No, I don’t actually love my wrinkles. At least, not yet.
Which is why I am writing this piece, for anyone who has an ambivalent relationship with their own wrinkles.
They are part of a body that is aging. Perhaps that’s why I’m not so keen – it’s evidence right before my eyes that actually, despite how I feel inside, I am on the downhill slope, as it is sometimes referred to.
I first noticed wrinkles on my face one morning. They appeared to have visited overnight and taken up squatting rights then and there.
How come I hadn’t notice them creeping up?
What could I do about it? The sobering fact was not much.
Fortunately, I could see the funny side of this, and also I decided to emphasise the fact that I had so many wrinkles on my cheeks because I smiled so much. It’s debatable whether that is true or not, but I’m choosing to believe it.
Because the real truth is I have no idea why I have so many on my face and someone else of a similar age has none. Like my husband. How on earth has he, who never takes care of his skin and never has done, managed to have a wrinkle free zone on his cheeks? Not fair, grumble, grumble, says my inner crosspatch.
And of course it’s not fair. But that is such a good way to feel bad that I don’t focus on it.
Instead, I laugh with my hairdresser, aged all of 28, who told me proudly she had botox done the other day on her forehead. She showed me in the mirror:
‘Look! I’m raising my eyebrows!’ I couldn’t see a thing. ‘I have to tell my husband now when I’m frowning,’ and she laughed. So did I, at the absurdity of such a youngster feeling the need to disappear her wrinkles.
So why exactly are wrinkles so often unloved?
Well, when you live in a society which surrounds itself with anti-aging products, and you’re exposed to those at an early age, it’s easy to see why one grows up believing that any sign at all of aging is negative.
So to counteract that, yes, I choose to believe that I’ve smiled a lot in life. (Hang on, says the inner crosspatch – smiling doesn’t affect the wrinkles on my neck, my thighs or my upper arms!) Hallo, thank you for sharing, now off you go, says I.
I choose to believe that the laughter lines aren’t just signs of time passing by; they’re symbols of a life richly lived, each line telling a tale of experiences that have woven the fabric of who I am today.
If I look at it like this, then my body is displaying a very rich and vibrant fabric indeed – all sorts of different colours, textures and patterns combined together, and a well-loved fabric at that.
But – there is still an effort involved in directing my mind to go down the path of each wrinkle holding a memory, a moment, or a fragment of my history, and rejoicing in that.
And then to admit that it’s only going to get worse, as in more wrinkles?
Well, as I said before, I really have to laugh at that! Thus I am now on a mission to expose more of my body (here’s a photo of me in my new shorts, showing legs that haven’t been seen by the outside world since my thirties).
I want to stop hiding it so those in younger looking skins might realise that one day, they too will look like this.
(Why, oh why, did I not appreciate more fully my body when it was younger? So sad, or ironically laughable, depending on your viewpoint.)
I dared to try on a pair of short shorts in a shop. They were so comfy, and yet, looking down I could see all these wrinkles on my thighs – how did that happen, just like on my face?
But I was damned if I was going to let my thoughts about hiding them take precedence. So I bought them. Wore them in the garden first, so I could get used to them. Walked to the end of the road to the postbox next. Then up the high street. I felt so daring! And you know what? No-one noticed. Or if they did, I didn’t care.
So lesson learnt. Even though my mum had said to me once that ‘one should always cover up ones’ legs and upper arms at a certain age’, I have decided to overturn this inherited thinking. Watch out everyone!
However, there is a light in this all this. In my research for this piece, I discovered a new way to look at my wrinkles. They are viewed in our society as imperfections.
But in actuality, it is these misnamed imperfections that define my uniqueness.
In my life challenges, I have discovered a huge capacity to love, despite the so-called imperfections (be they wrinkles, mental health issues, death, divorce, or whatever).
For instance, after the death of my first husband which I wrote about in Gifted By Grief, I realised I had been holding back fully loving him. When I understood this, and why it had happened, I promised to myself that if I ever got the chance to fall in love again, I would keep my heart fully open.
I did get that chance, and I am now very happily married again, but it’s had its challenges! In the early days in particular, I could literally feel my heart closing, and quite often too. Ultimately though, this promise has enabled me to love even more fully, to grow and to rejoice in another shared relationship with a new husband, and one who doesn’t even notice the wrinkles.
So it’s in my ability (and of course yours) to rise above these challenges and incorporate them into our lives. In doing this, I see I’ve not only embraced my vulnerability, but also uncovered a core of strength of which I was previously unaware.Which reminds me – my first husband had a wonderful saying ‘In your vulnerability lies your strength’.
Now that is quite something. Because as you will probably know, when you are being vulnerable you usually don’t feel very strong! More likely, it will be a wobbly time.So perhaps now, when I look in the mirror, or on a video screen, I can see these facial wrinkles differently.
Perhaps I can look and see not just a wealth of wisdom in each one and an indication of resilience that only keeps on growing.
Perhaps I can also see them as evidence of wisdom gained, strength uncovered, and capacity to love even more fully. Now, the post-it note on my noticeboard means something more to me, and something I can embrace more.
‘Wrinkles are good. They are a sign of a life fully lived, and evidence of wisdom gained.’
Oh yeah!. I just temporarily forgot
Jane Duncan Rogers, aged 66, coach, author, speaker and founder of social enterprise Before I Go Solutions, a training organisation that provides products and programmes to help people get their end of life plans done. beforeigosolutions.com