Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Confidence: Given, earned, or merely fleeting?

We spend our lives pursuing elusive confidence. It is the key to facing life's challenges with hope, with faith, with courage, with head held high.  And yet, as soon as we obtain confidence, it slips away and the quest begins again.

Recently I spent a troubled night of restless sleep mourning the loss of the confidence of my youth.  Some of you may not have any idea what I'm talking about.  Others will.  It is undeniable.  There is something extraordinarily debilitating about the discovery of one's lost youth.  I appreciate the wisdom that comes with old age and maturity, but I don't welcome the decline in physical appearance, strength, and stamina.  How much confidence is derived from our outward appearance?  What happens when time takes its toll and the freshness of youth is replaced by weariness of body and soul?

My objective has been to age gracefully, but sadly I admit that age is winning the pursuit, and no amount of special creams will keep it at bay.  I have never believed in artificial methods for maintaining youth.  I am a grandmother, and I am content with looking like a grandmother.  But I would like to be a lovely grandmother.  Is that too much to ask?

My sun worshipping days of the past are catching up with me.  Frustrating age spots are popping up in uninvited places.  Gray hair hasn't been much of a nuisance yet, just a few random strands, easily plucked into submission.  My slowing metabolism is creeping up on me.  Morning stiffness makes me move like an old woman, despite generally not feeling like one.

I can't seem to shake the feeling of being overlooked, not getting the attention I used to in my younger days.  The older woman becomes invisible, ignored, disregarded.  I've never been one for flashy clothes with an abundance of accessories.  Is this what an older woman resorts to in order to be noticed?  Some attention I don't want!

I'm certain there must be a way to tap into other reservoirs of confidence.  I stumbled upon a quote by the extraordinary beauty, Sophia Loren, who if she has aged, no one cares because she is so fascinating:  “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

That's the key, isn't it?  There are so many other things we can bring to the table that have nothing to do with outward appearance.  My desire is to spend my days in quiet service, as the invisible old lady who loses her life hopefully in order to find it.  So what if I have to give up some pride and refocus my priorities.  My family will always love me, I think, as I mellow into the graying matriarch who is the endless source of good meals, fun surprises, and unconditional love.  I may lose my teeth, my figure, my pride, but hopefully I will never lose the twinkle in my eye, the warmth of my wrinkly smile, and the faith in my heart.  These are the priceless assets that draw people toward you, no matter what your age, or your size, or your stature.

What do you remember most about your grandmother?  Did her wrinkly, twinkly smile make you love her less, or more?  Was she fashionably dressed, or simply clean, and sweet smelling with a warm, soft, enveloping embrace?  Did the aromas of her cooking fill her home, making it inviting and welcoming?

The transition is the difficult part.  Watching the decline is frustrating and painful.  I don't care about the aging process in others.  Why can't I cut myself some slack, too?  Why can't I be more accepting of my own youth slipping away?  Because the pace has quickened.  The decline is more noticeable.  The deterioration has become steadier and more blatant.  Perhaps it is time to start wearing red and purple, and saying to heck with it.

No.  I'm not quite there yet.


Kim said...

I've told my kids that they have permission to shoot me the day I buy a sweatshirt complete with polo collar and appliqued kitty.

If you look at the women who've tweaked themselves with surgery to counteract the aging process, you'll realize how ridiculous they look. Look at former cutie Meg Ryan who's lips now look like they've been ironed or Jennifer Grey who no longer looks like the spunky, fun girl from Dirty sad. Now think about Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Jessica Tandy and others who haven't hidden their aging. They are regally beautiful women who's public aging stands as an affirmation to women that we don't need to tweak the things that make us who we are.

And I think you look fabulous....

Erica said...

:) this made me smile and chuckle pleasantly. I still think you look young! We love you the way you are.

Nancy said...

Please Ardith...NO red and purple hat!!!!! I'm not even old enough for that! I don't think I'll ever be old enough for that! Here's what I do, I'm sort of living life in reverse. All those years I wasted thinking I was fat. Those years you see yourself in pictures now and think, "I can't believe I thought I was fat, if only I could be that thin again!", as I put another cookie in my mouth. Now I pretend I'm that thin, I have to avoid mirrors though, but it's working well for me. I'm much happier now and not worrying about what all those people think of me (the ones that don't count and have no idea I exist). It's all in your mental attitude and playing games with your mind ;) Good luck!!
P.S. I think you look great!!

5Youngers said...

I think you are one beautiful woman and I hope I can aquire your grace and confidence one day. For me (I know I'm still in the young catagory) I have found that I had no confidence at all until about 5 years ago. I seem to gain a little more each year. Hopefully I can keep that up and not revert to old habits. You are one amazing woman who is never invisable!