Archives for posts with tag: aging

I’m just a few days out from yet another birthday. If achieved, it will be a refutation of the Ouija board prophecy made when I was still in elementary school. (Tip: for a carefree life, never ask a Ouija board how old you will be when you kick the bucket.)

So I will not be indulging in the “Mortality App” that has so many folks buzzing. I get it; I’m gonna die, and sooner rather than later, proportionally speaking.  I’ve been around for more years than I have left.

This knowledge has doubtless been one factor in my mission to find something worthwhile to do, my willingness to take a few more risks (small as they may be.)

“If not now, when?” I have been asking myself this question for the last few years, but finding the answer seems more urgent.

The flip side to this urgency has been an increasing awareness that most of it just doesn’t matter. I will die, and then who will care what my last job title was, what I had in the bank, and how deep that line between my eyes got?

I know that some doors have closed forever, and some are swinging shut. I know that I will probably not travel as extensively as I now wish I had, and that I am not likely to be anywhere near wealthy, and that’s ok.

What continues to bother me is the fact that I have not, in the words of every frustrated guidance counselor in my life, “lived up to my potential.”

I did not lack ambition; I smothered it.

I was certain that the fields that attracted me were too competitive, and that there was always someone who was better suited to a job than I. Having had a ringside seat to many dunce-filled arenas, I now realize my mistake. I could have accomplished more. I want to accomplish more. I worry about my “sell by” date in the job market.

I am now on my feet, hustling across a concrete floor nearly 30 hours a week, with loud music playing and a walkie talkie incessantly chattering in one ear. I am up and down ladders and crouching low to reach product. I out perform peers decades younger. I can’t possibly be too old for an adult job.

The trick now is to retain the sense of urgency and purpose without sliding into panic. Time is short, but I still have some.

We can get used to anything. For the past five years or so, I have gotten used to chronic, severe pain in my neck and shoulders. It’s not constant, but it is something I have been waking up with almost every day, and noticing off and on while I am awake. I’ve attributed it to many things: “stress,” aging, too much computer time, and most recently, tensing up over the low computer/cash registers at my little job. I was resigned to the prospect of life with this pain.

And then…

I went to a new dentist. “Do you clench or grind your teeth?” she asked. I didn’t think so. She asked a few more questions, poked around a little more, had me open and close my mouth a few times. She was pretty sure I was a clencher, and that this habit was responsible for the current sorry state of my teeth. No cavities, but vertical fractures.

Since I don’t eat rocks or use my mouth on household projects, I had to consider her suggestion seriously. I promised to be mindful of how I held my mouth (always a good  practice, really.)

My upper and lower teeth were hitting each other in all the wrong places.  By resting my tongue against the roof of my mouth, I could maintain my bite properly. I paid particular attention to this when I went to bed that night.

I woke up pain-free yesterday morning, and again today. I am elated.

I share this because it might be helpful to someone else, and also as an example of how we harm ourselves, obliviously and unintentionally. If only it was always so easy to find and fix.

It is entirely possible that I began this blog as an outlet for my horrible puns. But I digress:

This title is about beauty, specifically as it relates to women. Or as we relate to it.

Much has been written and said on this subject, so I will not start from scratch. I assume we all know about the unrealistic standards we as women hold ourselves to, and the further erosion of our tenuous confidence as we age.

I’m thinking about this because of a photo The Kid took of the two of us recently. It was a happy day, and it showed in our faces. I looked at this picture, and I saw my beautiful, fresh-faced daughter, with her wide, gleaming, orthodontically enhanced smile.

Then there was me, slightly behind her, also smiling (and for once, not looking as though the process of having my picture taken was causing me actual, physical pain.) What did I see? Wrinkles, (especially the deep vertical crease between my eyebrows) and my crooked front tooth. My immediate reaction was the sense of being something of a dessicated shell of the shiny, full creature in front of me. Then I shook it off, and realized that I should be pleased that she chose to use this shot as her Facebook profile picture, since it included me.

It’s been a week or so since that picture was taken. The Kid and I were having one of those lovely, offhand conversations that sneak up on us once in a while. I must have made some negative remark about my hair or my face or who knows when she let me have it:  “You are always so hard on yourself. Look at that picture of us I took- you are so pretty. I wouldn’t have posted it otherwise.”

That took me back. I can’t say I have been able to see what she sees, but I have been convinced to believe that she does, and other people might.

A number of years ago, I realized that I could no longer see at close range well enough to attend to the basics of self grooming. Not yet ready to abandon makeup application and eyebrow plucking, I bought a magnifying mirror. Once again able to manage my daily primping, I could also see every flaw I had been avoiding for years, along with all the new indignities as they arrived: every wrinkle, spot, gaping pore and broken capillary was literally larger than life.

I mentioned my new mirror to my stylish (and much younger) co-worker. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “How do you stand it?”
As I answered her, I realized the truth and beauty of my reply.

“I figure that if I can get over the way I look magnified seven times, I can be confident that I will always look better than that to everyone else.”

I remembered our conversation the other morning, as I was getting ready for work. I stood in the bathroom, appraising myself, with half damp hair and no makeup. I noticed the way the hair at my temples  was coming in almost white, and how suddenly my eyes seemed bluer. I had a sudden reaction- not shocked, not smug, but just calm. “I’m beautiful.” It was more of a response to the way I was feeling than the way I looked: that I was where I should be, and that things would be ok, even if I couldn’t see exactly how.

My immediate response to the thought was regret that it had taken me 55 years to actively and spontaneously feel that way, and to wish that I had been kinder and more accepting of myself.   My next response was the awareness that the feeling wouldn’t last, and that if I didn’t get moving, I’d be late to work.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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