My speech on aging for the Kuala Lumpur Speakers Club.
Mirror mirror on MY wall..
I met an old woman in a wheelchair once and she had a very disposition about her. The crows feet by the side of her eyes showed me she had lived a long fulfilling life. Her laugh lines were a sign of a life well lived, many joys and celebrations..The lines beneath her eyes told me stories of her hopes and dreams which she has witnessed in her life…
I asked her, “ What is the secret to that smile?”
She told me, when she was 30 years old, God gave her a gift. She was riding her bicycle when a strong gust of wind blew her to the ground into the path of an oncoming truck. The truck ran her over and cut off her leg.
As she lay there bleeding, she realised she had to live the rest of her life without a leg. How depressing! But when she realised that being depressed won’t get her leg back, she decided right there and then not to waste her life despairing. When her husband arrived at the hospital, she told her point blankly, “ Ive already adapted. Now you adapt and get used to the new me”
How could u be so accepting and surrender? I quipped. She told me it was hard in the beginning. She thought to herself she’d rather be dead than disabled. Disability is associated with failure especially when people come up to you and feel sorry for you.
Then she changed her mindset. She said she started vibrating and functioning at a different level. She was amazed at how her body was capable of adapting. Wise words indeed. We tend to focus on whats missing and not is present. Sounds simple? So why then are we so unhappy?
Especially with ourselves..especially our ageing selves.
Dewy, uncreased 20 somethings have long been held up as the essence of womanhood in popular culture. The mania for youth has reached new heights these days and glossy magazines do not allow more than 3 wrinkles on the faces that grace their covers.
And these days with selfie editing app, we all look flawless, fair and slim in every picture we post on social media. Yes, there are many stories on how the 50s is the new 30s but rarely do you see a woman over a certain age unretouched, unapologetic and not medically interfered upon, held up as desirable and admirable or even held up at all.
Aging is scary, But guess what is the alternative to ageing is – DEATH. And thats a lot more worse to deal with, so for now..I’m happy to deal with my ageing self. Well I bloody have no choice.
A lot of people tell me I look really young…and then they add the magic words ..”For my age”…And I’m like what is that supposed to me ? A compliment because he just called me young and supple or a compromise, that I look better than peers my age..
I have come to a point in my life where I have stopped lying or bragging about my age. Everyday we are bombarded by advertisements on looking younger, because you are worth it..
Do you know how much the world spends on anti ageing products alone? Anti wrinkle creams, botox, liposuction, hair transplants and face lifts. $274 billion dollars a year.
With that money, we could eradicate poverty and hunger, enable people worldwide access to clean water and we could stop children dying in pain and squalor and still have 49 billion left over.
I kid you not, I was in Los Angeles not a while back and needed a hair wash. Amidst the one hair salon on Rodeo Drive, there were 6 medical spas!!! You get my point?
So whats the obsession about looking younger? Tell me honestly ladies, haven’t any of you seen an advertisement in the magazines about an anti ageing facial service and had even an iota of interest ? Of course some of us “pretend “ we want to age gracefully and shirk at such things..
I do have regular facials at the energy spa and last month when I went, my therapist recommended me the fruity acid anti ageing treatment..In my head I thought , oh gosh, am I finally starting to look old? Why does she now think I need this?
Yogurt on my hair, avocado on my face, cucumber on my eyes. If only I had corn chips on my ears,I’d look like a taco salad.
Let’s be honest ladies, we are all afraid to getting old. I surely am and I unabashedly say it. Forget health food, I’m in need of preservatives to keep me young. Why are youth and good looks so overglorified? Why haven’t we seen a barbie with saggy breasts, wrinkles, cellulite and chin hair?
In childhood we yearn to grow up fast and as we age we hope time slows down. Wouldn’t it just be wonderful if we didn’t have to celebrate our birthdays in chorological order?
On a serious note, it’s all in the mirror of our minds..
You really are as old – or as young – as you look and feel. According to Dr Michael Brickey, author of Defy Aging and 52 Baby Steps to Grow Young, only 20% to 30% of longevity is genetic – thus only 70% to 80% depends on what we think and the lifestyle choices we make. One of the biggest factors to keeping our youthful appearance, says Brickey, is psychological: our attitudes, beliefs and coping skills.
He said they are 4 types of ages..
Chronological, our age in years we cannot change.
Emotional- this is how we behave – and it is influenced by our life experiences.
Biological – our health and the inner workings of our body. We can to a But we can, to a large extent, choose our biological age, he says. “ Research shows that it is perfectly possible for us to choose a biological age that is up to 15 years younger than our chronological age.”
