Twenty years ago, when I imagined myself mid-life, I curated a mental list of the things I imagined myself doing. I expected my forties to be busy, bustling with action. I hoped for a full family life and strength to check boxes on important lists all day long. I hoped to maintain a sense of style that didn’t embarrass my daughters but stayed unique. I wanted my forty-something self to be doing things that felt satisfying.
Here I am at forty-six, and it’s almost exactly as I expected. It seems to be the sweet spot of both strength and perspective. A peak from which I can see how far I’ve come and am starting to turn my face toward new vistas. Thinking about the future is quite different than in my twenties. Then, life seemed limitless, but now it’s easier to see time’s constraints.
I used to think I wanted to age like Sophia Loren. She’s stylish and drop-dead gorgeous; she doesn’t try to be any age but the one she is. She gives off an air of embracing the best pieces of who she is today. Twenty and even forty years from now, reality tells me that my strength will wane–of body and mind. In my eighties, I may not have the eyesight necessary to pluck my eyebrows evenly and apply eyeliner well. Without Sophia Loren’s team of stylists, my eighties are bound to look much different than hers. Already I’m doing regular double-takes in the mirror, surprised by gravity’s power. I’m not putting a date on the calendar for when I plan to let myself go, but I do feel a strong pull to be something significant on the inside and not just the outside.
As I look into the lined faces of people I admire around me, l have found a road map through my next season. Plenty of people in my life make me stop and think, “I wanna age like that.” These people inspire me to develop contentment and purpose deep inside, a sweet spirit that shines past the wrinkles. When my life gets shaken by passion or pain, I hope what spills over looks like happiness and courage.
I still moisturize the way my mom taught me, paying special attention to my neck and the backs of my hands. That’s solid advice for aging like Sophia Loren. My beauty regimen for aging doesn’t stop there, though. It includes practicing living peaceably with others as Romans 12:18 encourages. It includes regular exercise of the “obey God even when I’m scared” muscle to keep it in tip-top shape. I want to cultivate deep habits of kindness. When age fogs my mind, my love for others can still spill over from my inner well. Love is a beautiful counterpart to wrinkles. I’m hoping mine grow in equal proportions.
I’m still dreaming of my future and imagining life twenty years from now. There’s still a list full of things I would love to be doing. I’m optimistic that healthy living will keep my body able. I am also thinking about my inner self and who I will be as I’m doing all those things. This is preventative work. Aging gracefully doesn’t just happen. It’s a direct result of a well-tended heart and mind and something worth adding to the beauty regimen.
Photograph © Caique Silva, used with permission