Where did the time go?
I remember myself as this young woman in my twenties and thirties. When I reached my forties I said, “girl, you’re getting older.” I felt unappreciative of where my life was going because I didn’t follow the traditional path of marriage and parenthood. Growing older meant that I would spend moments in my life where I was alone and I would have to figure out how to get certain things accomplished without the help of a mate. Exactly who will provide the caregiving when I’m old in the event that I don’t secure a husband and parenthood?
“The change of growing older means that you redefine what you feel on the inside, as well as the outside.”
So, I questioned the validity of my life and was it okay for me to be this older, unmarried clergy woman. Societal and familial contexts varied in their responses to my marital and aging status. My Christian faith tradition said no! If I wasn’t married then I certainly should be heading in the direction of marriage. On the other hand, if marriage was not in the horizon then I could look forward to a nursing home if I didn’t have anyone to provide care for me.
Now, I’m a single, never-been-married, 53-year-old African American woman who is learning to embrace all that comes with growing older and reflecting on what this means for my life moving forward.
It’s Not All Bad
As I look back over my life, I’ve learned that growing older is not a bad “thing” to be viewed negatively. I’ve listened to many women who feel like aging is the end of the road, a curse, as their body and looks change. How you take care of yourself in your younger years will directly impact your physical well being later in life.
However, growing older is inevitable and why not embrace the change. The change of growing older means that you redefine what you feel on the inside, as well as the outside. At any age you can become physically fit for aesthetics, sure! But more importantly, working out makes you feel uplifted on the inside. And I’m discovering that the work that needs to be done on the inside is a life-long journey and process.
“I’m learning to embrace health and wholeness instead of perfection.”
Growing older helps you to re-define your mindset. I often wonder if I would ever go back to a younger version of myself if given the opportunity and at this time the answer is no. The older Christina is wiser and more confident. I’m learning to enjoy and embrace all of my life experiences. At this time, I get to find out what I enjoy doing and do it. I’m learning to embrace health and wholeness instead of perfection.
I asked my mom, how does it feel to be 83 years old and what have you learned about yourself?
My mom said, “Well you know I’ve learned to embrace my grey hair. I use to color my hair to enhance it, but I found out I couldn’t keep it up because of finances and the greys kept coming. Now I keep my grey hair. I stop coloring my hair because of freedom. Let it be.”
(Yes, I color my hair, because I’m not ready to go totally grey, there I said it!) However, my take away from this conversation with my mom is that growing older means letting some things be and enjoy the natural progression of what life has to offer.
Yes, there will be a point in time where I too will stop coloring my hair and just let it be. Life keeps coming and you decide, the how, the what, the when and the why. Embracing grey hair and growing older is a source of pride and freedom. Yet, growing older is also a testament and great witness to this journey called life.
The Rev. Dr. Christina Hicks is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is a published author of Exploring the Psychosocial and Psycho-spiritual Dynamics of Singleness Among African American Christian Women in Midlife. She received her ThD in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Emory University and her MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. Dr. Hicks has extensive clinical training in marriage and family therapy from the Care and Counseling Center of Georgia and has served as a women’s ministry leader and assistant pastor for several years. She has also served as an adjunct professor of religious studies and pastoral care, counseling and psychology at Beulah Heights University and the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.