Photo Credit: Myla Gonzalez, Cheeky Boudoir Photography.
Someone very and near to me recently said something to me that shook me to the core and really made me think. She said at her age, she now feels invisible. She said when you reach a certain age, people stop noticing you. It’s as if you become invisible. She wasn’t upset about it. She even said she was starting to accept this, as a natural part of aging. Then I thought about how I have viewed the ‘older’ generation in my mind. I’ve looked right through them, labeled them in a sense, and forgotten that each and every one of them has a life story to tell. Some of fought in wars. They’ve fallen in love. They’ve been heartbroken, and they have broken hearts. They have dealt with loss. They have kissed passionately, baked cookies for their family, danced at weddings. Cried at funerals. They’ve gone on many bike rides, they’ve worked jobs, raised families, experienced trauma in one form or another. Their souls have amazing stories to tell, each an imprint with different yet rich life experiences. Each learning and growing with every breath they take, every interaction. Still learning. Always learning.
This lovely lady? She is one of the most beautiful people I have known, inside and out. She is in her 60’s, yet when I look at her all I can think is how much I aspire to be more like her. She is always glowing, and smiling, and youthful and I thought to myself “What makes her shine so beautifully to me?” She thinks she is becoming invisible, but I still very much see her. And I wanted her to know that I see her. I see how she still has a playful soul that still loves to sing and dance. I see how she recognizes what makes her feel good, and she goes out and does it. She no longer really cares what you or I see, and that makes me see her even more. She sees it all within herself. She loves herself! She speaks her mind about what is important to her, and doesn’t worry about what anyone else thinks. So even though she may appear ‘invisible’ to you, she is very much an intricate part of all of us. All of us that desire to experience all of the richness and beauty this life has to offer. She is very visible to me. I hope as I age, I am become more like her.
In our culture we value youth, appearances, and beauty. That is what we notice and recognize in people. We label what “real beauty” is. As if one body type is beautiful, and another is not. ‘Strong is Sexy’ ‘Skinny is Sexy’ ‘Curvy is Sexy.’ Why does the media get to tell us what sexy is? We worship airbrushed magazine models and porn stars. We’ve been socially ingrained to do so. We sell sex with everything, yet we are uncomfortable with embracing our own sexuality, as if it is something to be ashamed of. We see sex everywhere. But we won’t dare talk about it.
I think about the elderly lady in line at the grocery store. The one that is always in front of me, counting out her coins and coupons. She may no longer be turning the heads of young men. But I thought about how important it is for you and I to notice and recognize her, in all her beauty and strength. She is all of our experiences combined! Her blueprint and legacy are part of us. She is heartbreak, she is loss, she is a million hopes and dreams, some met and some shattered. She is secrets and lies. She is a past filled with love, hurt, betrayal, loss. Happiness, sadness, moments of bliss, and moments of despair. She is marriage, divorce, anniversaries, friends moving away, pets coming and going, houses, surgeries, illnesses, deaths, survival. A beautiful painted canvas rich with her own vibrant colors telling the story of her life. She has picked flowers, climbed trees, sang songs, and laughed so hard she that she peed.
I thought again about my beautiful friend, still full of vibrancy, yet starting to feel invisible. She is in a transitional phase in her life, and on the verge of holding on to her youth, and letting go at the same time. I can see the fear in her eyes, but I also see her grace and acceptance of these changes. It’s all coming together. Pivotal. She is taking time for herself to make beautiful handmade jewelry. She is eating real food, she is exercising, she is socializing with friends, decorating her personal space with things that inspire her. Some of her closest friends are much younger than her, some older. She knows the soul has no age. Connection has no age. She is finding the things that make her feel happy, and doing them. I thought about all the ways in which I still needed to grow as a person, so I can be more like she is.
Before I become invisible to you…
I need to realize that not everyone will see me when I walk into a room. I may not always shine. And that’s okay. My skin will change. My body will change. You will look at me one day, and see a little old white haired lady. And that may be all that you see. I can fight it all I want, but this will happen. I can learn to accept my aging as beautiful, and graceful. And I will turn the heads of those who peer into my soul, and see my true beauty. It may be only one or two people. It may only be me. However, those are the only heads I will need to turn.
I will continue to use my voice and my writing to motivate and inspire people. To teach. To help people reach their full potential. I will love myself for all the battles I have been through. All the learning. All the growth I’ve experienced. All the passion and love, and fire in my heart. All the pain and sorrow and loss I’ve experienced. My body may begin to change, it already has. I will love my body it for all it has done for me, and continues to do for me. I will to take care of myself. I will continue to nurture my body with real food. I will continue to read books, and strengthen my mind, and I will get to know myself better, and start to do the things I wish to see done in this world. I will be a beacon for change. I will tell the people I love, that I love them more often. I will work on connecting more with the people that matter to me, and connecting less with screens. I will spend more time in nature, taking in all the natural beauty and sounds around me. I will try to stay in the moment, each moment. I will work on being more present, and less distracted. And take pleasure from the things that matter most to me. I will still play, sing, dance, laugh, and be silly.
I will no longer care how I am seen by you.
