Anti-aging culture

I realize that this may sound self-absorbed, but I am turning 65 soon and can find nothing good about it. I’ve felt bad about my birthday every year for the last 20 years. I resent this culture and its demands that I not age, but instead retain the appearance of a 20-year-old. I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but I cannot connect this side of myself with the pressures I feel from this culture. I am angry that society makes me feel so ashamed of what is natural: aging. Do you have any suggestions for me? My daughter suggested that I write to you so I can celebrate myself this birthday instead of hiding and being depressed.

True spirituality inspires us to live outside of the dominant culture’s obsession with the external. Instead, we are attracted to recognizing the beauty of people’s inner landscapes, and we are drawn to maintaining the beauty of our own. But you are grounded completely in the culture you abhor. You criticize American culture for its superficial fixation on youth and appearance, yet you choose to measure yourself according to the culture’s expectations rather than reject them as lifeless.

I say it’s time to integrate your spirituality into all areas of your life so you can see maturity as the polished perfection of the master artist. Perhaps the brilliance of Victor Hugo’s description of an old Catholic woman in Les Misérables will provide encouragement: “Her life, which had been a series of pious works, had cloaked her in a kind of transparent whiteness. And in growing old she had acquired a kind of beauty of goodness. What had been thinness in her youth was, in her maturity, a transparency, and this ethereal quality permitted glimmers of the angel dancing within.”

This birthday, invite yourself to see aging with new eyes. Be so present with yourself and others that you only see the angel dancing within. Be a beacon of light for a different way of living. Your tender heart (and ours) deserves that much.

It seems like all my husband thinks about is the depletion of oil reserves and other impending disasters. I believe it is important, but it’s depressing. I am starting a new business. After listening to his thoughts about the future and how our economy and our society are about to collapse, my venture seems destined to fail. I agree that something needs to happen in terms of energy use in the world, but I am more of a half-full than half-empty person. I really want to listen and honor his concerns, but I find myself tuning him out. He is aware that he might need to find some avenue to release his worries, but he doesn’t yet have a support group. I work with young children and do not want this burden around all the time. Any suggestions?

Worrying about the depletion of oil reserves (and the end of life as we know it) may be the cover for a deeply personal wound that is difficult for your husband to admit. For example, he could be hiding grief about his unlived life and insecurity about not having, doing or being enough. This interpretation seems possible because your husband appears to be in stasis. By contrast, someone imbued with passion about an issue is not content to lament the problem. Passion ignites action that creatively encourages others to change wasteful, selfish ways. I think your husband would benefit from a check-in with a qualified psychotherapist. If all is well, encourage him to join a circle of engaged activists, rather than a circle to release his worries. By refining his anger, he can fuel true change in the world.

Meditation of the Week

What promises did you make to yourself, your loved ones and your god when the World Trade Center collapsed? If you thought the world changed on 9/11, why are you back to the same old attitudes, behaviors and over-scheduled life?