On Aging Gracefully

Last Friday, I found my first gray hair atop my head. I have had a few pop up in my eyebrow line in recent years, very white, which I jokingly referenced as “finally growing my unicorn horn”, but this was the first in my hair. By Sunday, two more had appeared. My first feeling was actually excitement, because the single strand of silver was very pretty against the rest of my hair, and I showed it to my husband. Then I felt a little disappointment that I will soon no longer be mistaken for being a decade younger than I actually am, and I’ve been really thinking deeply the past couple of days about being a woman, questioning how others will view my worth once I’m “past my prime” and less an object of sexual desire, and how tired I still am along with all my other mom-friends with young children and just beyond caring.

Older Katharine Hepburn with gray hair

Katharine Hepburn, my namesake, has been my ideal for aging for a long time. Her entire life was lived the way she wanted, she had a fantastic career well into the later part of her life, and she didn’t fall into the trap of trying to be something other than what she was. And she was a striking woman, right up until her death. But now that I find myself at 36 starting to transition more fully into middle age, I find myself feeling a little insecure. I think it may be due to the fact that I know I don’t have the option of hiding the grays at this point. Even if I wanted to dye my hair, due to my allergies and chemical sensitivities, my only option would be to use henna (even organic dyes use harsh chemicals that would set off my inflammation), and I’ve used henna once and liked the result, but it lasts for so short a period of time that I do not want to get into that kind of maintenance schedule.

So my hair will slowly get streaked with silvery white, and I am okay with that. My husband has assured me that he will also be okay with that, especially since he has been adding silver to his hair for several years now (but men look so sexy with that gray at their temples…). I am embracing this next stage with more wisdom and clarity than I ever could have had in my youth. I think a big help has been having women as friends in a wide range of ages, from late teens to their seventies. Feeling that chain, observing the different stages of growth… it has been so beneficial.

And as I embrace middle age-hood, I am recommitting myself to self-care. My body, my mind… both need nurturing and tending so that I can last a good while longer yet. Life is too interesting to throw it all away neglecting myself.

Love who you are, where you are, even while working to move to where you might want to be. You are worth it.

Time to Pause, Heal, and Catch My Breath

My contract jobs in my former field finally are done, except for some cleaning up and dealing with paperwork over the next couple of weeks. It was a marathon of work – last week, I clocked over 70 hours, and over 60 the two weeks before that. I pushed myself to the limits of my strength and endurance to accomplish the job, and the entire time, I was wondering why on earth I was killing myself. The pace I set myself at was entirely unsustainable, and I’m glad to move back to a manageable 30-35 hours work week (for shop work and a couple of commissions) this week and 20-25 hours next week, to take some time to spend with my family, and to work on the creative projects that seem more significant to me.

Before I can make a true, rational decision about the next path of my life, I need to give myself some time to heal and distance myself from the projects I’ve just finished. I think maybe a couple of weeks will do it. But I am so worn out – physically, mentally, emotionally. This is the pattern I used to do in the past, take on more and more projects until I feel numb and to the point of collapsing. I use work as a way to disconnect myself from feeling too much sometimes. Which is bad. We had to put our older cat to sleep a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to process that. I didn’t have time to do anything that would help me sort out how I’ve felt about that or what’s going on in my family or in the world. The absolute worst moment was last Tuesday, when I only got 2 hours of sleep to finish something, and my son begged me not to leave in the morning. I almost lost it.

In the past, I used to literally collapse for a week or two following one of these bouts of overwork. I would say I deserved to just sit and read or watch movies, and numb myself some more. This time, I feel like I can’t let myself do that. I need to keep moving forward, nurture myself and take the time I have to work on the projects that are important to me. I need to spend time with my family and get outside and remind myself why I work so hard. So that’s what I’ll be doing.