Advice On Aging? You Can Keep It.

I have nothing against “More” magazine – in fact, I read it and applaud its mission to publish a magazine specifically designed for women who have traded their concerns about thigh-gap for hot flashes.  However, on the cover this month (in the largest font possible) is the phrase “Secrets To Aging Gracefully” and in smaller print “from real women like you”.

Please.

Let me tell you what the secrets are – exercise, eat healthy foods (eat vegan – or not), color your hair – or not, use injectables – or not, live in the country or in the city, moisturize and be happy in your skin.

Thank you very much “More” magazine.  I had no idea.

There’s something ironic about using the adverb ‘gracefully’ when one has joints that crack, a back that is willing to debate the merits of good posture, and an ever-increasing awareness that you will never be carded again.  “Ha”, I say.  “Ha.  Ha.  Ha.”

There is nothing graceful about aging.  There is grace in aging.  And there’s a rockin’ big difference between the two.

I spent a good part of yesterday at a local hospital receiving an I.V. infusion (for osteoporosis - I share this only because I don’t want you to think darker thoughts).  This will be an annual trip; it’s nothing compared to some other unpleasant medical moments I’ve had and none of them come close to the challenges others face every single day.  I may feel a little off today and I know that tomorrow will be far better.  This doesn’t even qualify as a roll in the barrel -it’s a jostle.

The infusion center is where people go to receive their chemo treatments.  On either side of me and all around me were patients watching hope as it slowly dripped into their ports.

To my left was a 67-year-old man who cheerfully told me about the hardy qualities of the liver, much of his having been removed a year ago; the 70-something woman on my right was laughing at the nurses who had to come and adjust her Taxol drip every two minutes.  These two knew each other so they just pulled me into their conversation.  They talked about their children, books, the cupcake shop in Georgetown.  Significant others and good movies.  Oncologists and naps when it rains.  Joking with the nurses and occasionally closing their eyes as the minutes dragged.  Just as I thought we were going to take a break, one of them piped up with a thought.  I kissed them both when I left.  The nurse and I hugged.  Don’t know why – it was right though.

This post isn’t about cancer.  It’s about moving forward in and with life, holding delight and intent in one hand and awareness in the other.  It’s about fighting for your life like a street brawler while handling it as a newborn child.  There’s nothing graceful about it – it’s scary and messy and fraught and unfair and arbitrary and clumsy.  It’s also magnificent and wise and proud and freeing and luscious.  Aging with grace?  It’s those moments in between the extremes when you smile and weep and whisper ‘thank you so, so much’.

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82 thoughts on “Advice On Aging? You Can Keep It.

  1. Mimi, this is such a heart-felt post. I found myself smiling, remembering, laughing with you. I love that you get it and share it with us when you write. Your honest enthusiasm and connections with others always serves them and you in such an amazing capacity. I am sure that your ‘chemo friends’ were delighted to engage with you. Your warmth shines through in all you do ~ it’s your essence and what a loving essence you have! I am so happy to know and to love you. ♥

  2. Absolutely right on the money. Have watched my good friend over the past year as she fights breast cancer, mastectomy, chemo, and the after effects. We went for a pedicure yesterday and she said, “This all has made me old.” She is just 59. It has made those of us around her old as well, watching her suffering and fighting. Her numbers are down and I pray that she is a survivor forever from Cancer.
    Bless you during your treatments and bless the new friends we all make as we journey through some pretty scary stuff.
    This piece of writing was lovely and finished on a high note… just like we all hope to finish.

    • Thank you and all good thoughts for your friend. I have traveled the same road with my immediate family and friends. She is fortunate to have a lot of love walking with her. I’m very touched that this post hit all the right chords for you.

