Anti Anti-aging Advocacy
We live in a world that is obsessed with preventing aging. Ponce de Leon, a 16th century Spanish explorer, set sail in search of the fountain of youth- a legendary magical spring of water that would restore youth. While he failed to accomplish that lofty goal, he was onto something – people will go to the ends of the earth to prevent the natural course of aging.
Everything has a lifetime
Nearly ten years ago, I gave birth to my fourth child, a beautiful baby boy who would only live four months. In the aftermath of losing my son, Atticus, I was also faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of mothering three children mourning the loss of their beloved baby brother.
While trying to explain death to children in developmentally appropriate ways (and trying to understand it myself, frankly), we began to talk about the concept of “lifetimes”.
Everything has a lifetime. Some things live for a long time, like giant tortoises that can live nearly 200 years. Some things live for only a short time, like mayflies that only live 24 hours.
Acceptance of lifetimes is important, as we are truly powerless to change the lifetime of anything. I can’t do anything to change a mayfly’s lifetime to two days. I could spend a lot of energy and emotion trying- but it’s not changing. The mayfly has a lifetime. Giant tortoises have their own lifetime. My sweet baby boy had an entire lifetime. I have a lifetime.
The gift of aging
As I worked to process my own grief and make sense of what had happened, I found myself having a strange sense of awe in ordinary places. The first time this happened, I was at the swimming pool with my children. They took turns jumping off a diving board and asked me to join them. Begrudgingly, foggy with my despair, I stepped onto the board to join my children in their play. As I jumped, the thought came to me- “Atticus never got to jump off a diving board”. We took turns jumping again, and as I went into the water next, I felt overwhelmed by the sensations of plunging into the deep end- the feeling of being fully immersed in water, followed by the feeling of buoyancy in my body as I kicked to the surface, and finally, experiencing the sensory rush as I broke the surface and heard the squeals of children playing and felt the hot sun on my face. Atticus didn’t get to experience a diving board in his lifetime. In my lifetime, I have. We jumped and jumped that afternoon, and I began to savor the experience for myself and my son. I was filled with the sense that I was showing respect and gratitude for his lifetime by fully embracing my own.
That feeling has kept me company since then- my lifetime experiences are a gift. I get to have them. I’ve gotten to experience 40 years so far in my lifetime, and I want to experience that not only for my own enjoyment but also with a deep gratitude, knowing that not every lifetime includes 40 years. Those 40 years have been a gift. If I get 40 more, I want to spend them fully embodied, with gratitude that I get to experience aging.
I’ve embraced aging in a world obsessed with the mythical fountain of youth. After all, the fountain of youth is a myth! The alternative to aging is having a shorter lifetime. And I want my own entire lifetime, wrinkles and all.