Embracing Aging: I Want to Be Shiny from the Inside

Relaxation

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“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Yesterday my son called me from college and asked about my day. I told him about my morning, which entailed celebrating my friend’s birthday with her daughter.

My friend passed away almost two years ago. Her daughter reached out to me a couple weeks ago and asked if I would share my morning with her to honor her mom. What a privilege and honor. Hands down YES to that.

The celebration was full of smiles, laughs, tea, stories, tears, yoga mats, birds, fresh air, and tight hugs. As I told my son the story, he asked if my friend’s daughter is cute. (Let’s acknowledge the fact that he asked zero questions about how my friend’s daughter is doing and said nothing about the depth of the meeting.)

“Yes. She’s very cute,” I said. “And I think she’s a bit old for you.”

“How old?” he asked.

“Hmm, I think twenty-eight or twenty-nine,” I replied.

“Oh my god, Mom, she’s a dinosaur.”

My son is twenty. I giggled to myself. If she’s a dinosaur, then I’m…

My friend died because cancer ravaged her body. She fought so hard and had the best attitude, and sprinkled it with humor, which was even more admirable. I miss her every day. I also had cancer, but I am a lucky one. It is now gone, in my rearview mirror, and I’m very grateful. What happened to my perspective along the way is still gnawing at me, though.

I received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2019. I endured chemo, radiation, being bald, living with a port installed inside of my body, chemo pills, and surgery.

What happened after all of my treatments was probably even more challenging. I kept getting sick. One thing after another—diverticulitis, which causes excruciating stomach pain and generally requires antibiotics to cure, UTIs, severe brain fog, reflux, the flu, food poisoning…

It was clear to me that my body was very compromised after cancer due to my immune system getting challenged by all the protocols, and of course the cancer itself. I have been working with an integrative practitioner to clean up my system and to get strong and hardy. This has been hard and arduous work, but I’m not afraid of working.

I started working when I was nine years old, delivering papers in the snow, sleet, and ice in Colorado. I paid for my college and worked three to four jobs the entire time so that I could graduate and get a degree.

My amazing, helpful husband and I raised three boys who went through a myriad of large, not tiny, struggles. I have run six marathons. I consider myself pretty resilient, but this work I have done to get back to homeostasis after cancer has been the most challenging thing I’ve endured. It has been more taxing than the cancer.

There were at least seven days, probably more like twice that number, when I truly thought I was dying. My body was sapped of energy and was fighting to rid itself of the bacteria, mold, metals, candida, and H. pylori. I would lie in bed and try to meditate, but my brain fog was so severe that this was challenging. My body would finally succumb to sleep, only to do it all over the next day.

I woke up feeling horrible for two years. I was preoccupied with my health. It was almost all I thought about. I had not been sick all my life until my diagnosis, at age fifty-two.

I used to feel sorry for friends and for my boys and husband when they were sick. I didn’t even understand it. How could people get sick so often? When I was sick, though, I realized being sick changes everything.

It’s hard to concentrate; it’s hard to focus on others and/or reach out; it’s hard to care. Yes, it is hard to care. It was hard to care about anything other than trying to feel better and hoping I would. Many days I lost hope by the end of the day. My brain did not work right, so I felt numb most of the time. There were a few days when I would not have been upset if I didn’t make it through the night.

I am still working daily with food, supplements, breath, yoga, walking, running, and meditation. I am elated to say I haven’t had that feeling of imminent death in months. My brain fog is gone. I’m sleeping well, and all the other things that were really messed up are now going swimmingly well. I often joke that we are all just big babies because poop and sleep are everything, and baby, I’m pooping and sleeping.

Lately, I’m noticing a new set of thoughts that have entered my brain daily. I am certain it is because I have so much room and time now that I’m not working hard to stay alive. I am not worried about the cancer returning or dying from being so sick anymore.

I have now started noticing how I look. Before cancer, I cared enough to drag myself to Target to get a few items to wear so that I didn’t look like I was living in another decade, or I would order clothes online once in a while. I have always worked out, so I stayed in shape, but I actually glean more from the mental effects of working out, rather than the physical benefits.

I’ve always brushed my hair and teeth and put on some mascara, but I’ve been a “less is more” person. Now I’m realizing that it all worked well when I was younger and didn’t have the lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin.

It’s so interesting to me that during all of my health struggles I never thought about how I looked. Don’t get me wrong, I did not get excited about being bald, but I plopped a wig and a baseball hat on my conehead and kept moving.

Currently, I seem to think about my looks way too often. I do not like it at all. I like to think about how I can make a difference in my little world, how to help others, and how to be a better mom, wife, friend, and teacher. I do not enjoy the thoughts about my extra skin from surgery and from age.

What makes it even worse is that I have an inner compass that is not interested in doing one thing to my body or face. I actually think it’s interesting to see new lines on my face. I’m not saying I like them, but I find it fascinating when they show up out of nowhere.

I think I’m grappling with this because 99% of my friends do botox, fillers, and/or face lifts. When I am around them, I notice their shiny pulled back foreheads, their plump cheeks, and their jacked-up lips.

I actually do not like this look at all. To me, everyone that does this starts to look the same—alien-like. However, I also do not love the look I sport (old and tired). What a weird place that I don’t want to do anything about it and I don’t enjoy how I look.

When I meet up with a friend that I haven’t seen in a bit, I’m sure she is thinking, “Good lord, she looks old. Why doesn’t she do botox at least?” But I’m thinking, “Geez, you don’t look like yourself anymore.”

I notice actresses that possibly share the same thoughts I have, and I get so excited to see natural older women. I feel for them because they are in the public eye. When I saw Dear Edward I thought Connie Britton looked so beautiful and real. I saw some lines, and she looked so natural. Yay. I wanted to thank her for looking like a real female in her fifties. It warmed my heart.

This new internal battle of mine won’t get the best of me. I feel like it’s helpful to even get it all out on paper. Now I get to work on my mind. I am intrigued by the amount of work we can do if we can rein in our thoughts and feelings. This is one of the many reasons that I teach yoga, breath, and meditation. They all can help us with our monkey minds.

This is not easy work, but I’m up for it. I want to be so shiny from the inside that people don’t even notice my looks, and I don’t either.

You know when someone walks into a room and their energy and light draws you to them? Many times, that person isn’t even pretty or handsome, but they exude such a peace that you want to be in their presence.

For me, that is being fully aware of my uniqueness, completely vulnerable, and keeping my heart and soul open to every person I encounter and everything that arises. I am not there yet, but I’m acknowledging the struggle. Isn’t that the first step?

After every class I teach, we end with “namaste,” which translates to the light in me honors and salutes the light in you. If you’re also grappling with your aging face and body, I honor your light. Shine on!

**Image generated by AI

About Laura Pastor

Laura Pastor can be reached at gumprun@austin.rr.com. You can find her teaching yoga on her dock or at Lake Austin Spa or playing with her shiny dogs. She wrote a manuscript about her struggles with breast cancer and had a few friends collaborate so that there would be diverse stories within the book. She is hoping to publish it soon so that others going through cancer can find hope and connection.

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