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Article:   Celebrate Long Life, Don't Hate Older Age

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
September 7, 2007

I was walking my dogs one morning last week when I ran into a fellow dog-lover I know. She had gotten her hair cut really short since I had last seen her and I commented on how great she looked.

"Thanks", she replied. "I got tired of coloring it and wanted to let it all grow out but it was taking too long. So, I cut it all off." I thought she looked beautiful with her hair natural.

(Being a fan of the natural look, I've never colored my hair in the almost sixty years I've been alive.)

"I've always admired your hair, Janet. Your gray is really beautiful." (Ah, the silver fox!)

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so extolling the virtues of growing older, or rather I was extolling. She wasn't so sure.

I absolutely love my age, I told her. Being more than half a century old has its perks. With age, comes so many gifts that youth is not privy to. And no, I am not talking about arthritis, weight gain and AARP benefits.

I'm referring to such things as the knowledge we acquire from life experience as opposed to learning just from a book; the patience that grows from understanding that all things come in due time; the wisdom of having a much deeper understanding of life and human nature; a quiet confidence that emerges from successfully facing life's unexpected challenges; a deeper sense of appreciation for what we still have left after having had and lost so much; the freedom to be true to ourselves and not give a hoot if we don't fit in with society's expectations of who we 'should' be; a more relaxed approach to life and less of a need to control things around us; a sense of peace and contentment that arises from choosing to let go of so much unnecessary anger.

"You couldn't pay me enough money to go back to my twenties, thirties, or even my forties. So far, this has been the best decade of my life and I fully expect the next to be even greater, and the next after that, and the next after that."

My friend looked a bit surprised.

"Look," I explained to her. "Growing older doesn't mean slowing down." (You notice I said 'older' not 'old'? Every day we age, but 'old' is allowing yourself give up on life.) "It doesn't mean becoming weak or loosing purpose. My life is infinitely better now than it was when I was younger because I choose to make it more exciting and fulfilling each and every day. There is so much more that I want to do with my life that I was not prepared to do when I was younger. I also now understand what my purpose in life is. When I was younger, I had a job. Now I have a mission. When others my age are planning to retire, I'm cranking things up a notch professionally and personally. I have no intention of slowing down, not even one iota, for at least the next thirty years.' (I'll reevaluate my position when I'm approaching the big 9-0.)

She seemed somewhat amused by my attitude.

"Do you know what an honor it is to be our age? How many women are not privileged enough to say 'I'm sixty years old' because they never made it that far? I may be fifty-eight but I only feel thirty-five and isn't that what really counts, how we feel? Someone recently said to me, 'You know, Janet, you could look fifteen years younger if you dyed your hair.' I surprised them by responding with, 'Thanks but fifteen years ago I looked fifteen years younger. I don't need to go back there.' I'm not ashamed to look my age as long as I look (and feel) good for that age."

So ladies, celebrate those numbers! You are more beautiful and valuable than ever before. Honor your age in every sense of the word. Express gratitude for all the years life has given you. Know that this world is truly blessed to still have your presence.

I wear my crow's feet with pride. I flaunt my naturally silver hair. And I say to the world, 'HOORAY FOR GRAY CAUSE MINE'S HERE TO STAY!'

My friend chuckled.

Janet Pfeiffer is a Fresh Voices columnist for the Daily Record.

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