  3. There is grace in aging and you are the youthful illustration of it–I am so glad you are back–we really have one mind about things often–I am going gluton free for a few weeks to see if that heals what ails me–creekiness and joint pain–my sister swears by it so I am giving it a whirl. I am much too young to feel the way I do and will even give up bread (the staff of life in my book) in order to achieve well-being. I love how you always treat your maladies so nonchalently, as if they are nothing in comparison to what other people are going through–but Mimi, your aches and pains are important too–do not discount them.

    • Hi Louann – though I’ve not yet gone gluten-free, every person I know who has tried to limit their intake of gluten feels better for it. We just have to figure out a different comfort food (I haven’t been able to make the switch completely).
      I too feel far too young for what I feel, but I can’t go there too often. Perhaps that’s why I minimize my stuff- I’ve had it for so long and it just is what it is. It’s not disingenuous, it’s how I go forward. If I took it too seriously I’m afraid I would fall into a chasm of self-scrutiny from which I could never climb out.
      Let me know how you do with the change in diet? And feel better soon! I love how our thoughts run in parallel so often!

  4. I just received More Magazine as a gift and I must say after much anticipation I was somewhat let down. Not because of it’s content, but because of what is missing. As we get older, with or without grace, I think it’s disheartening to constantly be reminded how we can “look younger.” Great post! Love your new page…very pleasant on the eyes. Love your perspective!

    • Thank you very much! The funny thing is that everything that article said about looking younger was arbitrary – you could do one thing or the complete opposite..really? I too weary of this constant barrage.

  5. I guess we should be glad to be aging, but it’s not always easy. As Betty Davis (I think) said, ” Aging isn’t for sissies!”

  6. Beautiful words right here – > ” Aging with grace? It’s those moments in between the extremes when you smile and weep and whisper ‘thank you so, so much’.” – spot on, sistah!

    As my 83 year old mother with 1 1/4 lungs and worn out hip likes to quip, “aging beats the alternative. Now hand me the racing form!”

    Take care of yourself today … :)
    MJ

  7. wonderful, mimi. i think that many times when someone describes, ‘aging with grace,’ what they really mean is ‘how to disguise or not let your aging show.’ i think that with aging, you have lived life and need continue to, and to show it with pride, in whatever look makes you happy and comfortable. you’ve earned it.

    • I agree with you Beth – though I still hold on to vanity and still want to look great. I just don’t necessarily believe that a) I’m ever going to look decades younger than I am and b) think that our social dialogue has to continue to revolve around looks as the primary definition of aging well. Live life well..

      • I think what you are saying and doing IS aging with grace…it’s a different, broader, deeper, wider, all encompassing grace, not a culturally defined grace like so often projected in glossy publications.

  8. Touching post although they forgot to include exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! I have read what I need to do to look young and quite frankly, it’s pretty limited. I will never look like a 20 year old (bummer!) again. What I like to read is how to feel younger. That’s all about perspective.

  9. Thank you for this one, Mimi. Thank you so very much. Your eye and ear for the natural compassion and camaraderie of all, patients and staff, in the infusion center, is a blessing to share with our generation. This aging thing nicks us all in some manner. For me, it’s been Type 2 diabetes, 15 years since discovery now, and every six months that visit to my doctor still the proof of how I’ve done with the old plan and sometimes the blueprint for what I must do with the new plan. Talk about accountability and grace …

    I think you are right. There is no secret. We should work on ourselves so we can enjoy what life still gives us, in the ways that we know we must.

    • Hi Mark – the counterpoint of the article with the reality of the hospital just couldn’t be ignored. And you’re so right, the blueprint changes and we need to figure out how to best follow it so we can enjoy this time..

  10. Another beautiful piece Mimi. As to aging, well, it’s much better than the alternative! Modern man (and of course woman) is the first of our species to have the luxury of worrying about aging! We’ve had so many advances that allow us to live longer and live better, and aging has become, to use a cliche, a first world problem. One I am happy to have! Now, off to the hairdresser to cover up these gray roots!

