Last week was my birthday. Since I turned 50 I’ve been waking up first thing in the morning to take a selfie.
This one turned out a little darker than I’d hoped-it looked different on my phone.
I started this selfie tradition as an attempt to be seen and to get more comfortable with selfies.
Now, there’s an internet trend for people born in the 60s and 70s to show our faces.Be seen and don’t disappear because we’re older.
Being seen, especially as a woman over 40 in the US isn’t an easy thing. It’s very easy to disappear unless you make an effort to stand in your power in be seen.
At a certain point in your life, right around 40, you notice that you’re invisible. While the absence of catcalls is a delight, women over a certain age get ignored in public overwhelmingly. Our US culture has a weird fascination with youth. A bartender is more likely to overlook us, even though we’re more likely to run a larger bar tab. Women 40 and older get cut off in lines and in traffic more. Even our doctors, our chosen advocates, are less likely to take us seriously or listen to us genuinely. It is how female heart attacks and tricky to diagnose cancers kill us. Not because we’re older and more prone to these health issues, but because when we .describe our symptoms we’re told it’s probably nothing, or it’s just a part of aging or that it’s not that bad. If you’re a woman of color you’re even less likely to be heard in the doctor’s office. Your doctor may be a perfectly wonderful doctor, but their training is woefully lacking.
It can be depressing. Instead, I choose to dance in the glory of age and wisdom. In our 40s and 50s women generally have more autonomy, more financial power and better sense of who we are than we did 20 years ago.
I’ll take it over catcalls any day.
As a yogi, who I am mind/body/spirit is stronger, clearer, more comfortable than any time in my life. I feel strong and powerful on the mat in a way that I never did in my 20s. My body, while there’s a bit more of it, is way better than it was 33 years ago.
As a yoga teacher, with over 20 years experience I am more confident and have more fun in my classes. I step proudly into my expert status than ever before. If you don’t like my classes or the way I teach, it’s not because I’m not a great teacher, it’s because you and I are not a good match. And that’s okay. There are a lot of other teachers out there. So, keep trying classes, until you find your teacher.
I often say that EVERY body can practice yoga. And what I mean by that is that there is a class for everyone. I tend to talk a lot in class, mostly because I’m a talker, but also because many of my students have anxiety, ADHD or trauma. Sometimes laying on a mat with eyes closed in silence can be overwhelming. So, I mix in a bit more talking with moments of silence than the average class. Not everyone enjoys that.
And that’s okay, but it took me a lot of years of teaching, and quite a few years on the mat to accept that and not feel bad if a student doesn’t come back to my class.
This is the joy of getting older. Being 53 means that I can let a lot more roll off my back. Not in a defiant, Who the fuck cares way, but in a gentle, healthy way. I can accept it in a place where I can see my beauty as a teacher along with their beauty as a student who is searching, growing and learning. I can see our beauty as humans on a path.
If there’s something I could tell my younger self, I think it wouldn’t be the usual platitudes. I think I would tell 20 year old Melissa that your 20s are something to get through. Melissa, I would say, it’s going to get better. So much better. You will not worry so much later, you will find greater joy in simple things, you will be on top of your game with some experience under your belt. I would say enjoy your 20s, don’t stress, keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that everything you’re yearning for will come.
As I look around my life this morning, meditating on Clarity, our focus for the session I acknowledge that I don’t have the things that I yearned for in my 20s. The material things that I hoped for are far less important and all the other stuff is so much bigger. It’s a good life in a way that I couldn’t conceive in my 20s or even my 30s.
This is 53.