While running with two younger friends yesterday morning, it came up that I’ll be 35 (gasp!) this summer. Eh. I’m only as old as I feel. So I’m about 23. :)
    To be honest, I’m less concerned about getting older (life really just keeps getting better!) as I am about being done having babies.

  11. says

    I did not read any comments purposely. :) I can only say that I felt GREAT until the 50′s when the hormones took over my head & body.. just saying. 40′s up to the end were pretty great for me. I felt my best, felt young.. and then 50′s! I know many embrace.. it is not that I don’t but I feel that until you get there & feel the hormones that honestly you have no control over with emotions – even though you think you do. I look back & realize I did not… I had crazy & sad & depressed times. The bod did it’s own thing no matter what – I still fight that…. YES, I feel good about where I am with my age BUT it is tough stuff in the 50′s & for some after that.. I hope the hormones stuff is gone by then. :)

  12. says

    I love this post. I think people at any age are able to feel both young and old, depending on perspective. Sometimes 23 seems ancient to me, other times it feels like the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of age, I just feel lucky to be breathing and to be alive.

  13. says

    <3 this as usual. For the most part, I think I'm not afraid of my age – I usually can't even remember how old I am if asked. But, I've also been told often that I look young. Maybe the two are related? I'm going through a phase of not being as comfortable in my skin right now, but I know that feeling is there and I have to get back to it.

  14. says

    I’ve only panicked about aging once; on the eve of my 40th birthday. It turned out to be not so scary after all!
    I’m not bothered by the number now, but am occasionally strictly by the ‘how did time pass so quickly’ thought when a child passes another milestone or birthday! (Like how can my oldest be only a year away from driving? Where did those 15 years go?)

  15. says

    Yes to all of this! Every once in a blue moon I’ll look at my wrinkles and think it would be nice to do something about it. But the wrinkles are a life well lived and so, so low down on the totem pole for me at this stage in the game. I take care of myself in all the right ways and I’m happy to say I am happy for this approach!

  16. says

    Dealing with aging and fear is no easy task! I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. I’ve also found that keeping physically and mentally active sure helps. Constantly talking about it does not!

    I also find it amusing when people years younger than me talk so much about the difficulties of getting older.

    They have no idea!

  17. says

    It’s not aging without fear that concerns me most. It’s aging without desserts. It is written in my will that I’m to be buried in the catacombs underneath the local bakery.

  18. says

    I feel much more peace at almost 38 than I did at 18 or 28 or 33. there is something about understanding myself that us worth more than anything. sure , the wrinkles and changes to metabolism and upcoming menopause are scary (I am change-averse, I know that!) but I’m not as scared as I was to turn 38 next month.

  19. says

    I’m circling 40 and I constantly waver between wishing I looked more *pick your youthful adjective*, and being very grateful for the experiences I have had that make me who I am today. Your posts always remind me to refocus.

  20. says

    I am almost 30 and much more comfortable with where I am then I thought I would be. Events lately have me realizing more than ever that some things really do happen for a reason (no matter how tough they are and how hard it is to realize in that moment).

    Recently I bought scratch tickets for my Grandma’s birthday and I got carded, the attendent barely believe I was 18, the fact that my license said I was 29, I am pretty sure he thought I had a fake ID.

  21. says

    I completely agree with all of these. I often get told at work that I have great focus for my age and am a bit older I will have a more pessimistic perspective. When I remind them I am 40 and choose to be optimistic they are often shocked. Youth is so completely not a physical trait…it comes from within :)
    I wish I I could go back and let my younger self know that everything would be fine. So much done. So much yet to do! :)

  22. says

    That picture of you is awesome and I think it is because you do look radiant – the happiness is shining through you!!! To me, that is what life is all about!!!!
    Age – it took me a bit but after I turned 40 and realized I was still just me I started to fully embrace each new year. I think that my life has continued to get better every single year and that makes me happy!

  23. says

    I’ve been staring at my gray hairs as my roots grow out and wondering if I dye my hair because it’s fun or if I dye my hair because I hate my gray. It bothers me to think that I do it to hide the gray, because I want to age gratefully and gracefully. But…there is that gray around the hair line.

    I come from a line of ridiculously long-lived people. (Grandfathers died at 92 & 93; paternal grandmother at 89; maternal grandmother still living at 89; great-uncle lived to 100, and several others into their 90s.) I want to be spry and awesome until the end, and if I look good doing it, that’s just a bonus. My self-care is based 40% on wanting to keep up with & set a good example for my Bean, 40% on wanting to be independent and awesome for the next 60 years, and 10% on vanity. :) I think that’s a decent mix.

