Perhaps the ultimate lesson of getting older is learning to check our egos at the door. Losing our dignity and independence is the fear beneath our anxiety about aging. It's not so much the lines and sunspots on our faces; it's more what the lines and sunspots signal: that life moves in only one direction. Yet every day the sun rises, and each day is our own. I'm reminded of the Emerson quote: "No one suspects the days to be gods." The one advantage of being older is knowing that our days truly are numbered. Every morning we should wake up and think: "I can be an asshole, or I can be a badass."
Consider Don Wildman. Don is the guy who founded the company that became Bally Total Fitness, but around our house he's known for his nine Ironman competitions, his devotion to heli-snowboarding, mountain biking, and stand-up paddling. If I haven't seen him around for a while, I assume he's off running a marathon or paddling the length of the Hawaiian Islands on a surfboard. Did I mention that Don's 80? My husband, Laird, a mere 49, trains with the Wild Man from time to time—a two-hour circuit that has been known to make professional athletes throw up. The most inspirational thing about Don is that, to him, his age is irrelevant. Sure, he eats an excellent diet—low in red meat, low in fat, high in plants—and takes supplements, including glucosamine for his increasingly creaky knees, but his main concern is the next adventure. His age doesn't keep him from doing anything he wants to do.
I amuse myself imagining Don Wildman refusing to go to the beach because he thought he looked bad in a bathing suit. Or Don Wildman skipping a day of snowboarding because the sun on the mountain that day was harsh and might cause more wrinkles. Or Don Wildman saying no to a mountain bike trip because he didn't want to look foolish because he wasn't a 25-year-old hottie. All that Don—and Laird, too, for that matter—cares about is being able to do what he wants to do. I think women should aim to age that way.
Not long ago I was at a party with a friend and I noticed a tall young woman in her early 20s slouch into the room, her arms folded across her chest. She was very pretty, but everything about her body language conveyed self-consciousness bordering on self-loathing. "Aren't you glad you're not that young anymore?" I said to my friend, and we both laughed with genuine relief. Being able to walk into a room in full possession of yourself, free from the tortuous insecurity that hobbles so many of us when we're young, to be free to own the grace and beauty only you possess, is the great gift of getting older.
Copyright © 2013 by Honeyline 4 Babies LLC. From the forthcoming book My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper, by Gabrielle Reece with Karen Karbo. Printed by permission of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Keep Reading: The best quotes about love from her memoir My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper
More on Aging