A week or so ago, I was walking across a parking lot into a Publix where I used to shop in a past life. By that I mean when I was married to my first husband. It was the Publix in the neighborhood where I lived with him so many years ago. This was the place where I bought our family groceries. As I got out of my car and walked toward the door, there was another woman getting out of her car. Big, expensive SUV. Small children she was helping out of the vehicle. The woman was in her mid to late 30's; tan, muscular arms, shapely athletic legs. She was what some might call a MILF. "That used to be me", I thought to myself. "I used to look like that. I used to feel strong and sexy."
I got closer to the store front in the bright sunlight. I saw my reflection in the dark glass. My gray-white hair was straight and flat against my head, in bad need of a cut. My shorts and t-shirt well-worn and faded. My body thicker than it used to be, the skin above my knees showing signs of gravity and years on the planet. "Where did she go, that woman who could turn heads when she entered a room?", I thought to myself. "I still feel her in here." I don't feel so different than I was, until I see myself in a mirror or catch sight of my reflection in the glass.
This summer I will be 55. I'm not the woman I used to be, and I'm glad of that. I really like the woman I am. I couldn't say that years ago. Today I am learning to embrace all of me. Some days are better than others. I planned a trip to the beach. Going with my almost-thirty-year-old daughter and her same-aged friend, Megan is not difficult when they are so many years younger. With a big enough age difference, I can be free from the internal comparison that women so often do - our legacy as women. I don't know a woman who doesn't know intimately that internal dialogue. But I also invited a woman my same age. A woman who I have reconnected with after many years. A woman who takes care of her physical body in a way that I no longer do. In fact, all those years ago, she and I taught fitness classes and worked together at a health club. She knew me then. She knew me when I had 16% body fat and a sculpted body so that strangers looked at me and regularly commented, "Do you work out?" Then, when I used to weigh and measure my portions, count fat grams, and sometimes carry my food in a cooler into restaurants because they didn't have the food I ate.
I felt the anxiety rising at the thought of her seeing me in a bathing suit now... the thought of seeing her in a bathing suit, still muscular and trim, sexy and youthful. She is my same age. There would be no fooling myself with age reasoning. But today I feed my soul in a way I didn't so many years ago. Today I like myself. Today I have a good healthy dose of self-acceptance. So I told her how I felt. I spoke aloud my fears... not so much because I trusted her, but because I trust me. I trust that I love me right now in this moment without changing or improving upon one single thing. And THAT, Dear women, is true freedom.
On the Saturday before we left for the beach, I sat in circle with "my gurlz", the women who love me and have my back. It was a good and healing circle. A safe place to speak our truth and share our experiences, struggles, and triumphs. After circle, we were invited to stay, have lunch and sit my the pool. The woman who is joining me for the beach trip was there. It was just the two of us in the room by the pool area. I was in my suit and wrapping a towel around me. She saw me and said, "Oh I was wondering if anyone else was going to wear a swimsuit." I said, "Yes, but as you can see, I am wrapping myself up in my towel", and I pulled the long beach towel around me from both sides. "Alright", she said with a grin. "Let's see it. All of it!" and I stepped into that place of soulful knowing and loving self-acceptance and threw open my towel from both sides, striking a playfully confident pose in all my 55 year-old glory. She responded with words of enthusiasm, love, joy, and encouragement. I don't even remember what they were. What I do remember is what it felt like to let go and be seen, really seen, all of me right here and now, wrinkled skin, blue veins, fuller hips and thighs; a beautiful, radiant, sensual being. Me.
And here we are, our first full day at the beach; my daughter, her friend Megan, my friend, and me. Four women in different stages of their lives being our beautiful, radiant, woman-selves. I breathe easily into who I am and am becoming. I welcome her, this wisened woman that I am. Today I embrace and celebrate her.