If my brothers are 66 and 67 and have eight grandchildren between them (so far), why do I still think I'm 35? I graduated only four and five years behind them in school, so this isn't about a great age divide in our generation. That's the case with some of my cousins who have half-siblings more than 30 years their junior. Not for me.
Most of us are familiar with the term body dysmorphia, the inability to see one's own body image accurately: The anorexic who sees themselves as fat when everyone else sees them as terribly thin. Age dysmorphia may or may not yet be termed, but I'd argue it's even more common. A dear friend, who is a dynamic, attractive woman on the cusp of 80, and I were talking about self-perception and aging. "You realize," she said, "that as we speak I think you are looking at a 33-year-old woman." I, too, think others are speaking to a younger me, the me I feel myself to be. Therefore, looking in the mirror can be quite a jolt at times!
We need to remember our age, just not be defined by it. I'm not recommending delusional thinking or blanket denial of facts, but the realization that how we feel is significant. Even when feelings are in contradiction to fact, they can provide benefits. Feeling ageless communicates vitality. Feeling old and worn communicates lack of energy. Accepting age and embracing our life force would be a healthy medium. Since most of us fall in and out of balance, it's probably best to work on vitality and reasonably adapt to the fact of our age, enjoying our physical strengths and abilities while creating a dynamic self image that can contain contradiction and change.
A decade ago, my then partner suggested that I stop reminding everyone in the room that I was the oldest one present. "It pushes people away," he explained. This is different from lying about age. I am proud to be in my 60s. I have survived. I just don't have to belabor it. Less talk, more living.
Life is not easy, and most of us, looking back, realize that we have done many foolish things and gotten away with them -- since we're still here. Now, we get to embrace the knowledge that hopefully comes with experience. We can operate with a perspective that is informed by the bits of wisdom gleaned on this lengthening journey.
Young as I feel, my knees remind me that I have walked and run and danced for decades. I have more to offer and still so much more to learn. I'm younger than Cher and older than Obama. I'm in the game, and aging certainly beats the alternative.
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