My daughters throw on sweaters as I sweat, knowing my makeup is sliding down my face and my husband asks me why my neck and chest are red. I don’t know, maybe I’m HOT!
About a year ago, I missed my period. This woman who could set the timing of her period not only to the week, but the day, heck even the time of day, was late. Oh crap, I can’t be pregnant. This crazy woman listened to her husband who thought (actually HOPED) I was pregnant – I told him are you hoping I’ll go insane, because a baby at this time in my life would definitely put me over the edge. I listened to my husband, then googled “the likelihood that vasectomies grow back.” I actually bought and took a pregnancy test, of which, thank God, I failed or passed, depending on how you look at it.
The next night I woke up drenched in sweat and my teeth chattering. I actually had to change my pajamas. I wanted to cry. No, I didn’t want to be pregnant, but I actually grieved the idea that the days of getting pregnant might be over. I’ve heard women laugh about night sweats and hot flashes. This can’t be happening. Menopause is for older women. I’m only 45. A conversation with my mom quickly confirmed that that was what I was going through.
I entered my 40’s with enthusiasm. I found Zumba. I lost 20 pounds just in time for my sister’s wedding. But I gained it back and then some. See, underneath, I still hated my body. Always have. When I weighed 125 at my wedding. When I gradually put on 50 pounds during the last 20 years. When I lost and gained the same 20-30 pounds multiple times. What I discovered is that whether I was skinny or curvy, I hated my body. Hated myself.
Right now I’m facing my oldest daughter’s wedding in 3 months, and I want to look the best I can. But this time I’m trying something different – I’m trying to love and accept myself as I am. Because I love myself and feel like I’m worth it, I’m putting good things in my body and exercising. Eating better and exercising not from hatred or guilt, but out of self-care. I’m trying to learn how to regulate my emotions without using food. (And bonus – limiting processed foods and sugar actually helps with hot flashes and mood swings. I have to keep reminding myself as I nibble on another carrot.)
I’ve lost 8 ½ pounds which is probably only noticeable to me, but I also feel different on the inside. My outside hasn’t really changed, but I feel more confident. I like myself even though I’d like to lose 40 more pounds, okay 30 is what I’d be happy with. Who am I kidding – losing 20 the healthy way through right eating and exercise and I’d feel like a different person.
The hardest part is accepting that I’m no longer 25, or even 35; I’m 46 and a month away from a birthday. I look older than I used to. But I’m coming to not just accept that I look older, but to be happy for it. See, I look at the pictures of my 25 year old self, 40 pounds ago, and I see a pretty girl, but she didn’t realize she was pretty. 20 years later I can see it, but at 25 I was filled with self-consciousness, and all I could focus on were my stretch marks, a stretched out belly and cellulite. And the fact that I didn’t look 18 anymore.
Looking at pictures of my 35 year old self, I was 40 pounds lighter, and I look happy in pictures, young and pretty. But I remember my mid-30s, suffering from depression and being tired and stressed all the time from teaching school all day and raising 3 kids. Why didn’t I relax and just enjoy that time? Why didn’t I just love who I was instead of thinking if I could just lose 10 more pounds I’d be at my wedding weight?
So now, at 46, I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made at 25 and 35. I’m going to live in the moment and enjoy the moment. When I look in the mirror, I’m recognizing my beauty. I refuse to entertain thoughts about how I used to look or wish I looked. I will not bemoan the fact that I’m older. Because in Martina’s words, “every laugh line on my face, made me who I am today.”
I’m wiser, smarter, more confident, bolder than my 25 or 35 year old self.
“I don’t know who needs to read this – but don’t cut your bangs. You’re just having a bad day – don’t make it worse!” I resemble that remark. Our hair is the easiest thing to change. It’s an instant gratifying change. For most of my life, I have worn my hair long. Sure there was the 6th grade debacle disaster filled with regrets. And the time my 80 something grandmother cut my hair unevenly so I ended up with a short cut. But at 25, the short cut “wasn’t me” and I quickly grew it out. What I’ve realized, is that my hair became a crutch for me. I’m not saying everyone with long hair has low self-esteem and is self-conscious, trying to hide behind the waves. But for my 46 year old self – I realized I had too much hair. I realized I was finally starting to feel good in my own skin, but I felt weighed down. And so saying goodbye to the heavy weight of my hair became a symbol of saying goodbye to my old way of thinking.
I tried listening to the “experts’” opinions: let your hair go naturally gray, go lighter as you age. I’m not saying I might not try those things again, but for now I didn’t like it, so I ain’t doin it. I like my hair brown, as close to its natural color as I can get. So, I’m splurging every 4 weeks – yes I’m that gray – to get it professionally colored because I think I’m worth it and my husband agrees. But I’m not going to try clinging to the fountain of youth by wearing my hair the way I did in my 20’s and 30’s. I got it cut into a face –framing bouncy cut that shows my new bolder, more confident self. (Which, surprisingly, looks similar to the haircut I got “on accident” at 25 and proceeded to grow out as fast as I could.)
It’s all about what we focus on – I choose not to focus on my wrinkles, my muffin top, my cellulite. Instead, I look in the mirror at my brown eyes full of knowledge about who I am and I tell myself – I am proud of you! And I’m thankful for you! This body has worked hard for almost 47 years and I’m thankful for every breath. I’m thankful for every laugh. I’m thankful I can break a sweat in a cardio blast class.
I will no longer lament growing older, looking older – I’m going to take care of my body, the only one I have, and I’m going to pamper her and adorn her with clothes that bring a smile to my face. Aging is a gift that not everyone gets to experience. I’m going to show my gratitude for each day, each breath. But first I’m going to turn up the air conditioner because I feel another hot flash coming on…