serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

The Mirror of Old

Posted by Shae Hadden on 11/22/06

I’m fascinated by how people affix meaning to language, and the limitless interpretations they draw from words. ‘Old’, for example, triggers different responses among my friends. And their interpretations show me how they feel about growing older. It’s not always a happy image…

For the past few months, I’ve been meeting new people and they, for some inexplicable reason, believe me to be younger than I actually am. Flattering, I suppose, but I’m fascinated by the fact that they cannot ‘see’ my age by looking at me. Whereas, I think my age is like a giant number emblazoned across my forehead.

My daily routine includes time spent in front of a mirror, usually just checking I’m awake enough to see myself before I start the day. More than a cursory glance slows me down: seeing my wrinkles, gray hairs and sagging facial muscles reminds me I’m not as young as I used to be. If I stop and stare for more than the briefest of moments, I hear a little voice inside my head saying, “I am old.” Sometimes, I interpret that simply as the number of days I have been on the planet as being more than just a few and I can go on my merry way. Other days, the thought arouses an entire litany of fears, concerns and sorrows that ‘my life’ has been quite long already, that I haven’t done what I’ve wanted to do, or been who I’ve wanted to be yet. That interpretation inspires a deluge of questions:

  • Who am I?
  • How long do I have left?
  • What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
  • What will happen to my body as I grow older?
  • Will anything I do make a difference?
  • How will I feel when someone else calls me “old”?

Today, I woke up with the insight that our culture actually dictates that everyone is ‘old’ at any age…since we measure our time on this earth in units of ‘years OLD’. Trying to think of ourselves in terms of ‘young’ just reinforces the ‘old’ mindset. So how do we get beyond ‘old’ as an interpretation of age?

‘Years old’ implies a continuity of being, a ‘self’ that continues to exist from day to day, moment to moment. Yet, we only exist in this moment. We are creating ourselves anew all the time. From this perspective, ‘old’ has no meaning.

So today I’ve decided to start an experiment. For the next month, I will look at myself in the mirror and announce, “Today I am 45 years NEW!”

Check back next month to see what I have to report on the “Mirror of New”…

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