A Woman's Guide to Aging with Grace
Posted on December 14 2020
We hear it all the time: aging gracefully is the secret to a long, fulfilling life. Yet, what does aging gracefully actually mean? When does it start? How do we do it? And what, if anything, happens if we don’t? There is no escaping the onslaught of negative messages perpetuated by magazines, social media and television that growing older is something we should worry about. As a teen, I secretly dreaded growing older. Would I feel small and disoriented while the world around me kept on spinning? Or would I conquer the mysteries of aging and reach my sunset years with pride? After all, life is the best teacher and all the wisdom that aging brings is gift to be cherished. As a woman in my mid-30s, I've made it my mission to age with grace (and still get away with a little snark, wit and some Golden Girl sentimentality every now and again!). In order to prepare for my journey ahead, I sat down with a few authentic veterans of the process, those who were knee-deep in discovering the mysteries of aging gracefully. I reached out to a group of women in their 40s, 50s and onward to 70 in order to understand how to accept newfound wisdom with humility, embrace the loss of youth, and truly enjoy aging with grace.
Do you miss your 20s?
Bayan (40s): "I’m going to be honest, not one bit! Now that I’m in my forties, my twenties seem a lifetime away. I was in a master’s program, newly married, starting my career in therapy, and I had a baby. Those years were a bit of a roller coaster with many new life changing events. The second I turned 30, I felt more confident, stable, and life began to have a flow."
Lailaa (40s): "I guess somewhat? I can say yes, but not much. I miss being able to get up and go without thinking too much. I miss the non-responsibility times."
Sara (50s): "I do not miss my 20's. I appreciate the experiences that I had as they prepared me for years to come."
Rabiah (60s): "I do miss what my knees could do in my 20s, but I don't miss the ignorance that came with being so young."
Mumina (70s): Not really. Mostly because I was still in the fantasy land of college where everyone is moving in the same direction. You've only just stepped your toe into the 'real world' at that age, so I miss the carefree attitude that I had, but I don't miss being so concerned about having fun."
What's the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Bayan: "Don’t dwell and waste energy worrying about obstacles you’ll face. Take the time to figure them out (solve them), brush them off, and move on. We all have problems and challenges, but an exit is merely an entrance to some other place."
Lailaa: "I always remember that God has a plan. I keep falling, but I have to get back up. There is a reason for everything we go through, good, bad, easy, challenging. It's what we do with those experiences that matter and that will shape where we go in the future."
Sara: "Don't be afraid to do things and say things that are not easy. It builds courage you might need for any challenging times ahead."
Rabiah A.: "I would tell my younger self to listen more, talk less, and enjoy the beauty of each day."
Mumina: "Be aware that you don't really have a say in how people perceive you. Even if you know you are capable of getting the job, for example, I would tell younger 'me' to make more of an effort present myself in a certain way to communicate that expectation. Just be aware of being too casual."
What do you love most about the age you are today?
Bayan: "I’ve never felt old! But I’m not gonna lie that number 40 had me feeling it. Now at 41, I feel like I don’t have time to waste. I know what I want. I’m making more space for myself and my life experiences. I love that I’m able to say no and not feel guilty about it."
Lailaa: "I love that I have a little bit of everything Alhamdulillah! I love that I have a family to care for and spend time with. I love having a job and I love running my business. Even though I am busier now than I have ever been, I am truly happy loving it and enjoying it. I feel like I am at a stage where I can take care of myself, others, the world, and focus on my dean all at the same time. There is no one thing taking over my life. When you are in school, that's all you can focus on, when raising babies, that's it, when starting the career climb that's your focus. Now, I feel like I went through those struggles so I can concentrate on living my life and pushing forward however I want to, not how I have to."
Sara: "I have all of the wisdom from my previous years and am so much wiser than before."
Rabiah A.: "Over time, dozens of small experiences built reflexes and confidence that I can fall back on. I'm grateful for those moments."
Mumina: "Not being easily misled. Years of experience have taught me to read between the lines and recognize the warning signs when people were beginning to take me for granted. I'm not so easily fooled anymore!"
