Saturday, June 1, 2013

Aging Gracefully

Youth is glorified in our culture. From airbrushing designed to make people look young to advertisements and movies littered with seemingly perfect people, everyone seems to avoid what is inevitable. Instead of looking forward to the rest of their lives, so many people are held back in fear. I must admit that I think about growing old often, and how to do it well and avoid those fears. I actually did a Google search a few weeks ago to see how different people age well, and most of what I found was pictures of French women in their forties with flawless skin because they never spend any time in the sun, and the rather depressing information that French women accomplish these perfect faces by starting the anti-aging creams in their teenage years. What I was really looking for was ideas on how to age one's heart well, and I watched a movie the other night that gave me several ideas on how to do just that.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was given to me for Christmas by my grandparents, who knew I would enjoy seeing a movie about India to see if I recognized any of the places. The movie took place in Jaipur, a locale that I actually visited, and although I didn't immediately recognize any of the places, many of the cultural sights reminded me of things that I had experienced. The small mishaps that took place in the hotel also reminded me of similar mishaps I encountered (such as having a shower overflow at 11:00 at night...after I had arrived in India one hour beforehand). I enjoyed comparing my experiences with those in the movie, yet what captured my lasting attention was the unfolding stories of seven seniors who struggled with major life changes. The ways in which they dealt with these changes inspired me, and gave me ideas of my own on how to age well.

Many of these ideas were encapsulated in the character of Evelyn (played by Judi Dench). She was radiant in the movie, and it was because she was willing to step outside her comfort zone, and embrace her changing life in the midst of a new culture. There were times, of course, when she was scared or sad, but she never shied away from the difficult cirumstances that she encountered. Instead, she faced them head on, and was empowered through her own positivity and willingness to accept the debt and death of her husband and build on what she had left. She was very honest with herself and with other people.

Her willingness to grow and learn invited others to do the same. The other characters were drawn to her for her cheerfulness and kind nature. Even though Evelyn looked darling in a hybrid of Western and Indian clothes, it was truly her heart and open approach to life that made her beautiful.

The marriage of Douglas and Jean Ainslie (played by Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) stood out as a stark contrast of how not to live one's life. It was scary to witness such a strained, dissolving marriage, and Jean really showed me what kind of person I don't want to become. She chose to be bored inside the hotel, and refused the many offers of her husband to go and see the sights with him. She was constantly negative to her husband, and could not relate well to the other people present in the hotel. I think her character scared me so much because I sometimes think it is all right for me to complain as a way to deal with my emotions. This kind of negative attitude, however, is ultimately destructive, and Jean's character acted as a warning to me to change some of my current attitudes and become a more positive person.

The combination of these two characters gave some color to the painting that I want my life to become. I want to be willing to embrace new beginnings at any age. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone throughout my life, because that place of discomfort is where so much growth takes place. I want my positivity to welcome others in my life to feel happy and to enjoy their own lives. If I move forward inhabiting these attitudes, I can look forward to growing old without the usual fear of growing old that marks so many people in our culture, and that I experience in moments of weakness. The movie reminded me that anything we face in life can turn into something beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. This sentence will be part of my daily mantra:

    "I want to push myself out of my comfort zone throughout my life, because that place of discomfort is where so much growth takes place."

    Lacy, thank you so much for writing this. We are subtly bombarded everywhere we go with messages/advertisements/products/whathaveyou that do their best to persuade us that our worth is not within us; that instead self-worth and self-actualization are tangible/physical/somehow visible results that we then measure by a distorted standard of beauty. I am so glad that you are such a grounded and positive person, you seem to find inspiration and hope in everything(such a rare gift!). And now I really want to see Exotic Marigold Hotel.