Knowing love in all of its forms, and truly understanding love, regardless of how it is expressed, is for sure one of the sweetest rewards of having lived a long life and survived its many challenges.
In our fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth decades of life, our view of love has grown deeper and more complex than what we felt when we were very young. Our first experience of love was the love shared with our caregivers, parents, family, and elders. As teenagers, young brides, and young mothers, our view of love was more externally focused. We were “romantically” in love with our boyfriends then husbands, and or partners. And if we became parents ourselves, we experienced a mother’s love for our children.
As women, we were defining love according to what we learned from the media. We read with enthusiasm magazines aimed at teenagers, young adults and new parents. Television and radio shows, movies and our peers told us how we should dress, feel, and love. Remember how your girlfriends in high school said you should like him because he is cute. We gobbled up articles that centered around, “What to do to make the boy pay attention to you”, “How to make better wives to our husbands”, “What are the best positions to have sex?”, “Best steps to hold onto your man and keep him from straying,” “What are the best schools for your child?, “How to cook a nutritional meal quickly to show your family love,” etc. We read those articles trusting that they would deliver us into a good life full of love, peace, and happiness.
Society demanded we were “supposed” to love in a certain manner that carried with it a set of expectations held by the communities in which we lived. We were supposed to get married by a certain age and start having a family. To be an “old maid” was frowned upon. In response, some of us may not have married not for “love”, but simply because we didn’t want to be pitied as undesirable old maids. There was little effort to examine how we were feeling. Most importantly, we depended more on what others, our parents, and society, told us love should be.
One day we wake up and the children have left home. Our bodies show some wear and tear, and show a few (or more) extra pounds. As you examine your face in the mirror, you see a few wrinkles with a little hair on your upper lip and on your chin. And oops, your butt and breasts have dropped. You look around and realize that you and your husband only talk about bills, if you have a conversation at all.
At the age of 50, we looked in the mirror and asked the hard questions: “Am I happy? Who do I love?” In fact, we begin to see life through a different lens and ask, “Who am I?” What do I want out of life? It is the big examination to ask consciously or unconsciously, “Who am I? What do I want? Who do I really love? What is love, anyway?”
The first transition at 50 years of age is finding and appreciating self-love. Anna Freud, Austrian-British psychoanalyst put it succinctly:
“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”Anna Freud
If you start with self-examination, you really confront what makes you happy – really happy! Do I like my job or is this just a way to make a living? But, I have put so much time in so I cannot leave my retirement fund. So, the question becomes, “What am I going to do after I retire? What risks am I going to take? Do I go back to school and finish that degree? Do I change careers and do something I really love? Am I going to be serious about losing those extra pounds? Do I color the gray in my hair? Am I going to risk that facelift surgery? Do I really like (not love) my husband or significant other? What is it that I need to do to be happy for my remaining years? How do I relate to my grown children who are now living their own lives? Is my husband cheating on me?
All of the questions about aging arise because we live in a culture that worships youth. So when we are no longer young, we feel trapped and fearful. We feel that we have lost something important.
But Ladies, instead of focusing on something we cannot do anything about, perhaps we need to embrace our age. Investigate the advantages of what getting older has in store. Maybe we should become more confident in ourselves and see aging as a privilege of living and know we are on the edge of a new adventure in life. Yep, there is no doubt, we do look different now.
“Forgiving yourself, believing in yourself, and choosing to love yourself are the best gifts one could receive.” (Brittany Burgunder, Certified Professional Coach (C.P.C.) specializing in eating disorders and author of her memoir)
In the place of youth, let us explore age and the beauty in our different decades and have fun doing it. After all, we are privileged to be alive.
That’s all for this time ladies, but meanwhile, we want to hear from you. What does love look like, now that you are 50, 60, 70, 80 years old, and beyond? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org