They do surgery in the Capitol, to make people appear younger and thinner. In District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early. You see an elderly person, you want to congratulate them on their longevity, ask the secret of their survival. A plump person is envied because they aren’t scraping by like the majority of us. But here it is different. Wrinkles aren’t desirable. A round belly isn’t a sign of success.”Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
In our first-world culture, we equate youth with health and beauty, and we see youth as something that ought to be preserved, at all costs. Likewise, we see age as something that ought to be avoided. Women especially are encouraged to avoid ageing, for not only are we seen as less beautiful as we age, but society also tells us that the very thing we are most valuable for is our beauty, not our creativity, intelligence or strength of character. No, if you identify as a woman, forget all that, for it will not matter if you are not beautiful.
Because of these toxic values that society holds, for most people, the fear of ageing is very real, particularly for women. This makes us a vulnerable target for anti-ageing products. From face creams to Botox, the message to women is clear: preserve your youth, and you will preserve your beauty, thus preserving your value.
I remember being only fifteen years old and being terrified of ageing, just terrified. This memory seems silly to me, now that I am almost in my thirties, and now that I have a new perspective on ageing. But I remember, back then, being very stressed about the idea that I would one day grow grey-haired and wrinkly. How am I going to be goth when I’m old? I would routinely wonder. Clearly, society had done a number on me.
And yet, despite how much I feared ageing, my youth seemed eternal. It felt as though I had all the time in the world, an abundance of time to stress over my beauty regimen.
But then came my first Saturn Return—or, in mundane terms, my mid-to-late twenties. Over the course of these years, I cultivated a new relationship with myself and with Life—and therefore, with beauty and ageing, as well.
First came the cognitive shift: a dismantling of beauty standards. This actually took place in my early twenties, while studying feminism and gender issues in college. To this day, I have held onto the idea that you need not be a young, thin, able-bodied, white-passing cis-woman to be beautiful—and you certainly do not have to be these things to have value!
Around the same time, there was an emotional shift, as well. See, my teenage years and my very early twenties were miserable. I was struggling with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder, both undiagnosed at the time. To cope, I turned to food, or a lack there of. I would either binge eat, or I would severely restrict my diet, both with the aim of gaining a false sense of control.
At age twenty-one, I entered therapy for all these issues: the C-PTSD, the BPD, the eating disorder. Through therapy, and through finding my Wiccan faith, I radically transformed myself. I am skimming over the details of said transformation, but what is important for the message of this essay is this: after therapy, I was much happier in my mid-twenties, than I ever was in my teenage years or early-twenties. Sure, I still had some stuff to work through—Don’t we always?—but all in all, I had a much better grip.
This experience was illuminating, as it showed me that happiness is not something you have only in your youth, the time during which a woman is considered beautiful; rather, happiness is something that can be cultivated; like a house-plant, tend to it routinely and it will grow over time.
In other words, the older I got, the happier I became. And this is a trend that continued into my late-twenties, and I see it continuing into my thirties, too. I have broken the associations between both youth and beauty, and youth and happiness.
Honestly, the notion that youth equates to happiness is laughable, because, during my teenage years, whenever somebody said, “These are the best years of your life!”, I would think, Oh, I hope not. If I could travel back in time, I would tell my teenage self she need not worry—that, if she does things right, if she does things wisely, like a good wine, life will only get better with age.
Prior to my Saturn Return, I had learned about Saturn and the dreaded time this Fatherly planet moves back into the sign it was in when you were born. I was aware that going through this portal would change me forever, for better or for worse. I really wanted it to be for the better; I wanted to go about this transit in a way that empowered me. Because Saturn Returns are times of maturation—even more so with your first Saturn Return, when one transitions from youth to adulthood—I decided to embrace ageing.
I mean, if you break it down logically, what isn’t there to love about getting older? Firstly, as someone walking the path of Mastery, as someone with the intention of realizing my potential as a writer, the older I get, the more time I’ve had the opportunity to invest in my craft. In other words, so long as I stick to my good habits—writing, reading, studying, integrating feedback on my work—with age, I only write better pieces.
On top of this—and, of course, these two things are not always directly correlated—but I would like to think that the older I get, the wiser I get. Now, I am not claiming myself a sage; I am plenty foolish. But each time I finish another trip around the Sun, I like to think I am a little wiser, just a bit. I do invest a lot of my time into wisdom: reading books, learning and studying, journaling, introspecting, practising meditation and yoga…
In particular, my time with Saturn in Aquarius rendered me wiser—thanks, Saturn! This is why I felt inspired to write this book, after all. I am in touch with a few Truths—although there is still an abundance of things I do not know, of things I will never know. And then, of course, there are things I know, logically, but have not yet accepted, emotionally—things I have not yet embodied. I am forever a work in progress; everyone ought to be.
And this leads me to my last reason as to why life just gets better with age, and this is perhaps the most important reason: the older I get, the happier I become. Now, I have talked with a lot of people who claim age has made them jaded and cynical. To this, I will so boldly say: these people are doing it wrong.
Of course, life can throw you all kinds of bullshit. But this is not directly correlated with age. Life can throw you bullshit at any time. And what really matters is how you deal with said bullshit.
