“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.' 'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
This excerpt from the Velveteen Rabbit has become my guide to being a happily aging woman.
When I was younger, yes even as little as 10 years ago, I couldn't imagine a life in which I was not the sexiest woman in the room. It was the foundation of my self image, what allowed me to move through my world in confidence. I was determined that I would get plastic surgery on any part of my body that I thought might be falling down on the job, because being youthful and sexy was just the most important thing I had to offer. Although I prided myself on being smart and spiritual and funny, those things couldn't begin to stack up against the sex appeal I joyfully flaunted to the world.
As I grew older though, and had to face the sagging and bagging and all the other physical markers that were bringing me into my sixties, I also had to re-evaluate what my beauty had really brought me. The truth was that my beauty brought me men who valued me for my looks and sex appeal, and not much else. They seemed almost offended to meet the very real woman masquerading as their fantasy girl. And the saying "if you do what you always did, you get what you always got" was never truer in my case. The one thing all of the men in my life had in common is that they bought the physical package I was selling.
So what did that even mean? It meant that I was with men who watched every morsel of food I put in my mouth, who monitored my dessert intake, who alternately dismissed or feared my intellect because it wasn't sexy. And what did that mean to me? I was miserable, and by the time I hit 59, I was really tired of the impossible task of maintaining a youthful sexuality, when all I really wanted was a good conversation and ice cream. A lot of conversation and A LOT of ice cream. All the rest was just too exhausting to keep up, and when you got right down to it, never paid back the energy that it took from me. It was exhausting because the real, complete Gloria just wanted out, out of the stereotype, out of the box she had built for herself, out into the world where she could fully actualize herself without worrying about how she was percieved physically by others.
So I decide to .... embrace getting old. Yes. I decided it was ok to have wrinkles, ok to have a saggy neck, drooping breasts and a thick middle. That stuff came with my genetic territory, and it was my reality. I now worked out to stay strong, not to be sexy and I have to say, I have never been happier in my life. I love every wrinkle, every bump lump and sag,....I love my worn out hands. I love , well, I just love ME.
I am happy to be the Grandma, the compassionate ear, the voice of reason to my clients and to my friends. All of the real me comes with no attachment to any agenda other than the one I am engaged in. I do not measure my worth anymore in the flicker of sexual interest in a man's eye. Loving myself as I do, I measure my worth by what I think of me, by the great care I bring to my Hypnotherapy practice, what I can bring to each human being that I come in contact with.
My worth comes by simply being a happy human being on this earth who accepts herself and others unconditionally. I am not my body, my body serves me, and no matter what it looks like, it is doing a wonderful job of taking care of the ageless and mighty spirit that I am. i am grateful to this body, I love this body, and any other thought or emotion would diminish us both.
Most of all, I know that loving myself deeply, joyfully and profoundly is a gift to all the other women and men around me that placed their self worth on ephemera. When you let go of that which only serves your illusions, you find that which serves your soul. It is the greatest gift of old age, to finally, nakedly become Real.