Let Them Know You by Your Heart

Posted by on October 26, 2013 in On Life | 9 comments


by Christina Carson

Ours is a culture obsessed with fears about aging, especially the alterations in physical appearance. And now having become a woman close to the end of her 6th decade, I wonder about why we’ve done what we’ve done to ourselves. Why did we choose to equate attractiveness with youth and ugliness with age? This purview is not so in all cultures. It’s not even so in ours if you are less than six-years-old. If you think about it, young children in our culture relating to their grandparents don’t notice age. They don’t look at their grandparents and see someone old, they see someone dear. They haven’t yet been instructed to evaluate people by their appearances. Rather, they know them by their heart.

We can’t get off the hook by assuming it is natural for people to be put off by the vagaries of aging. It is a choice we made and then suffer from as years go by. To note a significant departure from this line of thought, take the British culture, which amazes me. If you watch BBC or any presentations of British TV dramas or series, what do you notice? What hit me first was their stable of tremendously talented actors that due justice to their equally talented group of novelists and scriptwriters. But what hit me second was what amazed me most. I have yet to see any evidence of any of those actors who have availed themselves of face lifts, heavy makeup to cover wrinkles, liposuction, fixes for thinning hair, etc., etc. They live comfortably before you with whom they’ve become physically and invest their focus instead on offering up one more marvelous rendition of whomever they are playing in this week’s drama or in another new series. I thought, “What freedom they have given themselves and what peace. Let’s face it, everyone ages. No one escapes. Why would any cultures want to label one entire segment of life as written off physically, among other things? What is it that frightens us so about getting old that we’d make it a topic of ridicule and dread?

It is fear plain and simple. Think of the things you’ve put on your own list about aging that scare the pants off

   Jackrabbit Johannsen

Jackrabbit Johannsen

you. But the crazy thing is none are an inherent part of aging. I realize that statement sounds ludicrous to someone in our society, but the exceptions prove the rule. Jackrabbit Johannsen, a resident of Ontario, was still cross-country skiing at 102. He was quoted as saying, “Stay busy. Get plenty of exercise. Don’t drink too much. Then again, don’t drink too little.”

I remember reading of a woman rancher out west who was going on a roundup at 93 years of age. Roundups are hard work and many miles of hard riding for weeks on end, but there she was.

W. Edwards Deming, the brilliant father of the Total Quality Management movement, a vision that offered American manufacturing the capability of becoming competitive in a world market was still out their teaching and training at 92.

And my beloved botany professor Dr. Manning, continued

             E. Deming

E. Deming

chasing flowers across hill and dale at 101.

The list of exceptions is seemingly endless, for our experience of aging is primarily determined by how we hold that period of our lives. Let it not be an expectation based on fear and what you don’t want, but a vision based on what you see as possible.Rather than being ruled by what you’ve been taught to think, let the world know you by your heart. Wear your passion and insight on your sleeve not your disappointment or your doubt. Wear it more quietly perhaps but with a deep awareness of what you can now bring to the surface which you didn’t even know existed when you were 25.

I feel it is our duty as part of that group who have lived many years, the elders of society, to show those behind us by our example what real beauty looks like when youthful glamour slips away. Let them know us by our hearts. Let them see how beautiful courage looks, how lovely the voice of perspective sounds, how stunning the mind that has risen above the trivial, how exquisite the eyes that see much further now.

Let them know you by your heart, for each age has its challenges, but few have gathered such evidence of wonders as those we call old.


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  1. As I advance in years (now 70) I am discovering that a long life is really a blessing. So many of my friends who have already passed will never know the joys of Obamacare (sorry, that just slipped out) of seeing the children and grandchildren (maybe great-grandchildren – I hope) grow. Yes, there are aches and pains in places where you never even knew you had places. There are diseases you never heard of and death panels (oops, sorry again).

    However, in the late 1950s I heard a song that stuck with me. Actually, it is the last line of the last verse that impressed me the most. It set a standard that I wish to achieve. It’s the ending of a tribute to “Alma” composed and sung by Tom Lehrer, a mathematics professor with a singular musical talent for satire. http://youtu.be/hH4J8CIBc7Q

    This brings me to the heart of your posting, the fear of aging. Yes, it is different in different parts of the world. My wife and I also watch a lot of shows on the BBC and I marvel at the sexuality that exudes from some of the aging actresses. For example, see Felicity Kendall http://bit.ly/1deicMp who starred in Rosemary & Thyme http://youtu.be/k4O7Ulvfzvw murder mysteries featuring a pair of amateur sleuths who work as gardeners.

    The British, it seems, are more concerned with history than Americans. They are as inclined to dispose of something or someone simply because they’ve become a little frayed around the edges. They see the value withing. Americans are culture-driven and the American culture is dominated by and obsessed with youth. BTW, you learn to see past that once you hit 70. My wife (68) is the sexiest woman I know.

    • Christina Carson

      You are then blessed my friend and so is she. Interesting insight about history versus culture as a dominating influence.

  2. I’ve always considered the marks of age as a measure of experience and survival. Elders inspire me, as within the Native American culture—internal years of experience growing literally on the external. http://robonwriting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/dark-artistic-portrait-expressive-senior-woman-12991548.jpg

    • Christina Carson

      Extraordinary photo. She is someone who carries more in her face than most have recorded in their biographies. Experience to me is what is interesting as well, and years favor experience. Thanks Rob.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtfully written essay. It is a marvel that so many in our culture are obsessed with youth.

    • Christina Carson

      I had never thought about what Jack says above re. an esteem for history creating a respect and interest of thing old. I think he’s nailed it. We are not only a younger society historically, but also one that intentionally cut itself off from its roots through revolution. So it appears to have brought us to this immature point of view regarding the value of that which is old. Thanks for stopping by Sue and sharing your thoughts.

  4. Wow! SO true.. just beautiful Christina! Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

  5. Christina Carson

    You are most welcome. Your comments are always appreciated. It must be your wisdom of age, eh.

    • You betcha Christina .. think how much wisdom we still have coming!!

Thoughtful comments are always welcome!


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