Caring for our Minds

books-1578589_640We are aging, there is no spinning this one. Yes, and if not we would be dead….think about it!!! I know not all my friends will appreciate the fact that I am calling us aging. I apologize. Life goes on, regardless of what we want to happen. We cannot stop time. Accepting is the best way because it allows us to concentrate in staying vibrant and involved and happy.

Never mind what we do to our bodies to keep healthier and younger looking, we are still middle aged. Looking great is fantastic, feeling good and being healthy is priceless, but keeping our minds alert and sharp is even more important. Unfortunately, some of us pay too much attention to our bodies and not enough to our minds!!!

I am sure everyone will say: well, that is not me!!! I would be willing to bet each and everyone of my friends feels this way…..but is it true? Do we all read, play mind and card games on our tablets, do jigsaw or crossword puzzles? Do we listen to music, attend the theater or have a hobby? Do we keep up with the news…..as awful as they are nowadays? You tell me.

I have friends that definitely do all of those things and more. They are on top of their game, as they say. They can talk about current events, enjoy a great book, keep up with life. They travel and visit different places, try new foods, entertain new ideas. They are good with social media and love having younger friends. Women in their middle years, but so involved and vibrant, they break stereotypes. More than worry about their looks, these women worry about not letting their minds go to waste.

These women have kept on learning, striving for a better self. Everything for them is an adventure. Some have literally drove around the country on their own, taken a volunteer vacation in Third World countries, have meditated in Bali and hiked in Machu Pichu. Never mind the ones that have started businesses after retirement or have become successful writers or bloggers.

Besides, they mostly look fabulous, dress impeccably and exude elegance and poise. Still, it’s the fact that they can talk about any topic, hold opinions that could be considered advanced, what makes them so interesting. Confidence is the best quality they posses. I am proud to call them friends.

Then, I have other friends who have so many things to complain and rant about. Who forget that aging is not a choice. They are the opposite of my other friends: they cannot stop telling themselves that this is it, life is not going to get better, old age is creeping in and soon they will be useless. Nothing seems to energize them more than talking about imaginary illnesses, aches and pains and feeling their age. A long life is a blessing, why waste these years lost in fearing the inevitable.

They might do some reading, maybe watch the news, but always with a sense of foreboding or a sense of I told you so. New things interest them little, so no new music talent, promising new artists, forget about  books expressing different ideas. Traveling is out of the question since it can be so complicated. They believe that: I know all I wanted to know, seen what I wanted to see and heard all I wanted to hear. Cultivating new attitudes is not even considered. I love them too, but I have been slowly distancing myself from them. Part of living in the moment!!!

Aging will happen, it matters not what you do or want. So cultivate your mind to keep feeling alive and happy. Make friends with younger people, people from other cultures. Engage in conversations about anything and everything, who knows, you might find new interests. Become part of a group that caters to older women, there a few out there. I belong to some and have made friends and learned about things I thought I knew everything about. It’s exhilarating!!!

Finally, just go out and try whatever you always wanted to do. You owe it to yourself, what is the worse that could happen? that it turns out it’s not as interesting as you thought? or you actually love it or you move to a small place by the beach? or your blog, business or whatever is a resounding success? At any rate, it will be fabulous, trust me!!!glasses-664078_640

Accepting our Aging Bodies

What? That was my reaction when I read a post by Margaret Manning, from Sixty and Me. She has been on a trip to Bali for 8 weeks, rediscovering herself and accepting who she has become. It was very powerful. See for yourself HERE .

IMG_5294My mind understands this is essential to acceptance of ourselves as older women. Changes in our bodies are the first sign we are no longer the young, pretty things we once were. They creep in and slowly transform us. I know that, but since changes come slowly or we are not paying attention, we just wake up one morning and we are older!!! It’s not easy for me to post this picture, but I thought it necessary.

Margaret, of course, is right. This is who we are today and accepting, loving it and moving on is the thing to do. Now, what each one of us mean by accepting is the difference between living in harmony with ourselves or fighting to stay young by any means. This would be hardly harmonious. The desire to hang on to our youth is powerful, I understand. Millions of women spend fortunes in beauty products and surgery to try just that. Who are we to criticize….. but is it worth it? For some it is, but more and more women are changing this view.

IMG_3555The most important thing we should remember: keep healthy, active and involved. Living in harmony with our aging bodies, accepting them, does not mean we are going to let go. Nobody is saying we should just stay home, gain weight, slow down in our activities, dress like our grandmothers did and sit and wait for old age to fully take charge of our lives. Absolutely NOT!!!