    • Oh my my dear friend…get in line. You have a ways to go before you can talk to me about aging. And as for finding the spaces in between – you have discovered more than most ever do. xo

  11. One of my sister-in-laws used to say about getting older “We’ve never done this before.” And if we have cancer we’ve never done that before, or if we have brittle bones, we’ve never done that before. I think that is the story of our life from birth to death, we have to learn how to live in each moment, each stage and each experience because we’ve never lived them before. And along with learning how to do it, hope that we enjoy even those moments that are difficult and not what we expected. Thank you for a great post.

  12. It always comes back to expressing gratitude, doesn’t it? In my observation, it is those people who can do that who live the most grace-filled lives. Lovely post.

  13. Is she born with it, or is it Maybelline…the images kept flashing through my mind like that commercial was stuck in a loop all the time I was reading. Our whole lives, we are accosted (yes, accosted) by every medium of advertising known to woman…preaching, teaching, telling, showing, naming, and shaming us into thinking we are not good enough ‘as we are’, not pretty enough ‘au natural’, not thin enough with an ’8% bmi’. And that was just our teens, twenties, and thirties. Then, we move into a decade of being told why laugh lines and crow’s feet ‘just won’t do’ so we are told to spend 100s on one ounce jars of youth in a bottle that magically remove all signs of having lived our lives smiling. Especially effective are the ads with twenty-somethings demonstrating just how fabulous these creams are…look Ma, no lines! HA. Now into our fifties and beyond, we are laden with psycho-babble delivered through the air-brushed mouths of perfectly coiffed and expertly made-up ‘older’ actresses and models touting how we should be happy in our own skin, embracing our mature selves, but don’t forget to use this hair color, that skin cream, those brands of ‘essential’ make ups. Blah, blah, blahty, blah, blah. Oh absolutely! Getting older would be sooooooo much better if I used better hair color, pricier moisturizer, and one famous broad or another’s brand of make up. Right? Puleeeeese.

    I love your words Mim…aging isn’t about what we look like. There is no grace in covering up or removing the evidence of the lives we’ve lived because we are told that is how one ages gracefully. As if.
    I find grace in women (and men) who know who they are and aren’t afraid to just ‘be’. I find grace in folks fighting illness head on, no excuses, afraid but fighting anyway. I find grace in those that find humor in their aches and pains because laughter is a gift they give to others, not just themselves. I find grace and beauty too, in the lines and liver-spotted wrinkles that are proof that they’ve lived, and lived long enough to have them. When I see a body broken but eyes still bright, I see grace.

    We can all make changes in our lives to feel better, be better, do better…but one thing we cannot change is growing old. THAT is what we need to embrace. The alternative sucks!
    xoxo

    • WW, I think you have a blog post here!! Your words ring so true, and the ads – I now have the ‘does she or doesn’t she’ ad on a loop in my head. I find grace in the same places you do, with the caveat that learning to ‘just be’ is a life-long objective, I think. Certainly as you so rightly note, the alternative sucks – and the being here? Even on a lousy day, it’s pretty damn good. xo

      • As a lifetime struggler to ‘just be’, what you say is true. Which is why I look at those that are ‘there’ with such appreciation for the journey they took to get there. So…being “there” is the objective…being “here” is the best part of getting ‘there’. lol xoxo

  14. that is the most splendiferous view–inside and out. Do you eat broccoli? broccoli is a great source of calcium. As usual you have struck the right note between personal journey and universal sentiments–didja know to Google you you are just “karma truck” (apropos of nothing I suppose, just now, but true nay the less)

    I hates da hospitals. ‘Been to a lot, lately, as driver and friend–in fact heading out to take Jack to several appointments today. It is such a racket, I think–healthcare in America. Make ‘em sick with the consumables, then rape ‘em for scripps and IVs…

    hennyway. You better be ok. You are too great to be otherwise.

