The Middle Aged Woman’s Guide to Ageing Gracefully

The Middle Aged Woman’s Guide to Ageing Gracefully

with 2 Comments

I have a confession to make.

There’s a 1950s etiquette freak lodged in my consciousness.

Among other pearls of wisdom, such as the appropriateness of white shoes after Labour Day (a consideration that doesn’t even enter my radar), her favourite area of expertise is the subject of mutton dressed as lamb.

Now, this is not a phrase I like to use. It’s not very dignifying to the female half of the race. She, however, harps on incessantly about it, floating unbidden into my consciousness with an automatic reaction of “Ugh! Cover it up please!” whenever I see what she calls “hideous ageing flesh” on display.

Mutton dressed as lamb is a peculiarly French phenomenon. It is not uncommon, to be at the supermarket, say, and to see the back of a woman, perfect bod in fishnets, black leather mini-skirt, tight top, and bleached blond hair scrunched up in a youthful ponytail on top of her head, only for her to turn around and shock the hell out of you, as she’s 70 years old!

The 1950s throwback is not who I want to have governing my awareness. Her origins run deep though, as her misguided ideas were programmed into me as a child.

The Inspiration Cloud

The inner bitch

For many years I have successfully ignored this inner bitch, but now that I am navigating middle age, her rantings are coming home to roost.

It’s not what I want to be dealing with at this time in life, but at least I am aware of her lurking in my psyche, just waiting to pounce at the sight of saggy arms and desiccated décollété, my own included!

And so I find myself in the curious position of deeply believing that it is the inner beauty at the heart of existence that truly matters, and battling this inner etiquette bitch who is obsessed with superficial appearances.

The important thing is to recognise her when she surfaces, and not buy into her vitriol and thus be controlled by it.

This is why I recommend mindfulness, and meditation as the means of cultivating it. We all have countless subconscious programs churning away relentlessly in our minds. They determine our ideas about ourselves and others, and the energy we send out to the world through our thoughts, speech and actions.

If we are unaware of what’s going on inside our heads, then we are automatons, mindlessly acting on the conditioning we received as children. And who wants to live like that?

Being a grown-up means being responsible for our thoughts. That means choosing our thoughts – deciding what we allow to happen in our headspace.

A consciousness upgrade

While retro may be trendy in home decoration and fashion, it’s not helpful in my consciousness. So when the retro bitch pops up, I acknowledge her presence, and then choose to upgrade my operating system.

1. I think about the value of wisdom that comes with experience.

There is a Native American aphorism that says,

“No wise person ever wanted to be younger.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I have attained a greater sense of well-being and self-knowledge in my 40s and 50s, than I ever had in my earlier years.

I didn’t even begin to properly sort myself out and grow up till my late 30s. I have much more to give now, in my mature years, having done that hard work.

Would I go back if I could? NO THANKS!

The Inspiration Cloud

2. I keep in mind the words of Helena Blavatsky…

“Man is an animal plus a god.”

This keeps me attuned to the spiritual reality and the real work of mankind to anchor the qualities of divinity in the physical world.

Today more than ever, people are obsessed with their “animal”; spending countless hours in its maintenance, in pursuit of the perfect body and the elusive 6 pack, going on extreme diets and supplements regimes, while paying little or no attention to higher matters.

The physical body is a vehicle through which our higher self contacts and operates in the material world. If we are concerned with raising our consciousness, we need to bring the physical body, and the emotional body which is usually its motivating force, under the dominion of a higher vehicle, the mental body.

This is the manner of all spiritual advancement: the lower is transcended and then included in the higher.

So sure, we need to take care of our animal, to keep it healthy and well-nourished. But what we really need is a shift of perspective: to create a body fit for purpose, that allows us to get our work done in the world and to be of service to others.

Self-absorption and narcissism aid nobody, and firmly place us in the illusory world of appearances.

