Today is my birthday. I have lived 41 years. A year ago, I was celebrating my 40th with a slumber party of all my girlfriends, getting ready to launch Owning Pink on April 27, right after my birthday celebration ended. So it’s a special sort of birthday, being able to look back on what we’ve created together this year. It fills me with gratitude to see how much love, hope, faith, friendship, writing, connection, and transformation exists now that didn’t only one year ago.
This is how I feel about my life too. When I look back on my 41 years, I feel so grateful to have lived the life I’ve lived, known and loved the people in my life, experienced the richness of what life has to offer, and felt profoundly. It hasn’t been a perfect life. There are some frames in the backwards movie in my mind part of me would prefer to clip out. But I know I must appreciate even the painful freeze frames, because each of them made me who I am today- Lissa Rankin at 41.
I know some people have a hard time with birthdays. They view them as some count down to mortality or see them as benchmarks by which they should have achieved x, y, and z. They fear aging, as if being robbed of their youth takes away the essence of what matters about them. They look at the wrinkles in the mirror, scowl at the sag, and long for the outer beauty they had a twenty.
Sure, I have those moments. At twenty, I was a perky, smooth-skinned babe sans smile lines and varicose veins. And yes, I got a lot of attention for it. But I wouldn’t trade in what I have now for those days EVER.
The Secret to Aging Gracefully
At some point, a critical transformation must be made in each person in order to grow old gracefully. In our twenties or thirties, we may think our outer appearance defines our value in the world. If we are beautiful, skinny, and conforming to society’s norms, we are lovable. I know I felt that way.
But at some point, healthy aging requires making an internal shift. How you appear on the outside no longer matters because you know in your heart of hearts that your true value lies within. Sure, I still put on lip gloss and shave my legs. I still shop for fun clothes and like how my legs look in high heels. But I honestly don’t care about those wrinkles or saggy boobs or loose skin on my neck or lumpy veins on my legs. I know that each year brings something much more precious- wisdom, life experience, freedom from the superficial. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything.
Becoming a Crone
When I think about the people I most admire in life, they are not tight-skinned, enhanced celebrity youth but beautiful older sages like Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and my favorite mentor- Mom. They make me excited to age. Maybe, with twenty or thirty years more experience, I can become as wise, centered, poised, and loving as they are.
I know friends who celebrate “crone” ceremonies, honoring and uplifting women as they age. Usually done at the menopausal transition, these rituals recognize the transformation from reproductive years to the sage years, as a woman becomes a mentor, counselor and guide for others. I see this transformation happening already in myself. Each year I grow older, I care less about my own selfish desires and more about my place in the world, the legacy I will leave, the love I will spread, the people I touch. It’s less about receiving and more about giving, less about what the world can do for me, but what I can do for the world, not in an ego-driven way, but in a quest for grace.
Aging Means Letting Go
Part of getting older means releasing some of my former identity. No, my body can no longer perform the way it used to. I will never be quite as strong or nimble as I was in my twenties. Beauty fades. Health erodes. The body is not meant to live forever. But the spirit is eternal. With each year, the spirit evolves more. With each passing year, we become more in touch with the Divine within.
Those who can’t let go and appreciate the gift of aging fixate on youth. They bury the truth of their own aging in plastic surgery, Botox, expensive skin creams, and lying about their age. They think their value lies in what they looked like twenty years ago, rather than realizing that they are more valuable than ever. These people fail to recognize that with each year, they have one more year of life experience to offer the world, one more year of wisdom, one more year of history and resilience and capacity to be whole.
Life Is Ephemeral
I am proud of my 41 years, but I will be even more proud when I hit 50. Or 60. Or 70. Yes, those days will remind me that the clock is ticking, that I will not be here forever, that everything- even my own life- is ephemeral.
But I say bring it on. I plan to live fully, vitally, richly, wholly- until the day I take my last breath. I intend to lie on my death bed and smile, looking back at a life well lived. Each birthday draws me one step closer to that day, but I’m fine with that. May my life be a prayer, and may that last day be a joyous amen.
To many more,
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