I'm 37. I keep telling myself, "You're pushing 40," as if admonishing myself for aging. Before I started "going gray" (another cardinal sin), I told myself I would "age gracefully" by not colouring my hair, as if allowing the gray was the sole indicator of graceful aging. Once I started going gray, I began colouring my hair, unable to keep the promise I made to myself. Keeping a promise to oneself, for starters, might be a better indicator of aging gracefully than asserting that one will never dye her hair.
Secretly, I've spent the last several years fantasizing about shaving my head, dreaming about all the other ways I could spend my time and money. I hate colouring my hair with a box kit at home, nor can I afford to visit the salon regularly for colour maintenance. The chemicals can't be good, nor do I want to bemoan "my roots" every 6-8 weeks. I get nothing out of shampooing, conditioning, combing, brushing, applying product, or styling. And even after all that effort, the humidity, wind, and rain in the South Pacific always have the last laugh.
I'm still not brave enough to shave my head, fearing that I will be deemed "unfeminine" or equated to the likes of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus experiencing a crisis of identity. Better yet, people will assume I have cancer or that I've officially become a Buddhist nun, another fantasy I enjoy in between those of a sexually explicit nature.
Ancient wisdom tells me that aging gracefully is shaving your head if you want to, no matter what people think. Being at peace with giving your money to the hairdresser or embracing the gray. Not equating age with shame because of our image-obsessed culture. Aging gracefully also means letting go of the person you once were and meeting the person you are now - the person who may not marry, may not write for a living or become a midwife, may not see long lost friends as often as she'd like - the person who is usually too tired nursing patients and raising a boy to finish a movie - the person who misses her mom while simultaneously needing to live her life in a country very far from home.
Aging gracefully happens when you let the harmless house spider live peacefully in the corner of your bedroom and experience child-like joy at the sight of waxeyes at sunrise plucking seeds from torch lilies outside your front door. Their season is short and if you're busy doing your hair, you might miss them. Aging beautifully is feeling the familiar anxieties and giving them over to the breath, taking a detour around the rabbit hole of compulsive thinking. It is ritualising mundane pleasures like sinking into the warmth of a down feather quilt, self breast exam in the dark, Willie Nelson singing you to sleep. It is opening up to the possibility you never imagined, the one you still can't conceive of because you still have some graceful aging to do before it arrives by night and settles in beside you as if it had always been there.