What life lessons have you learned that you always fall back on when you need a mental boost?
Bayan: "I think of my father often when I’m down. He is and always has been a strong figure in my life who I look up to. He doesn’t fear much, is strong in his convictions and he takes big risks. When I’m feeling anxious or worried about what could happen, I think of how he handles difficult situations. I still remember when I nervously shared my business plan with him. His immediate reaction was: What are you waiting for?"
Lailaa: "Always remember that God has a plan. I keep falling, but I have to get back up. There is a reason for everything we go through, good, bad, easy, challenging. It's what we do with those experiences that matter and that will shape where we go in the future."
Sara: "Nothing ever stays the same. Life is like a roller coaster, there are hard times but then easier times are to follow. When you dig in and work hard through the rough times, you unearth diamonds."
Rabiah: "When my father was 85, he suffered a major heart attack. All the while, I was thinking he was too fragile to deal with doctors and treatment. To my surprise, he had a method. He immediately came up with a health plan and faced it full on. He didn't try to hide it or procrastinate in anyway. He was teaching me, if there is something that you think you can't face - come up with a plan and walk your way through it. Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed by life's choices, I fall back on his system for being resilient. Don't procrastinate, just come up with a plan. It's so useful."
Mumina: "People are not so different. What one person can do, another person can do. I've learned to have an 'if she can do it, I can do it' mentality."
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Bayan: "I see myself running Zeena and continuing to support and empower women to be proud of who they are. I’d like to pay it forward to honor the women in my life that have done the same for me. I hope to continue helping my community in a political capacity in amplifying our voices. I dream of visiting my kids at college when they spread their wings, and spending more time traveling with family and friends."
Lailaa: "I see myself running my business, traveling, and mentoring others."
Sara: "Hopefully, I am striving to accept whatever the Creator has in store for me. So whatever is in my future is supposed to be there."
Rabiah: "I would like to retire, spend more time with my family and reconnect with my hobbies."
Mumina: "I always thought that I would be a 3rd grade art teacher and just travel. I want to be able to make the most of the time that I have. Strong in body, strong in mind."
Would you like to share any self-care secrets?
Bayan: "I’ve always taken time out to take care of myself and my health. Ask my mother, she would tell you I take it very seriously! Not sure I have any self-care secrets...okay maybe one or two. My workouts give me the physical and mental energy I crave. I’m obsessed with the Peloton and frequently hike with my kids. As of late, I find myself practicing mindfulness and gratitude. With everything 2020, I find it really keeps me centered and positive. In the evenings, I love my downtime. You might find me whitening my teeth, face masking, coloring my hair, or drawing a bath (sometimes all at the same time!) It can be quite the scene, but the kids seem to get a kick out of it."
Lailaa: "Push the pause button! Give yourself a break from the daily grind. Enjoy nature. Self-care does not need to mean pampering, spa days, or an elaborate vacation. Self-care can mean taking a longer than usual shower, driving around the block for a few more minutes. Enjoy the small escapes. Do it for yourself and don't feel guilty. You deserve it!"
Sara: "Self-massaging the feet really does alleviate all of the day's stresses and relax your whole body. And using lotion that smells good is an added bonus!"
Rabiah: "Before the pandemic, at least once a month, I would take myself out on a date. This could be a bookstore, a museum or something I enjoyed just for me. It would give me something to look forward to, like 'mental treat'."
Mumina: "Never stop moving. If you're a runner, keep doing it. If you're a gardener or rock climber, keep doing what you love and staying active. Just because you're in your 70s or 80s doesn't mean you have to freeze in time."
The Zeena Team would like to thank the incredible women who contributed to this article, including Zeena CEO, Bayan Jondy, Rabiah A., attorney, Lailaa Jazouli, founder of Heartz & Craftz and MCPS educator, Sara R., healthcare student and mother of five, Mumina M., a former architect. Jamillah K. Abdullah is a marketing consultant and contributing blogger to Zeena Uncovered.