Ravaged Or Ravishing: Picturing Your Best Self

I am a voracious reader of obituaries. Inevitably, the accompanying photo of the deceased is decades old, taken before age or disease has set in, and selected so as to sear in our mind, an image of the person at their physical peak. Gone are the gaunt cheeks, the papery hands, the bleached, bony legs. Back for your viewing pleasure are the sparkling eyes, smooth neck and coifed hair. Hell, any hair. But what happens when your physical best and your psychological best are years apart? What picture do you choose when your best selves are, like mine, distanced from one another?

In a February New Yorker article by Ariel Levy, eternal swimmer Diana Nyad rhetorically asks “How many athletes have I interviewed who say “Oh, if only I could have my mind of this age and be back on the world stage as a skater, golfer, tennis player…” It’s unlikely that you or I will excel at anything that puts us on the world stage (ouch!) but each of us will have one last opportunity for a published headshot.

Will that snapshot show the svelte you of white, straight teeth and natural color hair who still thinks body deterioration happens only to the less diligent, or, will the snapshot be the you of later years with the additional 25 pounds (of which five reside under each eye) and milky, yet fully self-actualized gaze, that screeches “I live with no apology or shame”?

There are too many windswept faces in Hollywood and beyond to say our evolution from peak physical prowess to peak emotional/cerebral prowess is one we all welcome as the natural order of things. Leaving behind our most perfect physical self requires that we replace the behaviors of our youth with those more attuned to our -ahem- maturing bodies. Let’s face it: a twerking 60 year old is not as alluring as a twerking 23 year old although a twerker of any age may not be appealing at all.

Your best physical and psychological selves may be a lot closer to each other than mine are. I really hope so. At best mine have switched leadership positions as my healing psychological self trudges on, one internal enlightenment at a time, to take over the lead position from a halting, faltering body. The years of bumping and grinding my way through relationships until they were ash were a necessary cover while the rest of me first hid and, then, painfully evolved. I may have been easy on the eyes but a piffle of dust is not the image I want to leave behind.

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