Accepting our bodies as they are today involves a lot of work, dedication and care. We should work at keeping our bodies healthy and performing at their best. Make sure you have your physical exams regularly, listen to your body and tell your doctor anything you do not like or understand. This is most important. If you need medication, take it and do not forget to take your vitamins and supplements.

Eat right for your age. I know, here I go again mentioning age, but it’s important. At this stage of our lives we need certain nutrients more than others. We cannot tolerate certain foods and certain drinks. Alcohol should always be taken in moderation, but these days it’s more important. Make sure you know what agrees with you and what doesn’t. There is also the fact that overeating or eating at certain hours could be upsetting to our bodies, pay attention.

If you are exercising, great!!! If you do not like to exercise, try yoga or tai-chi. Your body needs to stay nimble, it will help your aches and pains, your posture and your attitude. Walking tall is always a confidence booster!!!IMG_5828

Finally, and very important, learn to dress as you please. It’s our time, wear what you like, what makes you feel attractive, what feels good. There are no rules about how we should dress…..never mind what certain people say. If you Google this topic, there are countless articles. Ignore them!!! Best go online and look at older women’s blogs: Not Dressed as Lamb, The Sequinist, No Fear of Fashion, Style Crone and Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. You’ll be surprised in a most wonderful way.

Now you know: accepting our aging bodies it’s a powerful statement in a world obsessed with youth. Go out and make it with pride!!!

P.S. Header photograph by Alan Maduro at Caracasbaai, Curaçao. Thank you!!!

Lessons Learned and Aging

Have you ever been asked your age only to hear this: you look good, though? Look good, really? Look good for what? Look good compared to whom? What does this really mean?

Well, I know it’s mortifying to many. Some of my friends can go into hissy-fits, some can get depressed and some of them just lie about their age!!! I am sure you belong to one of these groups. Or you could be one of those free spirits to whom age is just a number and you don’t care.

Since I let my hair go grey, I have not been asked my age very often. I guess everyone thinks I am just old!!! When it comes to this subject, life becomes complicated. Society has conditioned people, especially women, to strive for a youthful look. To keep looking young well into their middle-age is a goal for most of the women I know. Many of them go to great lengths to keep up an appearance of youth. Sad. We can try to change our look, but our body is still whatever age we really are. Period.

Do not get me wrong…I like to look good too. I want to feel attractive and strive to always look my best. There is no question about that. Just letting go of everything is not my idea of aging either. There is the fact that keeping healthy, active and focused on our well-being is a priority, regardless of how you feel about aging.

Now, let’s get down to reality. Studies conducted on older women have discovered certain attitudes that will bring a healthier, relaxed and positive lifestyle to anyone as we age. Most of these studies included women in the 80s, 90s and even 100s. The findings are amazing and we must share them.

First: Good posture is essential. We should strive for vertical balance. To help us along, walking is the best exercise. Try doing it everyday. I certainly know this, walking has been part of my routine for years. It is an excellent aerobic workout and gives you the chance to be outdoors enjoying nature!!! Dance when you listen to music, let go of those inhibitions…..it releases Cortisol, lowers your stress levels. Besides, it keeps you limber!!!

Second: Stay in the present. We can reminisce and enjoy our memories, but it is absolutely unnecessary to live in the past. Our future will not be as long as we want, even if we live to be 100. The present is where we live. This means becoming engaged, learning new things: listen to new music artists, learn a new language, watch new movies, get involved in social media!!!

Third: Love yourself. Love how you look, how you move, how you feel. Accept  yourself, but keep improving as much as possible. It is never too late to start taking care of your body, your health, your mind. Let go of perfect, it doesn’t exist. Cultivate a positive attitude that will lead to resetting your inner clock, making you feel years younger!!!

Fourth: Get in touch with your feelings and emotions. We forget this when we feel sick or under the weather. Find the cause of what ails you. Pay attention to how you feel. Meditate and listen to your body. Your brain is so powerful, it connects your feelings and emotions to your physical welfare. Use it to make you feel better!!!

Fifth: Savor the good in your life. Trust your instincts and defend what matters most to you. Be compassionate, starting with yourself. Enjoy and savor every experience be it a play, a book, a song, a glass of wine or a fine meal. You do not need anyone’s approval, you don’t need to please anyone but yourself….enjoy this time!!!