3. I remind myself that beauty is on the inside.

Have you ever met someone who is like a warming ray of sunshine, who sheds light on your path and who spreads harmony, goodwill and joy wherever she goes?

This inner beauty radiates out to uplift everyone it contacts and is the true essence of an evolved human.

Although my physical body is ageing and is not what it used to be in form and function, I do not feel diminished in a world that is so tragically focused on the superficial and the external.

I feel rather sorry for young women these days, who are subjected to unrealistic expectations and ideas of beauty, perpetuated by the advertising industry to make us feel inadequate, so we’ll buy stuff we don’t need, to compensate.

And now men are getting sucked into the trap too, with excessive grooming, plucking and preening becoming the norm. Poor buggers.

Don’t fall for it! Save yourselves while you still can!

My preference for the natural look and comfy clothes is not going to please everyone; but it does go a long way to boosting your confidence in being who you are.


Years ago when I got offered a job in the outside world, (as opposed to having previously worked from home), I had to decide whether I was going to wear makeup at work. Because if you start, people get used to seeing you like that, and you feel naked and self-conscious without it.

I knew it would give me confidence in the new and challenging circumstances I was embarking upon, but in the end I chose not to. Why? Because I knew that it was false confidence, and that with age I would become more dependent on it.

I am so glad I made that choice. No one liked me less for the lack of mascara. And I was true to myself and my values.

Outer pleasantness is no guarantee of inner pleasantness.

There are plenty of beautiful and vacuous, or downright nasty people out there. Know others by their energy and their works in the world, not their exterior package.

4. I appreciate the nature of healing: crap rises to the surface for resolution.

Heal one issue, achieve a greater sense of well-being, and another issue rises to the surface for release. This healing cycle empowers us to face our issues with ever-expanding qualities of strength, wisdom and clarity. It is the path to greater freedom.

Over time, issues may reappear in different guises and circumstances, but these are opportunities to test whether they are truly resolved, and to approach them on a higher turn of the spiral, because of all the work that has gone before.

Outsmarting the inner bitch

These efforts to silence my 1950s throwback are ongoing work, as she’s a tenacious bitch who does not want to die. That’s how it is with the shadow parts of ourselves. Always popping up and being a nuisance.

The important thing is to acknowledge that it’s there, but not let it run the show.


The reminders above allow me reorient my consciousness to what truly matters to me, and defuse the bitch. They uplift my thoughts and place my higher faculties in charge of my expression in the world. At least on a good day.

So I am trying to embrace growing old gracefully. This does not mean giving up and doing nothing, but accepting the inevitable fact of physical ageing, and doing what I can to remain healthy in body, youthful in spirit, and enthusiastic about life.

Bugger the saggy flesh!

I take care of my animal, but keep my focus securely on the benefits of the emotional, mental and spiritual maturity which advancing years accord.

How are you managing the challenges of the second half of life? I’d love to hear from you!
See also:

2 Responses

  1. Rebe

    I enjoyed reading your way of embracing the bitch. I had to smile. I’ve done some reframing with mine and sometimes get a laugh with her, for a moment or two.
    I’ve given thought to ageing and “…a shift of perspective: to create a body fit for purpose, that allows us to get our work done in the world and to be of service to others.” is an idea that I want to ponder more.
    I was blessed to have a grandmother and her sister as very good examples of living life fully without the worry of age. They embraced the lessons and experiences time gave them.
    To be honest I’m not there yet and may be working towards wisdom, knowledge and understanding for the rest of my life.
    Feedback is welcome. I’ve found two of your writings very interesting. Thank you!

    • Janine

      Hi Rebe, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m pleased you enjoyed my article and are getting a handle on the bitch!

      Please don’t worry about not being “there yet”. I believe that cultivating wisdom and understanding IS the work of human life, and the means of our evolution, individually and en masse. Others will benefit from your example and thoughtful approach, just as you benefited from your grandmother’s.

      Thanks again for reading and your comment. Much appreciated! :)

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