October 07, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Self-Acceptance

This week's beauty is Maureen Umehara. I met Maureen this past summer at a weekend gathering up in Maine with some of the women from The Revelation Project. I was immediately attracted to Maureen's warmth, honesty, and intelligence, and was hopeful that she would someday share some of her insights about the world around her with all of us at Lines of Beauty.

I bring you Maureen:

"Louise is such a kind and insightful soul. I am honored to have met her and to be asked to write a post for her blog.  In thinking of aging gracefully, as with many things, I have to say I don’t have all the answers. But I do enjoy asking the question and seeing what arises.  

I think aging gracefully is about staying active. One thing I admire about my parents is that they continue to stay active physically and mentally. Whether it’s a walk for exercise, a book club, a game of golf or just a social hour with friends, they keep busy doing the things they enjoy. Interestingly enough I think this can be both challenging and beneficial at any age.  

I found when I turned 40 that I had not been making time for the things I enjoyed (and started to lose touch with what they even were). So I made myself a “Passion Pact” to rediscover and make time for things that renewed and energized me. Ultimately that meant making time for and rediscovering me.

How would I describe myself right now? I'm a wife and mom of 2 beautiful daughters, an expressive therapist, an organizer of a women’s club (soon to be closed), and a writer for A Mom Knows Best and the Tiverton Patch. This year I am getting back in touch with myself and my creativity through art and writing. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to connect with insightful people for insightful and inspired discussions.

However, one thing I have learned is that these and any roles I choose to do and be don’t truly define me. We are so much more than any role we take. If I let one role go I am not less of a person. I am just making room for other parts of myself to surface (this took me a long time to learn!). I remember an accomplished, sprite older woman informing me that she figured she re-created herself about every 10 years!  

I think our self-concept continues to change as we grow older. As our old self-concepts break, we often grieve for the loss of that self-concept and feel broken. However, we can also choose a different perspective. We can choose to see our self- concept like an egg. It feels whole for a short time, however, eventually it needs to crack and break in order for new life and new opportunities to arise. If we cling to the old shell/self-concept we will be stuck in what is broken and miss out on the new expanded self-concept that can arise.  

think a big part about aging gracefully is accepting yourself for all of who you are, the good parts and the imperfect parts (the more we live the more we find of both). So maybe it’s about finding a way to be at peace with ourselves. The more we are at peace with ourselves,  the less time we’ll spend being distracted by our inner hurdles and the more time we can focus outward helping and connecting to others. 

I started by saying that aging gracefully is about staying active. Maybe we need to be active in many ways, including having and allowing movement in our self-concept. Who we “think” we are can never fully encapsulate all of who we are, life is a continual game of discovery.  

Ultimately I think aging gracefully is about accepting who you are and continually learning about and embracing life.  But actually, maybe it’s not just about aging gracefully. Maybe it’s more about living gracefully at any age."

Thank you for your great contribution Maureen. And thank you for your reminder that it is absolutely okay, and healthy, to let go of things that have formally defined us to allow us make space for the new.  I also like the quote that was at the bottom of your email:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor Frankl

Egg photo credit: Digitalart