Aging with Grace

I want to age gracefully.  It’s right there on the top of this page.  So you’d think when I was asked to explain what that means to me, I would have an answer ready.

Wrong.  So, I turned to the word experts at Merriam-Webster‘s for help.  What is grace?

3.  a charming or attractive trait or characteristic

  • a pleasing appearance or effect : charm
  • ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

Audrey Hepburn in Love in the AfternoonToday, in our culture, I think this is how most people define grace.  Who doesn’t wish to be beautiful, to move with ease and suppleness?  Who wouldn’t choose to have charm?

Not me.  I would love to be those things.  When I wrote my tagline above, this is why I said odds are against me.  I’ve always been a klutz.  I’ve always been more socially awkward than charming.  I don’t expect that to change as I age.

Nor do I expect my appearance to become more pleasing with age.

Aging brings change that is difficult to love.  We sag.  We bulge.  We wrinkle.  In our youth-worshiping culture, there is always the temptation to fight these changes.

We diet and exercise to maintain both our health and a youthful appearance.  We squeeze into spanx; push our breasts up with wire and foam, lots of foam; and hide our wrinkles with increasing numbers of cosmetics.

Some of us decide to inject, to tuck, to lift, to implant.  All sorts of cosmetic surgeries are available to help us fight aging.  I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it.

For me, at least right now, fighting my body’s natural aging isn’t my idea of graceful.  I am happy at the age I am.  I don’t mind looking it.  Accepting the changes life brings with good grace, and a sense of humor, will, I think, make me happier in the long run than obsessing over looking younger than I am.

If I want to fight anything, it is these two ideas:  that only youth is beautiful and that a woman’s value lies in her appearance and ability to attract.  These are lies.

2.  approval, favor

  • archaic : mercy, pardon
  • a special favor : privilege
  • disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
  • a temporary exemption : reprieve

That disposition of kindness and courtesy has always been important to me.  There is no beauty apart from it.   It is the difference between a pretty face and a beautiful person.

This grace is not a privilege of the young.

Random acts of kindness make us feel good, but it’s easier to be kind to an anonymous stranger than it is to be kind to the family and coworkers who drive us mad.  Or the driver in the next lane, the waitress who messed up our order, the clerk who cannot count change.

Grace exudes a sense of caring for everyone she meets.  She sees the value in others, and treats them respectfully.  She doesn’t air every grievance and inconvenience.  She is compassionate, patient, and forgiving.  She doesn’t do kind things; she is kind.  Simply put, she loves.

Audrey Hepburn at her most beautiful.

Audrey Hepburn in Ethiopia with UNICEF, 1988, photo by John Isaac

I want to age gracefully; to become kinder and more loving; to care less about how I look and more about how I see others; to care less about how I am treated and more about how I treat others.

1. Grace:  unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

  • a virtue coming from God
  • a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

This one I’ve got covered, by no merit of my own.

I may not mention it frequently, but my faith underlies everything I am, and, hopefully, influences everything I do.  If I have grace in no other form, this one is enough.  Unlike youth or beauty, this grace is mine forever.

What does aging gracefully mean to you?

Generation FabulousThis post is part of the Generation Fabulous bloghop on Aging Gracefully.

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48 thoughts on “Aging with Grace

  1. Touche, and I love the photos of Audrey to illustrate your points. She embodies how we all want to be: aging with grace, humanity, intelligence and dignity. Wonderful, insightful post.

  2. I liked the “it’s easier to be kind to an anonymous stranger than it is to be kind to the family and coworkers who drive us mad”, etc.- so very true. The world will need to change for elders to be held in higher esteem, especially for older women, but posts like this pave the way.

    • I think our society has become poorer for its disconnection with our older generations. It’s hard to teach respect towards people who are not part of our lives, and many of us grow up and live in bubbles filled with those in the same life stage we are.

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  6. Beautiful piece. Audrey is a wonderful example of all that we, as women, can be: giving, sharing, compassionate, loving, beautiful. And none of those attributes need botox to just be.

    • As a culture, we are obsessed with appearances. It is hard to resist judging ourselves against the world’s standards, but I agree. If more of us refused to participate, we’d learn new definitions of beauty.

  7. A lovely and thoughtful post. We’re rather in sync in our thinking. Audrey Hepburn is a superb example of the sort of reaching out, giving back, doing more that I believe we are capable of as we grow beyond the vanities of youth.

    I will say, however sadly, that the reality of this culture for women (especially) growing older, if you’re looking for work or for a social life, is less than kind or accepting of signs of our maturing.

    That by no means suggests that we throw up our hands and give up. On the contrary – that, I believe, is where necessary defiance and “fight” is required.

    Would that we all had the compassion, heart, and true Grace that some – like Audrey – exemplify.

  8. Nicely done! When I was a little girl I used to watch my great grandmother wash her hair. I thought she was beautiful and had the most gorgeous hair I had ever seen. It was down to her waist and she would braid it and then wrap it around and pin it up at the back of her neck. I’ve had some fabulous older women in my life show me how to age gracefully. I hope to do them proud.

  9. Using Audrey to illustrate this is perfect. “I want to age gracefully; to become kinder and more loving; to care less about how I look and more about how I see others; to care less about how I am treated and more about how I treat others.” Amen!

  10. Wonderful description of Growing Old with Grace. I feel the same way…and I was a klutz my whole life growing up. Interestingly that seems to have fade as I approached my 50’s.

    I love the woman I have become, wrinkles and graying hair too!

    Holly

  11. Your post is just lovely and thoughtful. I have always wondered about our ability to be kinder to strangers than to those we love. Thanks for addressing this with respect to grace. I hadn’t put that together.
    .

  12. I think you hit the nail on the head. I love your two photos of AH and find her older image touching especially since she used her time to help children whose lives were so difficult. She seemed to embody the genuine idea of grace. TY for writing about her and your personal ideas of grace, too.

  13. Hepburn was the epitome of grace and loveliness, though I read that part of the reason she was so small was malnutrition in her youth, when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. She was naturally small-boned anyway, but for those who aspire to LOOK like her – well, unless you were “blessed” enough to be starved as a child, that ain’t gonna happen. The way she gave of herself and her time in Unicef was truly admirable, and that’s something we can aspire to.

  14. I don’t know you in real life, but I would describe you with these words, “She sees the value in others, and treats them respectfully. She doesn’t air every grievance and inconvenience. She is compassionate, patient, and forgiving. She doesn’t do kind things; she is kind. Simply put, she loves.”

    I see Grace as acceptance, of the self, of others, of circumstances. Not that a graceful person agrees with everything, but that they accept what is in front of them and make the best of it. They may confront or work against ideas, people, etc., but they do it with openness and kindness.

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