There are a few things about aging that have surprised me. They are the ones I’ve noticed today that I am sure were not there yesterday. Aging can be as simple as the deepening fine lines around my eyes or the wrinkling of skin on my once taut thighs. I have to admit that the moment of noticing catches me off guard as I wonder: When did this happen? Certainly not overnight! Yet somehow the angle that I’m presently gazing at my body has produced evidence of the deepening and the wrinkling. And in this moment I purpose to take a deep breath, choose kindness for myself and accept the goodness of my body that has carried me into my 70’s.
Once again this embrace of kindness did not happen over night. It has been growing in my heart through my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. These years brought a new appreciation for the strength and resilience of my body coupled with the beauty presented through the fine lines that deepened with each decade. These years carried a sense of freedom as my children were married, grandchildren came along and my energy ran high. My body was healing as it became unburdened of shame, guilt and secrecy of those earlier decades in life when I abused my body through eating disorders. This growing freedom of age allowed me to enjoy the privilege of doing ministry and travel and the new energy to engage life.
I thought I had done it all until my sister-in-law and I started to explore the idea of tattoos, in particular the ones involving eyeliner for our eyes. I wondered is it possible I would no longer have to mess with those pencils that smear and smudge around my eyes? Is it possible I would no longer have to rub so hard to remove the liner? YES, it is.
I decided to run the tattoo idea by a couple of my close friends. Both were dead set against it for different reasons. One because it smeared (migration) and the other was they both knew someone who had it done and it simply looked terrible. OK. So do I listen to my friends or go with my sister-in-law and get it done. I chose the latter and I am so glad I did. I liked it so well I returned the following year and had my eyebrows done.
Now what I’ve done over the past few years with tattoos has nothing to do with ministry or travel. It is my personal preference. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would have done this, my answer would have been a resounding, “No!” Yet today I realize that my aging is fluid. In some ways I threw caution to the wind with my tattoos. And it was a decided fun way to usher in my 70’s. And, yes, I love the way they look each day when I look into the mirror.
There is another side to the 70’s that has shifted as well. I’m discovering that my body that was energized for decades doesn’t seem to have the same drive as it did before. I still exercise but perhaps not as long or necessarily walk or bike as far. It is not that I don’t want to, it is more about what it means for me to listen to the rhythms of what my body is telling me each day.
It is about the kindness and care of resting gracefully and leaning into the beauty of what it means to be aging.
Each decade brings a new awareness of something shifting as my body ages. I’m noticing more sagging, wrinkles and redistribution of weight but I’m also noticing the peace and calm that comes with relaxing into the process. I believe there is nothing more beautiful than the steadiness, faithfulness and innovative ways a woman can age. Tattoos or no tattoos, I know I am continuing to seek out those ways that bring a new joy and beauty into my days.
Mary Jane Hamilton loves her life living on Lake Michigan with her husband of 48+ years. It is her family that brings her the greatest joy especially her 6 grandchildren. MJ readily admits that she adores her dachshunds and rests in the comfort they provide. She smiles at life and “rolls with the punches”. MJ loves Jesus and beauty, MJ loves wind, waves and thunder, MJ loves fashion and good wine, MJ loves…&n