Mum and I doing our "Calvert" face; many siblings on my dad's side of the family smile this way.
I begin this blog today, on September 14th, on what would have been my mum’s ?? birthday. I use the ?? because she didn’t want people to know how old she was. When she met my dad, she shaved a few years off her real age, and from that moment on, she was several years younger than she really was. The moment we found out about her real age, was like a scene from Seinfeld. We were in the synagogue in Toronto, just after my uncle Alan had passed away, and the rabbi asked Mum how much younger she was than Alan. My nana chimed in, “Five years.” My sister and I looked at each other, and were confused, doing the quick math in our heads. My mum then became irritable, “Oh Mum, shut up!” We then realized that our own mother had been living a lie. All in the name of love. All in the name of feeling too old for my dad, or feeling like she was not enough. At the time, we laughed about it, and even when she died, we refused to let anyone know her real age. It has become a family joke, and we honour her legacy by never exposing just how old she really was. Recently, I’ve been thinking about why she felt she had to lie, and how this little lie, and others like it, can be insidious with regard to self-esteem and self-worth.
In the past few months I’ve been witnessing my own responses to the ageing process. Since I shaved off my long blond locks in April, my new tresses have been coming back in a whole new way: mostly gray. Sometimes when I’d look in the mirror I’d shirk and wonder who that old lady was in the reflection. Granted, the lighting in my bathroom is horrific and even Heidi Klum would look lacklustre, but I digress. The point is, there have been moments when I’ve been resisting my age, and actually even resenting my age. The whole point of me getting rid of my hair was to experiment with my identity and my ego, and I have to admit, I haven’t been feeling super elevated and self-realized all the time. Then the guilt and shame of feeling less than sets in, which can leave me feeling worse. What kind of a yoga teacher am I if I’m still attached to my appearance?! I’m a sham! Worse...I’m an old sham! And so on.
Mind you, these thoughts are not always at the forefront of my mind; the majority of the time I’m doing really well, and feel confident and clear, despite the gray tresses (and the sun spots, and the new wrinkles around my eyes and lips). A few weeks ago I visited a wonderful healer in Chiripo named Kristen Grayce McGary. Together, she and I did some deep healing work, with focus on shifting some ancestral wounds and letting go of some “stuff” that isn’t even mine. I believe that the whole ageing thing was one thing that I had to let go of. I remember Mum looking in the mirror and drawing the skin on her neck back, and musing aloud, “See? If this was just a bit tighter...” I personally didn’t notice any difference. To me, she was still my amazing mother; stunning gray-green eyes full of light and fun, beautiful beaming smile and hearty laugh. I wondered why she thought that having her cheeks or neck a bit tighter would make a difference. Now, entering mid-life, I notice my own thoughts, and see that I have had moments whereby I thought that my face was starting to sag a bit, and I feel old. With the work I’ve been doing to set myself free of ancestral wounds and old beliefs, I’v been able to shift this. A lot.
Immediately I now catch myself, and if and when those self-destructive thoughts arise, and reframe them into feeling “older and wiser” versus “old.” I’m so much more aware of what I like, what I dislike, where I want to put my energy, and letting go of old patterns that don’t serve me anymore. I see the freckles on my face and feel gratitude that I spend so much time in the sun. Every summer I spent outside at camp, and as a young adult teaching sailing. I see the wrinkles around my lips and eyes and remember all of those winter days skiing in the alpine mountains of Canada and France. Lips chapped from the cold, heart warm with the joy of swishing around in snow. This beautiful rich life and all the elements in nature have all left their mark on my skin, and etched their stories into my soul. The stories and essence of my ancestors also leave their mark, and it is only with this age and discernment that I can now choose which stories serve me, and which stories I can release. With love. With gratitude. With wisdom. Happy birthday dear Mum. You were, and always will be enough. A-ho.