Let Them Know You by Your Heart
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
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
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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