Make Peace with Your Aging Body, Part 2
My post from a few weeks ago, Learn to Make Peace with Your Aging Body, provoked some stimulating conversation—online, in person, and in my own head.
So many nuances related to this came up for me that I decided to turn create a blog series on this topic.
If you missed the original post, you can catch up HERE.
Age-ING or Age-LESS?
Many of us cringe away from the word “aging”, and I’ve been one of them. I devoured Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book Goddesses Never Age when it came out a few years ago, and like her I’m convinced that a lot of the supposed symptoms of aging come from the stories we tell ourselves about it. (This book is a great read by the way – highly recommended!)
She’s pretty hardcore though, advising that one never divulge one’s chronological age lest people make immediate assumptions about who you are and what your physical potential is. Personally, I feel like that’s going a little too far. It feels disingenuous to me to be coy when someone asks how old I am, in fact I’m proud to give the goods.
However, I’m 56 now, and the years have been kind to me, looks-wise. I might feel a lot different in 10 or 20 years!
The truth is I DO feel the passage of chronological time in my body. Twenty minutes on the meditation cushion leaves me groaning as I get up. I find I must be mindful and more gentle with exercise routines; I’ve learned the hard way that injuries can keep me away from any exercise for longer than I want.
We are creatures of this Earth, products of Mother Nature, and it is part of the natural cycle that our human bodies will wax and wane, eventually decomposing back into the Earth. As I touched on in the last article, you are so much more than you body! It is merely a vehicle carrying your spirit around the planet. My mentor Martha Beck calls it a ‘meat suit’.
Yet, it can sure FEEL like you are your body. After all you can’t get out of it (unless you are super enlightened and can meditate your way away.) When we’re in pain, or any sort of physical discomfort, the body suddenly becomes pretty paramount.
Getting Proactive vs Making Peace
As my good friend Margaret so wisely pointed out, there’s a difference between accepting what we cannot change and taking action to improve the things we can. This absolutely applies to our chronologically aging bodies.
This is going to look different for each of us depending on our circumstances and preferences.
For example—I wrote about my dissatisfaction with how hormonal changes are manifesting in my body, now that I am officially post-menopausal (occasional episodes of hot flashes not withstanding.)
My acceptance work is to embrace this stage of life and surrender to the fact that my shape will never be that of an 18-year-old again. (At least not in this life!)
My ‘take some action’ might be to take a discerning look at what I’m consuming that possibly exacerbates the problem and causes weight gain. Perhaps I have some sensitivities or allergies? The same foods and beverages that worked out fine 20 years ago might be problematic now.
I can experiment with changing up foods, I can keep a food journal, I can go see a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner
I can also make a conscious effort to find enjoyable exercise routines that will help keep the shape I do have as toned and strong as possible.
I can practice saying nice things to myself about my body, and refuse to buy into cultural stereotypes that glorify a specific body type.
For someone else—maybe you—bumping up the exercise might not be physically possible. So your approach to this might have to be more along the lines of accept that which you cannot change.
And then there’s the wrinkles, the “bat wings”, the crinkly cleavage. There’s some action we can take here—using high quality skincare products, getting enough rest, some might even choose chemical interventions.
But, in the end, acceptance will become necessary. Just like a blooming flower that eventually fades and droops, just like the summer’s harvest that slowly dwindles and dries up, our animal bodies have their natural cycles.
In a future installment I’ll discuss our cultural aversion to aging, along with strategies to overcome falling prey to this insidious invitation to self hatred.
Another example: Aching limbs and muscles that need a lot more stretching and babying than they used to.
I can choose to moan, groan and complain. Or, I can choose to take care of those squawking body parts with various means…. from massage, to baths, to stretching, to arnica cream. It is what it is.
That’s a combination of acceptance and action.
Accept it, take care of it, drop the complaining.
It is so tempting to complain. There’s a weird satisfaction.
But, the truth is the more we indulge in that, the more we are basically CREATING more of what we don’t want!
I advocate going with the ‘making peace’ or acceptance route if taking action is going to cost you a bundle, cause a lot of pain and distress, or remove all of the fun in your life.
On the other hand, if you’re miserable with current conditions and there is some obvious action that could be taken to mitigate things, what are you waiting for? Start with one tiny step.
What can YOU accept? What can you act on? What is YOUR tiny step?
Share in the comments.
This is Part 2 of a series. If you missed Part One you can read it HERE.