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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Age has taken my beauty, but not my youth

My two sisters and I when we were young and thin.
I've always referred to this as the "Three Graces" after
the Greek statue.   

               Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
                 Old time is still a-flying;
                And this same flower that smiles today,
                   Tomorrow will be dying.
                (Robert Herrick, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time")
               But at my back I always hear
               Time's winge'd chariot hurrying near
               And yonder all before us lie
               Deserts of vast eternity.
              (Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress")

       When I used to discuss the full version of these poems with my high school students, I
always knew they did not relate very much to the brevity of life implicit in the meaning.  They did understand, however, that both poems were written by men hoping to convince their ladies to make the most of time to love, the carpe diem (seize the day) idea.
        Now that I'm an old retired teacher, I understand even better that time passes quickly and that youth and beauty are brief. I think of the lines from these poems sometimes 
when I look in the mirror and when I see my beautiful grandchilden and young neighbors.  They don't know how beautiful their youth is. I didn't either at their ages.  For me, looking at old photos and not remembering looking so young is a terrible reminder of time's passage. Aging is a dilemma of our lives and part of the human condition written about so often.
      We've all seen favorite, aging celebrities trying to hold onto youth through surgery and drastic weight loss.  Most of us try to thwart age with hair dye, moisturizers, exercise, and we can hold off the appearance of age for a while, but eventually, time has its way.  Our appearance changes, our lifestyles change, our family and friends die.  How can we reconcile these things and maintain happiness.
     We can say that we must simply enjoy the time we have left.  Perhaps this is the only solution.  I have found more personal tolerance in aging.  I am more accepting of differences in people and situations.  I've developed a sort of laissez-faire attitude regarding the attitudes of other people. Let them think what they will, and let me think as I will.  Perhaps the only exception is in politics.  I've become more political.  Yes, liberal political, which amazing to me, is now a sort of dirty word.  
      And appearance.  What do we do about the look of age.  Like it or not, no matter what we 
do, we will lose our youthful figures, skin, hair and even our lithe movements.  At this moment, and that may change tomorrow, I try to look the best I can by keeping up with hair and clothing styles and maintaining a reasonable weight, not too fat, not too skinny.   It is not necessary to go to drastic measures.  Most are fleeting, anyway.  Face and body lifts eventually fail. 
      I think youth wants to control life more than age does, but you do learn with time, that life is not controllable. This not needing to struggle so hard to keep up, to get ahead, to "make it " is
the comfortable aspect of aging.  Tolerance and acceptance of new ideas are considered the territory of youth.  If that is true, then having those attitudes as we age is a return to youthful idealism, but with some wisdom.  Then, okay, that being the case, age has taken my beauty, but not my youth. 

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