My life has not always been easy. Ups and downs and things that scared me to my core took me to places that forever affected me. Now, I laugh more. I smile more. Less bothers me because I know that it wastes precious energy to sweat the small stuff. However, it has recently come to my attention that in my efforts to remain youthful in both spirit and smile, I am starting to wrinkle. Not in the cute creases of my twinkling eyes, but in the sag of my sagacity.
As a mom of former teenagers, I’ve often taken a discerning view of what life puts in my path. I trust, but am not always trusting. I am happy, but not always joy-filled. The direction I’ve taken in my life comes with qualification – with details, and with explanation. I’ve learned to take the good with the not-so-great. While I believe that life is what you make it, it is never perfect. Lessons one learns often come with a price. If you’re lucky, the wisdom that comes with experience shapes you in ways you’re proud of. Every crease, every fold, every dip into the unknown takes you to a new place. Being mindful of my steps, I focus on where I’m going. I measure my effort. I breathe in the gratitude of knowing that while each day is a gift, I am making the most out of my walks through this life. I couldn’t always say this but I appreciate that I can now.
Looking in the mirror, I see my life shaping my face, my physique, and my joy. I feel I must look past the wrinkle in my twinkle and relish the passion that has put it there. I must work hard to continue my walk down the path of mindfulness. Remaining in the present and not trying to plan my way out of midlife has been difficult. I don’t want to be stuck, but the mirror reminds me that there is balance to every choice I make.
I’m enjoying my midlife journey, and trying not to focus to hard on the lines and turns that shape my midlife. As long as I am guided to a clear path, and sunshine lights my way, a little wrinkle in my twinkle reminds me this trip has been worth it.
You wouldn’t think something as simple as lipstick would be such a defining item as one marches on into midlife. Not so newsworthy coverage of how to remain visually appealing in one’s older and wiser years seems to be all I see when it comes to beauty tips and fashion trends. While I am struggling with an ever changing profile, gray hair and how to adapt what little make up I do wear, I find myself spending more time making decisions about how I can grow older gracefully while maintaining the image of a woman who still makes an effort.
I no longer focus on hiding the flaws and but embracing the “less is more” mentality. I don’t want to become that fifty-something with such a manicured, comprehensive look that the extreme color in anything looks like I’m trying too hard. What I wouldn’t give for the “I’m the aging but still cool-looking hippy mom with the natural beauty of a Norwegian supermodel” look. How I would cherish the toned and tawny tribal look of the outdoorsy, soon-to-be senior who felt at home at an outdoor music fest or during a weekly nature hike. But alas, I am the “haven’t seen much of the sun”, “I’d rather be reading” minimally active parent and grandparent who now finds herself truly asking herself if she can still pull off the red lipstick on date night.
My journey into this updated image started with a little sparkle. I’d received a gift of a glittery eye shadow palette that has since provided me with gleeful moments in the mirror as I accent my look with sunlight, rosegold, or twilight eye sparkle. How could midlife feel so dangerous? So experimental? Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow would be contacting me for input for goop.com. The power of self-assurance was heady.
So, imagine my amazement when shopping for an upcoming vacation, I find tinted organic (yes, organic) lip balm with colors that were perfect for me! My new color choice, symbolic of my wrestling with graceful aging, was at last within my grasp. Something easy, flattering, yet nothing too polished that a kiss from my husband or a chocolate brownie couldn’t disturb. My heart was happy – and my spirits soared. Could I pull off this sassy but simplistic new self image? My sense of self was being restored by tinted lip balm.
My embrace of this sparkle and gentle bloom of color reminds me to bid farewell to another closely held illusion from my 40s. My youthful aspirations I must release have now seeped into my soul keeping me young at heart but promoting my acceptance of that which I cannot really change. These days, I am focusing on my next big plan for my life, which includes more adventure as a mother and reflection on being a grandmother. Maybe I’ll go on a few more nature walks. Maybe I can still hope for the cool-looking hippy mom vibe. But now, I am mindful of what I am as my new lip color shouts my new life motto – I am ready to be the new me. And no, I’m not Norwegian but I’ve always wanted to go there.
As long as I can remember, I loved to dance. Dance while with my friends, dance while no one is looking. The energy and love I exude while moving to the musical beat put me in a state of happiness that I simply could not recreate elsewhere. Body and mind were one. Until I started getting older. My mind moved one way, my body another. I shimmied while I shook – but not in unison. My outer self no longer reflected by inner self. While feeling betrayed by age and life, I’ve begun seeking how I can find my happy place in the middle age of motherhood.
I recently started back up with a Zumba class, energized by the Latin beats and inspired by fancy footwork of our instructor. Our class is full, with all levels of participants. I am filled with a feeling of safety as I recognize my limitations and making conscious choice to still have fun without the guilt of underperforming. I get lost in the mamba motion, imagining how skilled I feel by tackling these steps. Until the group shifts and I am standing in front of the mirror.
A wave of disappointment crashed over me as my inner joyous self met my outer midlife self. How could I be fooled enough to think I was mastering my joy over my midlife unfitness? I felt guilty. I felt cheated. Why did I have to step in front of the mirror? My thoughts, these days, have been about mastering my own destiny, charting my own course, creating my own happiness. I recognized the time for change.
A quote attributed to Marty Rubin summarized the lesson I was about to learn:
“Mirrors: they show you what you lack, not what you have.” This gym class mirror couldn’t show me all I achieved, all that I was to those in my life. It was showing me what I lacked, and I was placing too much importance on this. I have made this my new mantra – frame the way you live your life in terms of what you’re doing for health and happiness – giving it to others, but now – even more – giving it to yourself. Your life before was more about what you did for others. Don’t regret it. Don’t feel guilty that you were unable to place yourself more of a priority then. Doing it now is a step in the right direction on your journey. What you see in the mirror is capturing what you are doing right. What you lack is buried in the past.
So, as I lace up for another class, I am going to find the strength to stand in front of the mirror. Truly open my eyes and my heart and see what I am doing. I am going to take each step in front of the mirror and it will remind me of my mindful journey. I will just have a meringue rhythm to keep me on track.