Gloria Steinem said once: “Women over 50 are a country to which this youth-obsessed culture has few guides“. Indeed, so it is up to us to gather the knowledge that is out there and use it to improve our lives now.  Age is liberating, we can say and think and do what we want. Make it so!!! We must not let the world tell us that we are now pass our prime, ready to put out to pasture, no longer attractive……..Aging is a right of passage just like others we have successfully lived through. It just happens that this time, we are prepared and ready!!!

Letting Go of Perfect

Women are perfectionists, or so I have been told. I know I tend to be. Unfortunately, this is a difficult trait to have. Still, women insist on having things just so. There is an innate desire in women to have everything perfect, and perfect doesn’t exist.

I have learned that wanting to be perfect can bring us down and make us unhappy….without reason!! We want to have perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect body, perfect relationships and perfect life. A tall order indeed and I will attempt to tackle this unrealistic wish.

In our youth, when we were so clever and thought we could change everything, we relish the fact that we looked good….at least some of us did!! We were admired, we made men turn their heads to look at us, we thought we were so hot…..at least some of us did!! The thought that changes will come hardly ever entered our thoughts, did it? Well, we should have paid attention.

When Time moved on and left its marks on us: wrinkles, grey hair, sagging skin, some of us couldn’t grasp the onslaught. It was too much and we were not ready. Never mind the emotional and mental upheaval. Other events like divorce, losing a spouse and starting over alone, becoming an empty-nester, being made redundant, retirement, came as well seemingly at once. We were overwhelmed and rightly so. What to do? How to overcome these changes?

Suddenly, we had to let go of perfect. Easier said than done and a lot of us tried to hold on…..at any cost. There were creams and surgery, untold hours at the gym, diets, supplements, fillers and Botox. Nothing was left to chance for many of us. Of course nothing can stop Time, its course is steady. Others looked for different solutions and found that Life can be so liberating once perfect is out of the way.

It wasn’t easy. Journalist Vivian Gornick, said: “Tomorrow is here. Now I am accountable. Now I must do it. More important will I?” Indeed, will I do what I know is necessary to live my life to its fullest? Accepting what we cannot change is hard, but it’s the only way forward. So some of us, just breathed deeply, looked ahead and tried to walk though this new stage. After all, the alternative was worse. This doesn’t mean we let ourselves go. We just decided we would not go to extremes.

As others before me, I decided to age gracefully, to accept that Time will win regardless of what I do to stop it. Do not get me wrong, I intent to do this with a plan. My first step was to Toss aside all my preconceived ideas about aging. Before you say anything, I want to say it was not easy and definitely not pleasant at the beginning. We live in a society that worships youth. There are few examples of fabulous women of a certain age out there. This is because the media doesn’t really pay attention to them!!! Think Helen Mirren, Christine Lagarde….I am sure you can come up with many more. Older men, however, are everywhere and are called things like statesman and other exalted names.

Here are some of the things I have been Listening to in the last year or so:

I have accepted that this time in my life is mine, it’s for me to be ME. This is very important. Women tend to have time for everyone in their lives. They play every role and most of us do it without complain. It is time to do for us. I allow myself to take ME time when I need it and strive not to explain.

I have listened to myself and realized that it is alright to be assertive. This can be a real struggle, but it’s so satisfying. As I have said before, say NO when you mean NO and YES only when you really want to. To quote journalist Katherine Weissman: “Over the years I have learned to assert my rights, own my successes, get angry and not apologize so damned often”……a lesson all women should learn!!

I have decided to truly like myself as I am aging. Looking in the mirror is painful for many older women. Accepting who we have become is the only way to live at peace with ourselves. No amount of wishes will stop the changes we are experiencing……but there are ways to make the best of them. Really, there are!!! Embrace yourself, feel beautiful in your own right, be happy and this will show in the way you look, the way you carry yourself and the way you live your life. “Make an asset of your flaws. Wear feathered hats and high heels shoes. Affect an English accent. Carry a falcon on your wrist.” Tina Howe, playwright. Isn’t this a marvelous quote?

Of course, I also have let my hair go grey and I am loving every minute of this journey. Today, my daughter told me I look and act so much happier now. Since I changed my look, she says, I am a different person. Love it!!!

Finally, hats off to the women that have always coped beautifully with the changes age brings. They accept and get ahead without much bother. I admire them!! Now, if like me, you are not one of them…….please try some of these ideas.

P.S. The quotes on this post come for a most wonderful book I just discovered:

In the Fullness of Time by Emily W. Upham and Linda Gravenson

It is an anthology of essays by 32 women about life and aging. Do yourself a favor and get it!!

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