    • I’m more than ok – though I feel the effects today. But hey, this is not a biggie, honestly. I’m with you about hospitals – they’re not the best way to spend an afternoon. And health care in the US is an embarrassment – driven by insurance companies in my view, rather than the priority of healing. But that’s a story for another day..
      I’ve not googled myself in years..heaven only knows what I’d find.
      And I love broccoli. ;-)
      Have a great day Karen – you rock the Kasbah..

  15. This post provides more evidence–as though any was needed–as to the greatness of your writing, Mimi. Gratitude, connection, humility, kindness, an understanding of the human condition and the ability to communicate it all with warmth, humor, style, and grace. Thank you for once again brightening my day, dear friend.
    Russ

  16. wowza, Mimi. You rocked this one! First you cracked me up with irreverence in dealing with the magazine’s promises, then you had tears sliding down my cheek with your tales of living gratefully. And these lines will be copied and taped to a wall. (I’d crossstitch a sampler, but we all know how that would turn out, haha) “It’s about moving forward in and with life, holding delight and intent in one hand and awareness in the other. It’s about fighting for your life like a street brawler while handling it as a newborn child. There’s nothing graceful about it – it’s scary and messy and fraught and unfair and arbitrary and clumsy. It’s also magnificent and wise and proud and freeing and luscious. ” The most beautiful words I’ve ever read. Thanks for another magnificent post.

    • Oh Liz, you have paid be a phenomenal compliment – and I’m humbled and appreciative. It was a powerful moment for me and I wanted to do it justice. I”m so happy it echoed within you too. HUgs, m

  17. I’ve lived my life quite often disgracefully and have no intention of changing if (and unfortunately I have a condition which means it’s no longer a given) I reach old age.

    • There’s grace in living disgracefully too Danny. And my ardent hope is that old age – though not a given to any of us – is part of your future too.

  18. Mimi, I woke today with a little sadness in my heart but as usual, you put light in my day! Thank you friend for shining light for all of us. So very Thankful for all that you do :) Have a terrific day xo

  19. Oh my…so beautiful you are. And, yes, grace in aging…because it’s not easy, at least I don’t think so. For me, it has become all wrapped up with some sort of melancholy, along with a greater awareness of so many things. It’s good and bad, and bad and good, and it has become a matter of taking each day and trying to glean from it what is spectacular in a day. Trying to find grace in aging, yes. Thank you, Mimi.

  20. Bravo Mimi!
    I can totally relate to your story from my past when I was diagnosed with Breast CA siting in line with others waiting for radiation treatments. And then last month I was diagnosed again and the reality of “life is short” hit me in the face…. My prognosis is excellent and life is good! Just a mastectomy and I am on the road again. This is one reason I have been a little behind on reading my favorite blogs. Thank you for the beautiful way you put together you stories they are always a blessing to me :)

    • I am sending as much positive energy your way as I can muster Tina…I know you will be on the road soon, and I hope you take the time you need to heal and gain strength. Life is good because you’re in it my friend. <3

    • Hopefully most of us already have all we need..and if that is so, having grace is far more practical and sensible than worrying about gracefulness!

  21. Sorry to hear of your troubles. I had two friends I escorted to and from their treatments and found the people and attendants always to be friendly. Since my cancer was renal, they could not give me chemo, so I have just taken it upon myself to try to keep my immune system up to par. I send you prayers for patience, strength, and solace. Be sure to stand up for yourself if you innately feel some treatment is not for you. My doctor finally said, “You’re the captain.”
    Aging is sometimes surprising. I look at my hands and know they have been exchanged for the ones I once had without stiffness, discolorations, and bulging veins. When I think my stockings need straightening, it is a shock to realize I’m not wearing any. My hair has decided to shed at an alarming rate. Colors blend into new ones. There are some blessings along the way, and I intend to enjoy them daily. One thing is for sure: I know I know nothing.

    • Thank you for stopping by…if knew how little we ultimately know, perhaps there’d be more humility in the world. I do know that your doctor is right – we are the captains of our ships and I hope you are well and feeling healthy..

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