By Gabrielle. Photo by Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit.
Let’s talk about ageing for a bit. I feel like I age in spurts — as if I look and feel the same for 6 or 8 years, and then suddenly, over 1 month, I can see and feel big differences in my body. I was sort of expecting to feel an aging spurt at 40, but it didn’t happen. Instead, it came at forty-one-and-a-half. Suddenly, I’m feeling it. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject. And I’d love to hear yours!
I know I’ve already talked about this one at length, so there’s not much to say. The short version in case you missed the hair post: I am now 75% grey. Which is a lot, and it’s early (I found my first grey hairs at age 13). In fact, most of my peers are just getting a few grays here and there, or a specific streak of grey. And I’m not sure if and when I’m going to stop dyeing my hair. Sometimes I watch my older sisters to gauge how their grey is coming in, thinking it will help me decide.
I should also note, it’s not just a change of color — the texture of my grey hair is different than the brown hair I grew up with. The grey is more wiry.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I have awful eyesight. And it’s been awful since I was a kid. I’m extremely near-sighted — I have 20/800 vision, which I’ve been told qualifies as legally blind. Though I remember my father going blind from diabetes and I can’t pretend that I’ve ever had to face that sort of challenge.
But I definitely can’t function without glasses or contacts. That’s not new. The new thing is that I’m now becoming farsighted too! Very exciting! Hah! It’s just barely started. And it’s not bad enough to need help with yet, but I think this means some sort of bi-focals or progressive lenses are in my very near future.
On Working Out:
I’ve been going to the gym consistently for about 4 months now. This feels like a big accomplishment to me because it’s the most I’ve exercised since I was on the high school track team. So high fives all around!
Interestingly, I don’t feel like my body has aged exercise-wise. It seems to be the same as it always has been. But, I do notice I have to fight like crazy to keep any upper-body strength progress I make. For example, if I skip working out for a few days, my legs and back don’t seem to notice the break. I can jump in exactly where I left off. But my arms. Well, if I skip a few days of the gym, my arms act like I’ve never exercised before in my life.
My biggest gym success so far: I did 2 pull-ups! I know it’s not anything to brag about, but I was still proud.
On Feeling Fragile:
You would think that with the gym work, I would be feeling super tough. But that is not the case. Over the last few months I’ve become more protective of my body — not protective like I’m under attack, but protective in that I’m less willing to push too hard or to take bodily risks.
I remember celebrating our 14th anniversary, six years ago, by hiking a Fourteener. A Fourteener is a Colorado term for mountains that are over 14,000 feet. Outside of just my normal living, I hadn’t exercised in years, but I hiked the mountain without preparation or worry. My body had always done what I needed it to do and never gave me reason to doubt it.
Now cut to a more recent example. We went ice skating as a family at the Oakland Ice Rink. I’m not good at ice skating. At all. I’m totally awkward. But that doesn’t stop me from getting out there with the kids and trying my best — even if I look like I fool. Which I definitely do. But on this recent ice skating outing, during the last few minutes of free skate time, I took a big fall. The tip of my skate caught and I hit the ice hard. My leg was covered in cauliflower bruises and I was so dang sore! It took over a month to heal.
It was this reminder that I’m not a kid, and that my body isn’t quite as resilient or elastic as it once was. I find myself being more careful of how I move my body through the world.
I know it’s kind of vague, but aging wise, this is the biggest difference I’ve felt so far. I really never had to give my body much thought, and now I’m far more aware of it.
This has probably been true since I hit puberty, but I only put words to it recently: 90% of grooming is keeping hair at bay. Legs, bikini line, underarms, haircuts, eyebrows, random chin hairs or mustache hairs — and recently nose hairs gone wild! Soaping up and getting clean takes no time compared to all the hair-related work.
The issue is, at this point, I’m so bored with all the hair maintenance.
I think my skin changes are happening too slowly for me to really take notice of. Obviously my face looks older than it once did, but I don’t seem to notice the wrinkles or smile lines.
The biggest skin change is that the skin under my eyes feels more crepe-y or paper-y. That’s definitely new. There’s probably some serum I should be using. Let me know if you have any recommendations.
The food I eat and the way my body works or looks never really had a connection in my mind. They didn’t even relate.
Not true anymore! I seem to have developed carb sensitivity, which I know is a normal part of aging, but is still something I’m getting used to. If I eat lots of carbs, my pants are tight and I get sleepy. If I don’t eat lots of carbs my pants are not tight and I don’t need a nap.
So. There’s that. (And I realize this is where I’m a jerk, because some people have been fighting with their bodies since they were kids. Related, I shared this essay before, but it’s so good!)
I saw Madonna’s dance studio video recently, and I’ve found my self pondering it. She’s 57 now, and I think the video came out when she was 51. If that’s a possibility for me in ten years — being super fit and flexible at 51 — should that be the goal? Do I even care?
On What’s Next:
Angelina Jolie, who I believe is my age, recently talked about her forced menopause. She had surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Reading her article got me thinking. When will it happen to me? 10 years? 5 years? What’s the average age? And what happens exactly?
I realized I know almost nothing about menopause and only have a vague idea of what’s coming down the line. Essentially, every time I feel warm, I’m like, “Is this a hot flash?” Hah!
That’s all my thoughts for now. I’d love to hear if reading this sparks any of your own thoughts. Do you notice aging in yourself? Are you ever surprised when you look in the mirror? Has anyone else out there felt the body fragility that I mentioned? Where are you on aging markers like grey hair or wrinkles? Do you worry about them? Love them? Share your stories!