To the people who claim that age has made them jaded and cynical, I ask: is it that age has rendered you this way, or are you just disconnected with who you authentically are? Remember, age is just a number, just a marking of the time that has passed—and you have the right and responsibility to choose how you spend that time. Heed the wisdom from the quote at the beginning of this essay: ageing, itself, is a privilege; getting older ought to be a joy!
MD Luna’s Guide To Ageing Gracefully:
- Question and criticize society’s beauty ideals, and unhook your sense of personal value from society’s beauty standards. Easier said than done, certainly. But the realization that loving yourself is not so much about grooming and adorning yourself, so much as it is about working on how you relate to yourself—this is an important one to come to. Otherwise, you are likely to fall into the trap of attempting to fix ‘flaw’ after ‘flaw’, or solve ‘problem’ after ‘problem’; buying another even better skin-care product, another foundation even more suited to your skin tone, an other outfit consisting of the latest trends.How much better would it be if you raised your middle finger to all that and instead came to terms with the fact that you are absolutely perfect just as you are, flaws and all? Once you have this foundation of self-love, true self-love, you can pick and choose what additional things you wish to employ. Maybe you will rock a dark red lipstick. Or maybe it turns out having your hair coloured purple is important to you after all. Regardless, these additions will be just that—additions. They will be the extra cherry on top of the delicious vegan sundae that you already are!
- Develop yourself personally. Firstly, remember the moral of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: ‘Beauty is only skin-deep’. Heed this: you can be gorgeous on the outside, but will it really matter if what’s on the inside is ugly? Worry less about being young and beautiful, and be more concerned with the beauty of your character. Work on your relationships with others and, of course, the relationship you have with yourself. On this note of relating with yourself, figure out what it is you personally value. Then, organize your life in accordance with these values. Using myself as an example, the most meaningful thing in life, to me, is reading and writing. My life will pass regardless, but I will feel a lot better about it if, at the end, I lived in accordance with my values; if I have held quality relationships with both others and myself.
- Develop yourself professionally. Let me ask you this: what is it that you are Mastering? Time is passing, and time will continue to pass. So, how do you want to spend that time? How do you want to invest it? It takes roughly 10,000 hours to become a Master of something, and those 10,000 hours are going to pass regardless, so would it not be wise to put them into something that feels meaningful to you? Into something aligned with your values? (See step number two.)
- Take care of your body—and, no, not because you need to be a size zero or whatever—but because your body is, not only the vessel of your consciousness, but, biochemically speaking, the source of all your joy, and, in contrast, the source of all your pain. Tend to your biological needs (food, movement, sleep, etc.) and your body will reward you by making it easier for you to experience more joy. Ignore your bodily needs, and it will be harder to feel said joy, and instead, you will be in pain. This only becomes more true with age. As someone about to enter her thirties, I must say, if I treat my body how I did in my early twenties, I sure am in for it! For example, if I stay up too late, I will be feeling that for days. Likewise, if I drink too much alcohol or eat too much sugar, I feel it. And if I forget to drink enough water or neglect my yoga practice, I feel like shit.I can only imagine this becomes even more the case in one’s forties. We are more than our bodies, yes, absolutely. But, ironically, if we fail to take care of our bodies, we will become prisoner to them—by which I mean: it’s hard to self-actualize and find your joy if, due to neglecting your bodily needs, you are in chronic discomfort.
- Take care of your mind. In the last step, I stress the importance of taking care of your body, and this really is crucial. However, the most important work we do takes place in the mind. The beliefs you hold, the stories you tell, the philosophies you subscribe to, how you identify—these things, both consciously and unconsciously, create your life. This is why it is also crucial to Master your mind: Assess your beliefs—do they hold you back, or do they propel you forward? Are the stories you tell yourself and others disempowering or empowering? As we move through life—as we age—it becomes more and more essential that we take total responsibility for everything that happens to us. Our lives are short, sometimes shorter than expected, and most of us waste our lives allowing fear to hold us back, allowing our own psychology to hold us back—and then we blame external forces, rather than taking responsibility for our experience. Avoid this trap by working on the health of your mind the same way you would (or should) work on the health of your body.
Remember, nothing lasts forever; everything is temporary. Ageing is completely normal and natural. As women, we are meant to journey, to metamorphoses, from Maiden to Crone. In other words, everyone is destined to die. All paths lead to the same destination. There is no escaping Death. Likewise, there is no escaping ageing. The most valuable currency is time, as we all have a limited amount of it, and once you spend it, there is no getting it back (at least not until time travel is discovered.) However, I do not see this as a negative thing, for it only makes the time we do have more valuable, more precious. If we had an unlimited amount of time, time would then fail to mean anything at all.
The question we need to ask ourselves is not ‘How does one avoid or delay ageing?’ Rather, the question should be this: ‘For me personally, what is the most meaningful way I can spend my time? How do I want to live my life?’
Author’s note: This essay was written with the intention of being part of a collection of essays titled Lessons From Saturn. These last few years, I have been going through my first Saturn Return—or, in mundane terms, I have been transitioning from youth to adulthood. It has been challenging, but it has also been rewarding. I have learned lesson after lesson. And now I am compiling those lessons into one book, hence the title. As I work on these essays, I am posting early-bird versions of some of them to both my website and my Patreon.