Monday, July 22, 2024

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Is The Aging Process Easier For Us Then Our Mothers And Grandmothers?

BabyBoomer Women And Aging.

Henri-Frederic Amiel in 1984 wrote, “To know how to age is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living”.  Sofia Vergara, Modern Family star, recentled was quoted as saying, “Turning 40 is horrible.  People that say it isn’t are full of shit”.   Everyone’s take on aging is different.

My grandmother was a farmer’s wife.  She cooked, cleaned, shopped, tended her garden and was the main  care provider for her children.  If my grandmother was unhappy with her life, you never would have known it.  If anything, my grandmother seemed very contented with her domestic duties and title.   Spending time with her as a child was amazing.  My grandmother was funny, warm and nurturing; not to mention my grandmother taught me how to cook real country meals.   Nothing tasted better then my grandmother’s country fried chicken.  Grandma excelled at home baked pies with a buttery crust that would melt in your mouth.  Today’s generation has missed out on the joy of learning to cook from 
their elders. 

My mother, on the other hand, graduated college with a degree in medicine.  She worked full time until she retired in her late 60’s.  The company my mother worked for, literally had to force her in to retirement.  Why? Because my mother’s self esteem was built around her job and her job title.  My mother would have happily continued to work until she dropped dead on the floor.  Without her job, my mother felt lost. Once, after my mother retired, she told me she had become a non-person; a person that had no purpose, worth or value.  Instead of embracing all the wonderful things my mother could do with her life, she focused on what she had lost.

I feel fortunate that I was able to benefit from both my mother’s and my grandmother’s life experiences.   I personally, treasure being a mother.  Motherhood is the most enriching and fulfilling experience I will ever know.  But I have to admit, I also garner a great sense of accomplishment from my work.  However, unlike my mother, my self esteem is not attached to my job title.  I take pride in performing my job well, but work simply serves as a means to build the life I
envision living.   I am more then any job title that may be bestowed upon me. 

Are we accepting the process of aging better then our mother’s and grandmother’s?  It’s not a simple yes or no answer.  A lot of how we approach aging, revolves around where we obtain our self worth. 

My sister in her youth was stunningly beautiful.  She discovered early in life, the power that comes with possessing
beauty.  In fact, my sister used her beauty to attract men and propel herself forward financially (having married four times, with a long string of countless lovers).  Unfortunately, as my sister’s youth was replaced with middle age, she became depressed by her diminishing sexual power and her ability to attract males.

Since I was the average looking daughter, I developed an outgoing, humor based personality.  Where I lacked in physical presence, I make up for it with wit and charm.  Therefore, growing older and loosing my youthful appearance has not unraveled my self confidence.  Let’s face it, it was never my calling card to begin with.  My mother, who never felt beautiful (although she is a very attracted woman), made up for her perceived shortcomings through her intelligence, determination and hard work.   In her profession, she was someone to be admired and looked up to.

When I look at my grandmother, my mother, my sister and myself at middle age, what stands out, is the fact we all built our self esteem on separate platforms.  My grandmother aged easily, very contented with her life, which changed little from her 20’s to her 70’s.  My grandmother was loved, cherished and revered.  She was the monarch of our family.  Not once did any of us think less of her, because she was (for all intensives purposes) a housewife.  Grandma was the sun and her family revolved around her.  When grandma passed, we were all devastated.  My grandmother maintained her power until she died. She never wavered in who or what she was. 

My mother, on the other hand,  survived aging by continuing to work until retirement was forced upon her.  Then her gray hair, wrinkles and unsatisfactory home life undermined the persona she had spent decades building.  My mother saw growing older, as simply growing old.  My sister became an alcoholic and engaged in extra marital affairs.  Even though my sister is still very beautiful in her 60’s, loosing her youth has devastated her.

Then there is me.  It’s not that I look forward to growing old, because I certainly do not.  It’s not that there aren’t days I am shocked by the bags under my eyes, or the cellulite that now encompasses my entire body.  I am very aware of all the negative aspects of aging.  But the truth is, I am still envisioning the life I want to lead when I retire.  It’s like getting a second chance to do all the things I wanted to do, verses doing all the things I had to do, because I was a wife and a mother.

I don’t see gray hair as a bad thing.  In fact, I love all the beautiful shades of gray that women sport these days.  I don’t mind being seen as an older woman, or as someone’s grandmother.  What I love about growing older, is that I am no longer in competition with a generation of women who were always more beautiful and thinner then I was.  I no longer compare myself to anyone else.  I dress for comfort; not to make a fashion statement.  I no longer worry about what someone else thinks of me.  If they like me great.  If they don’t, that’s great, too.  Age acceptance and all that it brings is really wonderful.  Growing older is actually a gift.  When you think back to how insecure we all were in our 20’s, would any of us want to go back to that time?  I know I wouldn’t want to.

Embrace and love yourself for the person you are today.  We all made mistakes in our lives; it’s called being human.   Forgive yourself for your faults (real or imagined).  Find 10 things you like about yourself.  Write those 10 things down on a piece of paper and hang the list where you will see it everyday.  Don’t focus on the past, instead choose to embrace the future with positivity and hope.  Love your gray hair, your wrinkles and your aches and pains.  They aren’t going away anytime soon.  Take up a hobby; love your children; teach your grandchildren to cook!  Or to paint, or to sail or whatever gift you can share with them.  The truth is – life is only as good as you make it.  So make this life one for the books!

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