Our society is obsessed with age – and how to keep looking as young as possible. This week, with the nation observing the sacrifices made by soldiers in past conflicts as part of Remembrance Day, it is a fitting time to consider that growing old is a privilege.
We recognise men and women from all conflicts during Remembrance Day, but as this year being the centenary of the start of the First World War, the carnage has a special poignancy.
I have always found this excerpt from the Ode of Remembrance particularly moving:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
So many of the losses were young men – many of them still boys – their lives ahead of them. They were denied the opportunity to get wrinkles, grey hair, develop aches and pains by a bullet, shell, or gas.
I remember fearing my 30th birthday – it felt so old! Of course, having reached the milestone I realised there was actually no difference. No, that’s not quite true: I think my thirties have been my best decade in terms of personal development, gaining confidence, and liking myself.
That said, I was keen to conceal the signs of ageing: I coloured my hair religiously every month to cover my grey roots, and fretted over lines that were appearing around my eyes.
This year has reinforced just how fortunate I am to be growing older. In February, I came close to never celebrating another birthday. For a time, while I was recovering in hospital, caring for my baby in the neonatal unit and then mourning his death, my personal appearance was at the bottom of my priorities.
Today, some seven months later, I have returned to taking a pride in my appearance, but I don’t obsess over it. I have more grey hair, but I colour it every eight weeks, rather than every month. So what if there is a bit of extra root growth. Despite using eye cream deeper lines have appeared around my eyes. Those lines are the result of now being closer to 40 than 30 – not to mention the amount of tears I have shed this year.
My son, Hugo, died when he was 35 days old. He will forever be a baby. Hugo will never grow up, celebrate a birthday, blow out candles on a birthday cake, go to school, or any other milestones.
To put it in perspective, grey hair and lined eyes are not the worst thing that can happen.
Ageing is a blessing, a privilege denied to so many, whether from conflict, illness, murder, accidents, or anything else.
There is beauty in ageing.
Perhaps we cannot be encouraged to go so far as to celebrate grey hair, lined eyes, achy joints, sagging boobs and all the other signs of ageing. I don’t think many of us actually enjoy those marks of life.
However, we should reconsider the way we think about ageing and realise how fortunate we are that we have lived long enough to have those things to moan about.
Linking up with Mum Turned Mom with the prompt word ‘age’