The last one is physhological age.
This is how old we feel we are. It is influenced by our mindset and beliefs. “By taking control of our beliefs and feelings, we can significantly improve our psychological age and our internal programming that it is ruled by.” So ladies..interesting facts!
We are as old as we feel. So as I look into my mirror on the wall, and I see myself as a sweet 20 year old and though I still get called a babe in the gym. There are definitely pre-menopausal signs on set – to show me that chronologically and biologically I am indeed getting OLD.
These days I wake up in the morning feeling tired like I hardly slept at all, and mind you bedtime these days is even earlier than my terrible teenagers at home. Why on earth did I actually sleep then?
Also the hot flushes, I cant even begin to tell you that. Right before I even am ready to leave for a party, I’m drenched and my make up is cakey. And at nights for the first time in his life, my husband has to wear long sleeve pyjamas because I blast the air conditioner at 16degrees.
Well I don’t like to think of them as hot flushes, I like to think I’m hot blooded.
Forgetfulness and me have stuck new chords of friendship.I still cant phantom how I remember all the words to my favourite 80’s songs, but forget where I park my car.
So last week, after grocery shopping, with three bags in my hands I tried frantically to open my car. And then behind me, comes a man, looking sheepishly at me- opens the car and gets in.
He has a red car. I have a red car. He remembers his red car. I has unfortunately forgotten where is my red car in the throughs of multi coloured cars in this multi- storied carpark. How embarrassing to be thought of as a car thief or just a woman with dementia.
Also right before coming here, I had to make a detour because I thought I had forgotten my handphone but it was all along in my pocket! And yes this forgetfulness which I am hoping isn’t early signs of amnesia comes with other aspects of my life too. Especially my passwords. Im embarrassed every time I need to reset my bank account passwords. My husband keeps suggesting I write it down but I blatantly refuse, thinking I wont forget it this time round.
So ladies as much as I try to feel young, ageing is evident and I am evidently in denial. Middle age is when you start getting your head together but your body starts to fall apart.
On the other side of the spectrum, we see examples like Olga Kotelko, the famed athlete who continued to win races and set world records well into her 90s and she attributed her athletic success to her mindset — she claimed to feel 40 years younger than her actual age and continued to participate in races simply because she believed she could. She wasn’t going to let common perceptions of the elderly hold her back.
Studies have shown people with more positive views of their own ageing lived, on average, 7.6 years longer than people with more negative views. This is because our bodies believe what our minds tell us. We know that mental attitudes affect our physical and emotional wellbeing at any age, but this impact becomes even more pronounced as we get older. The happiest and healthiest people among the elderly population don’t dwell too much on what their birth certificate says. Instead, they focus on what they can do.”As these studies make quite clear, developing the right mindset appears to be the key to a long and happy life. While it’s true that genetics and healthy physical habits will also impact our wellbeing as we get older, adopting a “glass half-full” outlook will make a significant difference.
So ladies, we cant run away. I have decided to accept it gracefully. So which thought habits make the biggest difference? What separates the 90-year-old marathon runners from their peers who are in much worse physical condition? Let me share with you some tips.
The first step is to value positive attributes associated with ageing — such as emotional maturity and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that people should ignore the challenges that come with aging. Rather, it requires a more positive approach that fights back against stereotypes. Yes definitely feel wisdom has come in with the wrinkles.
While it’s okay to recognise that you can’t do certain activities as easily as in the past, resist the temptation to give them up altogether. Instead, focus on ways you can continue to make them part of your daily life and continually improve. I honestly cant keep late nights like I used to before before it just upsets my body clock. I instead try to start earlier so that I can still be part of the social scene with my friends. Also listening to the body is something I totally do these days. I used to force myself to go to the gym every morning but as I am noticing my body, I do take a break when I feel my body isn’t upto it. Moderation and listening to the gut definitely have helped.
Maintaining a sense of purpose can also play a major role in maintaining vitality as you age. Old age doesn’t mean that there’s nothing meaningful left to do. By directing one’s focus to a new hobby or activity, it becomes easier to avoid negative stereotypes associated with ageing. I have recently found a life calling and I cant even tell you how much it has distracted my head from my ageing-woes..
All these insights point to the same thing — that aging really is nothing more than a state of mind. The real challenge is coming to truly believe that ourselves. As we age and people, practice mindfulness and develop a more positive attitude toward life, ageing becomes gracefully effortless.
We cant run away..So let’s accept. A new wrinkle means I’ve laughed. More grey hair means I’ve cared enough and scars means I have lived. I leave you with this beautiful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “ beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art.”
Stay beautiful my friend, C’est La Vie