  24. says

    I completely agree with this! This year I have really been focusing on finding balance – it’s so important to focus on your 4 prong approach, but for me, I would probably have to add a 5th prong of focusing on finding balance in life. Finding balance means something different to everyone, but to me, it’s focusing on being present in the moment, relaxing and listening to my body.

  25. says

    I absolutely LOVE this post for so many reasons! A) you do look young and vibrant in that photo, and it’s wonderful that you attribute it to the happiness leaking from your soul, B) my favorite of your aging-approach prongs is the no comparisons. I am only 23, but I still have to work every day not to compare myself to how I have been in the past– physically, emotionally, socially, etc. It’s all about living in the now. And C) you remind me SO much of my own mom (who is also my best friend!!) and she is about to start her own blog– I am definitely pointing her in your direction to get some inspiration :) happy Monday!! xo

  26. says

    Appreciate this post and your perspective, Carla! I love it. I’m oddly excited about aging…I think I have some great examples of people aging well in my life (physically – like my mom and dad, spiritually like my aunt Bonnie who is constantly improving herself and not staying set in her ways, in wisdom like my father-in-law) and I like wrinkles – especially the ones from smiling. Plus, years of weight training mean muscles that do.not.go.away like you and my mom have – you just get better with age! ;)

  27. says

    I (kinda) joke that triathlon is my retirement plan – my goal is to be happy and healthy enough to enjoy many, many more years. I feel younger these days than I have all through my 20s. I don’t fear the age as a number, or looking older, but I do fear being old and decrepit, so I’m doing everything I can to stave that off for as long as possible.

    Humblebrag: I was discussing work history with someone this weekend, and she asked “how did someone as young as you end up at your position”, and she thought I was 28, max. Very nice to hear from someone that just turned 35. :)

  28. cheryl says

    At 60 (and a half) I am SO on the downhill with my way of thinking about aging. I laugh when my preschoolers happen to play with the skin on my neck and at my elbows (I think I used to do the same thing with my grandmother). I smile often and have the laugh lines to prove it.
    I relish my workout time/walk/bike/swim time with my hubby as we really don’t have too many years left together…(less than 40 really) so take each moment we have together as something to cherish. A gift of another day. We love that we are grey,balding (him) forgetful at times, but healthy and happy with our jobs, each other and lives. We love hearing about our kids and how they are moving ahead with their dreams at 26 and 27 (wish we could see them more often, but that’s life!) Happy we are alive and living! Why worry about anything else?

  29. says

    I have learned to embrace aging. I actually also feel I look better now than when I was in my 20s or 30s. I have grown into my face and body and are happier in general. You look amazing in your pics.
    Estelle

  30. says

    As I near 40, I have come to realize more and more that it is not about my age- but about my attitude. One of the many reasons that I am trying to be more intentional and focused about regaining my wellness is that I know I do not want to give my body more reasons to turn the clock against me. I have watched my parents- who are in their 60′s be more active than ever- and though I can see that they have slowed down in some parts of life, they feel healthier than they ever have. I want to feel that way. :)

  31. says

    Oh I am not wishing your life away, but I will be looking forward to seeing how you feel about all this when you get to my age! hahahaha

  32. says

    Absolutely! I just turned 39 and I couldn’t be happier. I’m so happy with where I am in my life and so grateful for all that I have, how could I be upset about being on this earth for another year? My mom died when she was only 43 and that is not lost on my happiness of approaching and surpassing that age!

  33. says

    I do believe that when we’re happy, it shines through and we do look younger and feel younger and are healthier. While it’s weird to feel like I’m getting “older”, I am so much more comfortable in my skin now than before. I wouldn’t want to go back to those insecurities of my teenage years or my 20s. And I love the experiences my body has had and what’s it’s enabled me to do. The one part of aging that I do have trouble with is accepting that my body can’t do some of the things that it previously could and general sense of falling apart sometimes. But again, maybe it’s all just a matter of perspective.

  34. says

    My “aha” is more along the lines of the fact that, since i have to age anyway (at least until i’m called home), it might as well be healthfully.

  35. says

    I can’t believe that one of my little sisters will be turning 16 this year. 16 years have passed…and I feel like it was just yesterday that she was born. Wow.

