Another trip around the sun. In my early thirties, and I’m not sure why, but people started to dread them. 30 was a big celebration and then it was like, “Ut oh! I’m older than 30 and no one can know!” Being that it’s my birthday month and I didn’t start having kids until after 30, I can say that I haven’t looked at aging the same way. As I endured the diagnosis of “geriatric pregnancies” and at times my body felt a million years old from all the infertility drugs, I still felt and feel young at heart. I still look at the world with childlike wonder, full of curiosity, possibility, and the idea that magic in miracles does in fact exist.
Attachments to Time
It’s interesting to explore how different people attach themselves to time. Some working through grief experience things for the first time…like their first cup of coffee or first holiday without a person in their life. Some attach themselves to moments like big life changes, or career changes. Some people get stuck in moments of time, like when elderly people refuse to learn how to use a smartphone or when children reject reading a book without pictures because they haven’t learned how to visually access their imaginations.
What’s interesting is that some of our attachments to time can be intergenerational, passed down from generations through ideas, values, and even emotions. Others may attach time to what it costs them…like spending time with their children might cost them a promotion at work or taking time for yourself may cost you the time to complete a house project. Some may attach time with various outcomes or achievements, like retiring at a certain age or paying off debt by a certain time. This is can lead us to feelings of regret, fear of missing out (FOMO), and guilt.
These attachments mostly are unaware and unspoken parts of our lives. Aging can continue to carry these attachments, which develop us for better or for worse in our everyday.
What attachment to time do you have?
If you find yourself with particular attachments to time, please remember that you are so much more than these attachments. You are living proof that through time, you have created a story and that story continues as we age.
Accepting Your Story
There’s something out there called “narrative therapy,” where essentially a therapist works with you on the various stories you have developed within yourself throughout your life. There are a lot of websites out there that will encourage you, using a technique of this therapy to “rewrite your story” as if a simple journal entry will erase your history, birthing you a new human being with a clean slate (the actual therapy is much more complicated than that and should be done with a trained therapist). I see how appealing this can be, particularly if you’ve experienced trauma or negativity in your life.
However, aging and the related experiences that accompany that are important to who you are and there are aspects of that we can accept as part of our history while not reliving it in our present lives.
It’s like the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is mended with gold. This ancient repair technique comes from the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which essentially means embracing the imperfect or flawed parts. It’s those parts that instead of re-writing, we can celebrate our resilience, find courage in our struggles, and inspiration from our failures or successes. Your story is part of who you have become and whatever happened, it has given you gifts that have weathered you with wisdom and painted your heart with the same gold that mends those Japanese vases. The feelings we experience from our stories, whether positive or negative teach us many things, but mostly that we have lived and are resilient. So they next time you see a prompt to re-write your story, think less about re-writing or getting rid of your story and more about having an accepting, flexible relationship with it. Your story is who you are, it doesn’t define you, yet it has shaped you in profound ways. Even if those ways are viewed as imperfections or scars, they mean something and through that, we can appreciate our resilience.
This leads us to how aging leads us to wisdom. There’s such a push in society to be, act, and look younger, yet it’s the wrinkles in our smiles that represent our thousands of smiles before. The scars on our bellies remind us of the children we’ve brought into this world. Or eyes…eyes that convey the depth of our souls. This is wisdom. It’s all the signs of aging that show that you have lived. Age adds dimension and character, the kind that you can see and feel in an antique shop. New things just don’t hold the energy, the stories, the appreciation.
There’s also an emotional component to wisdom. Things that once angered us when teenagers may no longer anger us as adults because perhaps we’ve gained compassion and patience along the way. Our body remembers these emotions and expresses them in mature ways as time moves on, deepening our connections with others and ourselves.
So what happens when people go to extremes to look younger? Well, there’s actually some research out there that botox injections impact cognitive-emotional experience. So when you look at that wedding photo and smile, what happens is that the temporary paralysis in your muscles from the Botox decreases more than the wrinkles, it also decreases the feedback between the muscles and the brain. This means that you literally cannot emote the same way you used to when you gazed lovingly at your wedding picture. There’s more research to be done here, I imagine more on parent-child interactions since children mimic their parents’ faces and they aren’t going to be able to mimic a full smile if mom’s face is paralyzed with botox…that can have strong developmental effects on a child as well as neuro-emotional processing and relational connections that rely on facial expressions.
Whether through our body or mind, wisdom is a fundamental gift of aging. It shows time has passed and we were part of that journey in time. We have wandered and found ourselves getting better on the inside just like a fine wine.
Passages of Time
Time is relative, right? I like to think of time in relation to Alice in Wonderland. It’s like when she goes down the rabbit hole, she finds herself curiously in a new place where time doesn’t matter. She keeps changing her size to fit in various scenarios and that’s how I see aging. People keep trying to change to defy time, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is how the passage of time speaks to you.
Is your passage of time filled with connection? Stress? The little moments like feeling the turning page of a book or taking in the warm taste of a good cup of coffee? That’s the legacy that you leave behind…it’s how you felt, how you helped others feel. It’s not the shiny new things or the facial upgrades.
It’s Time To…
…Connect with others
…Smile more and make some wrinkles!
…Accept all of your imperfections, buy that new bathing suit and feel fabulous in it!
There is no time to waste and only wisdom to gain.