It’s summer. My mom is seventy-five. I am 33.
I’m over at her apartment for a visit. She is wearing a short-sleeved summer blouse and examining her wrinkled arms. “Lynn,” she says, “these days I look in the mirror and wonder, ‘Who is that old lady?’ Inside I feel like I’m still 25. It’s always a surprise.” The moment touches me, as I am rarely privy to how Mom feels about things or what makes her tick. I savor her sharing and tuck her words away.
Now, almost 40 years later, I notice that my calves, one part of my body that seemed to be holding up, are now wrinkled. My toes, too. My arms have been crinkly for a long time, but I’ve given up trying to hide them under long sleeves in favor of staying cool. Mom’s words resurface. That’s how I feel now: surprised to see an aging woman in the mirror. At the same time, I get glimpses, though not in the mirror, of how little my wrinkles have to do with how I feel inside—vibrant, curious, alive. When did this all happen?
Back in my 30’s I didn’t think much more about what mom said except to be grateful for the peek she gave me into her soul. Now, though, as I age, her words provoke thought about where I have hung my identity, what having an aging body means, seeing my own biases about aging that stayed under the surface until now, and how I feel inside.
For me, aging is an enlightening, startling journey. Like mom was then, I’m sometimes caught off guard by my appearance. On the other hand, when I take a breath, I realize that a flowering is occurring on the inside. I’ve been taking a lot of breaths these days.
I have so much more room for other people than when I was younger. I am more open to looking through another person’s lens. Having experienced big love and devastating losses over the years, I have more compassion for the unknown hearts of others, even strangers I pass in the grocery store or who drive by me in their cars. I have no idea what life has brought them today. Maybe they just got a life-threatening diagnosis. Or someone they cherish died yesterday. Or they lost their job. Or they are trying to make a risky decision. Or they are lonely.
And another thing is, I have so much more gratitude for the simple, daily things of life like the sky at night, my comfortable bed, the taste of dark chocolate, the gecko with the blue tail climbing the stucco garage wall – I could go on and on.
Experience I’m finding, is rich soil for the flowering of the soul that youth, in its radiance, can’t grasp quite yet. As I let go of my attachment to my youthful self, I am grateful for the years.
Take out your journal, pen and colored markers.
No matter what age you are right now, think about how you’ve changed over the years, both inside and out.
What emotions do you have about the changes in your body?
What do you know now that you didn’t know when you were younger?
What is flowering in you? Draw or mix colors that represent that flowering.
Lynn Baskfield, at age 72, has happily re-potted herself in sunny New Mexico after living in Minnesota her entire life. The aging process called her to look at what is truly important, what needed to be left behind, and what calls her forward into life despite setbacks, losses and physical changes. Lynn holds an M.A in Human Development and is a certified life coach, transformational educator and the author of two books. As owner of SpiritDance Coaching, she has been coaching, training and doing retreats since 1997. She is certified as a Conscious Aging Facilitator through the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California. www.lynnbaskfield.com