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Monday, March 26, 2007

I’m Not a Young Woman

© March 26, 2007 by Imelda Maurer, cdp

Lowe’s had a large selection of vacuum cleaners, and I needed one. I had just moved to begin a new ministry and was shopping that Saturday afternoon for some basics for the small house I was renting. The salesman was helping another woman when I walked up. I was there only a moment or two before he looked at me and said, “I’ll be with you in a minute, young woman.” To which I responded politely, “I’m not a young woman.” The woman he was helping was probably embarrassed at my apparent lack of social sensitivity to this well-meaning salesman. She turned to me and said, “He’s trying to make you feel good.” “I know,” I said, “but I’ve lived 63 years to look like this, and I don’t want any of those years or experiences disregarded.”

How many of us have not had that experience at least once since we passed 55 or 60 years of age? How did we really feel about such a remark? A good feeling because maybe we really don’t look as old as we really are? Maybe ‘they’ really think I am still young. And am I happy that I am seen as still young?

Our western society is so terribly ageist. The state of youthfulness is worshipped and sought after to the tune of billions of dollars raked in by the cosmetic and anti-aging industry here in the United States alone. On the other hand, birthday cards for anyone 30 or older make degrading joke after degrading joke about one’s age. What a shame.

Dr. Andrew Weil, in his recent book, HEALTHY AGING addresses this concept of our society’s abhorrence of aging. He concludes by saying that no matter how much we spend on hormonal supplements, plastic surgery or anti-aging cosmetics, we cannot stop the aging process, and we should “accept” our aging. No, Dr. Weil, we should not “accept” our aging, we should CHERISH and HONOR our aging. It is a sacred part of our life journey.

For me as a Sister of Divine Providence, it is another wonderful and good aspect of God’s Providential love and care. For me, aging is an adventure. I’ve never been this old before! Who will I be as an old(er) person? How will the experiences of my life, both inner and outer experiences, show themselves in my face, in my body?

Aging can hold much pain for some of us. I don’t deny that. Many older adults suffer complex health problems. But that is not a universal experience. Each of us has some control over how our older years will be lived based on our inherited genes and by the way we live each day now: healthy diet, at least a 30-minute walk, positive attitudes, and informed, regular care of body, mind and spirit.

If we each fought ageism every time we encountered it, whether it is public policy or a well-meaning sales clerk, wouldn’t we individually be a lot more psychologically healthier? Wouldn’t our entire society be a lot healthier?

Can you look at yourself in the mirror and smile with gratitude for the life’s journey that has been yours so far, and that reveals itself in that face you see in the mirror?

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