2012. I'm tucked in the corner of a sweaty gym. It's Zumba day and I like to sneak in for the last twenty minutes of class to loosen up after lifting. I hope to disappear into the multicolored lights that stream from the ceiling, to dance without anybody noticing my awkwardness.
My friend in the front row doesn't share my sentiment. She sways back and forth to the music, not a care, and showing no interest as to whether or not anybody's watching. The moment is hers. She's free. Not one second of her seventy years is a match for the energy that pours out of her. I catch myself staring and forget my own steps. Smiling, I decide right then that I want to be just like her "when I grow up".
After class, we stand side-by-side in the locker room mirror, preparing for the day. She's beautiful and open, generous with a smile. She applies lipstick and asks about my boys. I swipe tinted SPF across my cheek and nonchalantly ask about her plans. She glances at the jar in my hand and purrs with a French accent,
"You know, not all youth is seen as so desirable, I don't think. There are cultures that believe a person's face is much more interesting when they're older; that lines reflect how they've lived their lives."
I look at the collection of beauty products we've scattered all over the counter top. Were we in the business of manufacturing faces? Tricking time? I analyze the roots of my hair. Have I dyed the dance right out of it? Combed away the wind? They can be erased nowadays--every kiss of sun, grimace of effort, and furrow of concentration. A smile's trace or the wink of the eye, gone--with just a chemical peel or needle injected into the skin.
She might be right, but who am I to say? I'm the product queen. I begin to turn it over in my mind...
What would I do if there were no mirrors? If I treasured the memories etched into each skin crease and scar?
I don't know about all the temptations you've encountered over the years. As a woman approaching middle age, I'm tempted all the time to try and stop the clock. I also don't know the prayers prayed and the conclusions you've come to about how to care for your body as it ages. Those conversations happen in the small and quiet, behind the scenes with God. In my work with women of all ages, I've determined two things to be true:
Regardless of looks, it's painful to witness a loved one wrestle with the discomfort of despising her own skin. It's also frustrating to observe a woman resenting her stage of life and chasing after an image of the person she is not. With every year that passes, the problem becomes more common. Maybe this has been you and I'll let you in on a secret. At times, it's been me too. I'm a work in progress on the journey to letting go.
If I had just one wish for you, it's this:
Let the warmth of the sun be your sweater, and the ocean, your perfume. Let your laugh ring sweet music in your children's ears as they think of you, heart joyfully accessible and unrestrained by scrutiny. Let your husband recall the lovely bride of his youth, but relish the memories you're making together; the ones God is etching into your skin throughout the years.
Sure, be beautiful and confident. But more importantly, be whole. Be interesting and fearless. Steadfast in His love. Spend less time in somebody else's book and more time creating a narrative your children would want to read. The very best stories are the dog-eared, yellowing, and often-read tales of love and adventure. How's your novel going to read?
1. What insecurities stand in the way of true freedom?
2. Have you felt uncomfortable in your own skin?
3. Who in your life, or what resources, have been the most helpful of reminding you who you are in Christ?
"He has made every thing beautiful in His time..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
“I’m not interested in being perfect when I'm older. I'm interested in having a narrative. It’s the narrative that’s really the most beautiful thing about women.” Jodi Foster
"There's this youth culture that is really, really powerful and really, really strong, but what it does is it really discards people once they reach a certain age. I actually think that people are so powerful and interesting - women, especially - when they reach my age. We've got so much to say, but popular culture is so reductive that we just talk about whether we've got wrinkles, or whether we've put on weight or lost weight, or whether we've changed our hair style. I just find that so shallow." Annie Lennox
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.