The inevitability of aging has never sat well with me. As someone that likes to argue, charm, and otherwise wriggle her way out of every sticky situation, the non-negotiable truth that I too would age and deteriorate has always terrified me.
In my early thirties, I found myself in a very different place in life than I had planned — alone with a small child. I again began questioning where would I find myself in 30 years’ time. I was deeply conflicted, having made the decision to leave an unhappy marriage. I saw my (suddenly not-so-vast) future stretching out ahead of me, and rather than being filled with optimism and possibility, I was battle scarred and exhausted.
The daily realities of aging have also terrified me — losing my physical strength and vitality, and also the effect the years will have on my appearance. As a woman in a society obsessed with youth and beauty it is hard to shake off the stigma of aging.
Slowly, however, I became aware of the wisdom that I have gained through all my life experiences. Gradually I began to feel a sense of possibility and clarity. I began to see that my fear of aging was not of the increasing candles on my birthday cake, but of losing the person I am now.
As I approach my 33rd birthday I set about devising my own, alternative “anti-aging manifesto.” I began to write it down, and found myself smiling, as my words were light hearted and empowering. I was focusing on all the things I want to embrace.
Perhaps the greatest erosion of self-identity comes in the way time alters our appearance
Again this is inevitable. Instead of being a Botox slave I have another plan. For sexy lips I will smile often, and kiss a lot. For beautiful eyes I will take in amazing sights. I will see the world beyond the holiday resorts. I will take the road less travelled. My eyes will see beauty in the people and places I encounter. I will see the possibilities rather than the drawbacks.
My experiences will be etched on my face and body in the tattoos, scars, and wrinkles I collect. I will create laugh lines rather than frown lines. For a glowing complexion I will fill my life with happiness and orgasms, both of which I will re-apply on a daily basis, along with moisturizer.
Seeing myself reflected in the ones I love is the best mirror.
I will keep my body strong by climbing mountains, and keep it soft with wine, romantic dinners and the edible delights I find on my adventures. I will measure my self-worth in accomplishments rather than a number on a scale.
My hair will go grey, and I will embrace this. My hands will be the hands of someone that has lived, weathered and calloused, but soft enough to hold the hands of my child and grand children. I will surround myself with people that see goodness in me, and move away from those that see my flaws. Seeing myself reflected in the ones I love is the best mirror. An adventurous spirit is the best anti aging product. Also a sense of humour and intelligence will never droop, sag or wrinkle.
Physical changes are perhaps the most frightening part of getting older
This is the area we have least control over, being at the mercy of genetics and luck. Rather than lock myself away in a room with a lifetime’s supply of kale and wheatgrass I am taking a more balanced approach.
I will keep my circulatory system healthy by filling my life with people and things that make my heart beat. For healthy lungs I will make every breath count. To look after my mental health I will be fearlessly honest with myself. I will move away from people and things that no longer bring me happiness. I will let go. I will allow myself to change and grow. I will keep my mind active, opening and questioning.
Vitamin D is important — I will fill my life with travel and sunshine. I will get plenty of sleep — preferably in tents and in places beyond even my own comprehension. I will wear sunscreen to protect myself from tropical sunshine.
I will use the best safety equipment available to protect myself, from motorbike helmets to my own inner wisdom when deciding who to give my heart to. I will take leaps of faith.
I will have sex. Lots of it. In beds, on beaches, and under the stars. I will practice yoga to keep me flexible and to help me find comfort in uncomfortable situations.
I will keep my head out of the sand at all times, however I will regularly feel sand beneath my feet. I will also at times have my head in the clouds. I will never be too old to dream.
What about practicalities, such as where I will live, and financial planning?
Again rather than spend my adult life selling my soul to the corporate machine, I will focus on creating the life I want my older self to inherit. I want to leave her with a store of memories, love and companionship, rather than a prison of stress and loneliness to escape from.
I will live in many places, but always outside my comfort zone. I will find shelter in those that believe in me, even when my belief in myself falters.
Time is like a currency, we need to spend it as best we can
I will put my time into the people and things that bring me most happiness. Living a life that is full and authentic is the best pension plan. What I sow now I will reap in years to come. It is also the best insurance policy against the inevitable sadness, which is an unavoidable side effect of being human. I will invest wisely. I will make my decisions with courage, wisdom and kindness. I will plot my own course rather than being the victim of circumstance. I will review my situation regularly, and I will never stay somewhere I would not have signed up for on day one, be it a job, a house or a relationship.
I will measure my life in experiences rather than my bank balance. I will collect memories rather than possessions. I will remember that the biggest gamble is putting off something that you can’t afford to do now, in the hope that you will have enough time to do it in.
I will take risks and make my own rules. I will fully value my life. I will create a life I don’t have to escape from.