People tell me that I look good for my age. It always makes me worry about Not looking good for my age. My childhood ambition was to be older. Incontrovertible freedom, like moving to New York City, came closer with each birthday celebrated. I did not anticipate a time of cray paper creases in my knees or constant kinks in my back. When I was 17, unbridled and on fire, I never imagined the mind-altering shifting tides of hormones, I was more into the mind-altering ecstasy of late nights at Studio 54. I was savoring the bohemian glory of 5-floor walk-ups while taking up residence in the heart of East Village among avant-garde artists, poets and painters. That was the heat that stoked my fire. Now heat comes in flashes. I am from a generation of women raised to be good at everything, except growing older.
There has always been an underlying awareness that women are preferred to be young, supple and sweet. For as long as I can remember my sisters and I were tethered to the twin ambitions of professional and personal accomplishment. Professional accomplishment always felt within my grasp; work hard, really, really hard, stay focused, do whatever it takes and ascend from desk assistant on the Political desk at NBC Network News to Segment Producer for The Today Show. Done. 15 years in the making, but I did it. Then I aimed higher. I would quit my job to pursue the ambition of spiritual awakening by taking my personal yoga practice off the mat and into the world of good. Well, that wasn’t so easy, and not just because of aging although let’s stick with that part for the point of this essay.
Talk about spiritual awakening. Become a yoga teaching in a culture addicted to youth and beauty and then grow old. Ironically I did not count on aging being the primary source of my lesson in non-attachment. I did not realize while growing up in the era of women’s rights and bra burning that I would arrive full circle listening to political debates about whose choice should determine our freedom to choose. Nor did I imagine that yoga teachers in their 20’s would be scolding me for not taking my practice to “the edge.” Really? I will tell you what my edge looks like. It is a razor sharp humility that knows the wisdom of saying ‘no’ to your construct of my self-will.
If I can accomplish anything in this one lifetime I would like to take an eraser to that flat lie that women are less relevant as they age. Women are powerful beyond measure, regardless of the number of candles on their cake. I cannot control the hands of time, but I have a say in how my hands rise up to reach for amazing at any age. I may not turn heads like I once did and in due time I will begin to look good for 80. if I am fortunate. But I am determined to that no matter what birthday I am celebrating I am going to measure my value by how I listen to my heart, how kind I’ve been; how quickly I forgive, how much joy I can squeeze out of a day, how much vitality I feel in appreciating the small and large wonders that arrive with the wisdom of the aged.