  36. says

    You know I heart this. I’ve said it before: if I fret about age now, when I’m 90 and looking back, I’ll think what a waste all that fretting was. I wish we could all let go of the ‘pigeon holes’ of what 30, 40, 50, 60 looks like. It’s all relative and everyone is different.

  37. says

    I love this! As I woman who is struggling not with getting older, but with what my place in the world is…your 4 step approach spoke to me. Sending a big hug of thanks your way Carla!!

  38. says

    I hate the phrase “act your age” when I feel much younger than I am!!

    PS: I work in a high school so that I will always feel young ;) I’m 43 and still going to pep rallies and talking about homework!

  39. says

    My ‘aha’ moment re: age was in realizing that if I was going to view weight as ‘just a number” and I do, then wouldn’t that also be true of age? I’ve been about 35 ever since. :)

  40. says

    I’ve never stressed over “getting old” — maybe because I was the young one for so long — I am definitely healthier and happier now than when I was younger, although I do have some regrets.

  41. says

    I believe that we decide how we’re going to age (barring illness and injury). It’s all in our heads, and if I believe that, without comparing, my body will take me where I want to go, that’s all there is to it. I’ve been trying to embrace aging, and sometimes it is hard. I’m optimistic but still human.

  42. says

    I’m totally cool with being 52 — I just wish others were.
    (I’ll try not to rant too much.)
    As a healthy living blogger, I can’t tell you the number of times I have applied to campaigns only to see the “we’re looking for women ages 25-50″ door slam in my face.
    Do I not have a teenage boy who loves expensive sneakers and eats buckets of healthy food products? Do I not love expensive sneakers and eat somewhat smaller buckets of healthy food products?
    (/endrant)
    So that’s my completely specific angle on being a certain age. But aside from that aspect, I find that the longer you live, the less you care about the number on your drivers license.

  43. says

    Just yesterday I was thinking about how old I felt. I was full of energy, confident and doing a job I love. Was that how I felt in my 40′s, 20′s? I couldn’t decide and decided to forget about age. I’m 63 and a big fan of yours. I am trying to live an unapologetic life.

  44. says

    Yes you’re only as old as you feel. I think once you maintain good physical health and are able to move about – I don’t see what the problem is with age. One thing I use to do was compare myself to celebrities that were in my age bracket. I be like such and such a person is this age now, they look well, it aint so bad lol

  45. says

    I’d never really thought much about age til I turned 25 last year. Until then, I just found age a nuisance because people always seem to be in a rush to get to a certain age or else trying desperately to cling onto an age they’ve long past, and also because age is so arbitrary (different ages to vote and drive etc. in different countries – who’s to say when “we” are “ready” to do those things?).

    And then I kinda freaked out when I turned 25 ;)

    I’ve spent the past six months or so talking myself through *age* and getting more comfortable with it and happy with it. I’m happy with where I’ve been and where I am and where I’m going, and all of that is important!

  46. says

    I’m so with you on this one! The older I get, the happier with myself I get. And it’s not because I think I look better. It’s because my life has settled, there’s less drama, I have wonderful kids and spouse, etc — all things that make me “leak happiness” as you put it:) I was just telling my sister (who just turned 18!!!) that my 20′s were better than my teens and so far my 30′s are better than my 20′s. And I fully expect that trend to keep going. I choose happiness too:) Love you!!

  47. says

    YES. I love this. I actually realized the other day that I get “ma’am-ed” a lot more when I’m in a hurry and have a serious look on my face a lot more than when I’m just enjoying life with a pleasant look on my face.

  48. says

    I needed to read this Miss Carla! (by the way you look AWESOME in that picture! I love the jeans!)

    I just turned 35, and I’m okay with it– I feel great!! But I have noticed a few lines (wrinkles) on my forehead and some sagging eyes. I haven’t yet determined how I feel about it. But reading this is pushing me a little closer to owning it and learning to love it! Age gracefully. That’s what I’m aiming for.

  49. says

    Hanging out with a bunch of long retired friends will do wonders to make you feel young. I can’t imagine thinking of 40′s, 50′s or even 60′s as old. Maybe…. 80′s is ok to say you are feeling older. I’ll let you know when I get there. In the meantime I’m 40 and dancing with my friends who are 80 and 90 and we ALL feel eternally young.
    Sure, I’ve noticed I don’t look quite the same as I once did, but then I was 50 lbs. lighter on my 40th birthday than when I turned 30, so heck- it’s all good!
    BTW- you look awesome in your pic. Attitude truly is so much to how we see life and ourselves.

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