You may think I am careless with my money. Or messy. You may think I take too many selfies, and must be insecure. I leave too many empty cups in my car. You may see me as a bad mother, because I parent differently than you do. I don’t have my children with me all the time. You may think that makes me a part-time parent. But I know I am not. I don’t talk about my children constantly, and worry about every single aspect of their life. I still love them just as much as you love your children. You may judge me because I do not follow your religion, and because I have been through a divorce. Because my family dynamics are very different from yours. I will no longer get angry with how you see me, and internalize myself as bad or wrong based on your views and how you internalize your world. I know I am a good mother, and a good person. It doesn’t matter anymore how you view me, or whether you even see me at all! Because I see all this goodness in myself. So I apologize in advance, but your small mindedness will no longer have any effect on me.
At 40 years old I am beginning to really love myself, and the person I am now becoming. All of me. I look back at 20…even 30 year old me, and I want to scoop her up and hug her. I want to tell her to love herself more, and stop trying to find value in myself through all the wrong avenues. Shallow relationships, and clinging to what feels safe. I now see my true beauty. I love my body, the beautiful parts as well as the flawed parts. I love my very small breasts that nourished two babies, and I love my strong butt and legs that can rope climb, and deadlift heavy weights. I love my vagina. Yep. I said it. It has birthed two babies, it has been torn and sewn. It’s still beautiful. I embrace my sexuality, and I don’t see it as something that I need to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about. I love my half brown and half green eyes, and I’ve even learned to like my large nose that I use to loath. I love how small my hands and fingers are. I love the mole on belly, the dimples on my lower back, and the freckle on my big toe. I love and accept all of me. I walk funny sometimes. I’ve had several people ask me why I was limping. But I just walk funny sometimes, because I have tight hamstrings. And I love that about me. I have learned to love my flaws and imperfections, as part of me.
Photo Credit: Myla Gonzalez, Cheeky Boudoir Photography. This is me, no makeup to hide behind, my hair is not done. Just me.
How I let that pile of laundry builds up on the couch every week until I finally tackle it. And it feels really good when I tackle it. How I rarely make my bed, yet still love and feel at peace with my space. How I make time every day to bring my dog to the dog park so she can get her energy out and socialize. I love seeing her run freely and smiling, it brings me happiness. How I drive almost an hour to train with my favorite CrossFit coach, even though I could go right down the street. How I make these horrible sounding concoctions to drink because I know they are good for my body. How I’ve begun to schedule time in for my passions, singing and writing. How I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and signed up for voice lessons. How I’ve opened myself up to strangers, and gone out of my way to get to know people that I would normally avoid. People who are different from me. People who don’t internalize the world the same way in which I do.
I love how I read with my boys every night that I have them, and how we go for family walks and have impromptu dance parties. How each night we talk about something we are thankful for. How I swear like a frat boy when I’m hanging out with my sisters. How I tend to leave the tops off of everything, and shove things out of site so that my drawers are exploding with random items like screwdrivers and sunscreen and single earrings. I love that I am not perfect. That I don’t pretend to be perfect. That I don’t need facades just to please you. That I am impatient and moody at times. That I get really angry sometimes and yell at my children, and sometimes I hurt the people I love the most. Sometimes I say stupid things, and I can never remember people’s names. I’m bad about writing Christmas cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, and thank you cards. Sometimes I do them. Sometimes I’m stretched thin, and I don’t. I’d rather just say thank you to your face, and hug you. You may see this as unacceptable, bad or wrong. That is how you internalize it based on societal norms. That’s okay. It’s who I am. I forgive myself. If I were perfect, then I probably wouldn’t even be here. I’m here to learn. I get really nervous before every single work out at CrossFit, and have to pee several times. I am socially awkward at bars. I sing out loud at the grocery store, and embarrass my children. I am enough. I am still enough. I will always be enough!
The more that we love and accept ourselves with all our imperfections, the less we will judge others. Judging comes out of our own perceived fears and insecurities. Usually we see something in the person we are judging, that mirrors something in ourselves. Something we are afraid of facing. Or something we secretly desire, but feel is out of reach for us. It’s easier to judge and even blame someone, and place them in a negative space in your mind, then it is to take a deeper look at yourself. The more we love and accept ourselves with all of our flaws, the less fearful we will become in general, and we will begin to lead deeper, more enriched lives. We begin doing what makes us happy, not what we feel will make everyone else happy with us. When people see you doing this, it may make them uncomfortable. Why? Because how dare you be happy, in a world where being miserable and complacent is better than facing yourself, and following your deepest desires. Think about all the people you are inspiring, just by loving and respecting yourself. Think about the deeper, more meaningful connections you are forming just by being true to you.
That little old lady you walk right past-she has all her own stories as well. She is years of cultivated relationships. Thousands of moments in time, joyful and sorrowful. Thousands of conversations. Laughing. Fighting. She is crying herself to sleep at night. She is a million tears. She is slow dancing in the arms of someone she once loved deeply. She is collecting seashells along the beach, and giggling with her friends in church. She is four seasons over and over, with winds of change taking her life in many different directions.
She once turned the heads of young men, but now she is much too beautiful for that! In a disconnected shallow culture, it is important to be visible to yourself. To notice all of the things that make you who you are, and to love yourself for them, and accept yourself for them. Then one day when you do feel like you are invisible to everyone else…well, it really won’t matter one bit! You will still smile that beautiful smile of yours, and know that you are the most amazing person in the world, and that you alone are enough.