Turning 50, the best advice from her mom and her 'youth serum'
Photos: Norman Seeff
“You do not look your age.” “for fifty... You look great!” “Is it okay to say you're fifty?” “If you had botox, you wouldn't look so, you know, tired.” “You should get a little filler around your mouth, you'd look so much younger.” “Do you regret having kids? I mean, who's going to take care of you when you get sick?” “I'd still totally fuck you...!” This is the shit I hear.
On September 19, I turned 50. Contrary to societal opinion, I am excited to have made it to this age and do not feel sad or apologetic for the changes that come with it. It’s part of the deal. You live, and if you’re lucky enough, you get old. Getting older is complex, deeply personal, and I won’t dictate to you what your experience with aging can or should be. Aging, like everything else in life, is a process and different for everyone. All I can do is share with you my own journey as I age: what I have learned, the choices I’m making, and what I am committed to with each passing day. By far my favorite part of aging is the “I don’t give a fuck”-ness that comes with it. Getting older means that you’ve earned the right to do whatever the hell you want to with your life, body, face, etc., and aren’t obligated to have to explain or defend your decisions to anyone! I look at aging as a privilege, and as I get older I truly appreciate how short our time is in these bodies, and I don’t want to take a second of this journey for granted. I am very grateful. I’m grateful for my health, my resilience, my commitment to growth and change. Grateful for my family, my yoga practice, my community, my amazing body that can do so many interesting things, and all the love I’ve been given and have been able to give in return. In these 50 years, I have lived big, loved deeply, turned my passion into a career, got to explore the world, buried a parent, lost more beloved animals than I care to think about, opened my heart to God, created my own unconventional family, and have had more wonderful, tragic, and weird moments than I could ever possibly describe. Life, for me, has been deep and beautiful, and although terribly heartbreaking at times, I’ve treasured this wild and unpredictable ride. I can’t wait to see what wisdom comes from the (hopefully) many, many days I have left.
Age means nothing to me, except as a marker for time. The only thing that makes me sad about aging is the inevitability of death that comes with it. I’m sad to say goodbye to those I love and will (at this writing, at least) be sad to transition and leave this particular incarnation. Although I know this being-ness is only temporal and that part of the practice of yoga is learning impermanence, loss is still the aspect of the human experience that can break me to my core. And, as anyone who is older can tell you, losing people you love becomes more and more frequent as we age. This loss is the only part of aging I truly struggle with, and yet, as I said when I eulogized my father, “To hurt this badly only means I got to love that big, and for that I will always be grateful.”
Often what people grieve, as they grow older, (and spend a fortune staving off) are the inevitable changes that will come to their body and face. Losing strength and mobility in my muscles and joints has been an adjustment, that’s for sure, but not the end of the world. Seeing the changes in my face has been a curious and thought-provoking process as well, but nothing I dwell on or consider doing anything about in order to halt the process. Since the mid-90s, I have been on over 30 magazine covers. I can see the changes in my body and face with each year that passes, and so can everyone else. I have had to fight hard within my industry not to have my lines and wrinkles airbrushed and photoshopped out of existence.
"I have been on over 30 magazine covers. I can see the changes in my body and face with each year that passes, and so can everyone else. I have had to fight hard within my industry not to have my lines and wrinkles airbrushed and photoshopped out of existence."
I do not want to participate in or perpetuate the unrealistic standards of beauty that make change and aging so uncomfortable and scary for so many. Each line on my face tells a story and I want to preserve the integrity of a life well lived, even if it’s lived across my face! I am proud that I am still asked to be on covers, and I intend to continue “modeling” to the world what healthy aging looks like for THIS particular body. I do not de ne myself by my looks or my agility. I do not feel less beautiful, lovable, or desirable because I look differently today than I did in my 20s. Quite the opposite, actually. Aging has given me experience and wisdom and a level of confidence that you can never have when you’re young. If I’m still “beautiful for my age,” it’s because of this confidence. I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve earned it. I’ll take your compliment, but I will change it slightly, albeit significantly. You see, I do not subscribe to the belief that youth culture is more desirable, or that aging is something to slow down, hide, or be apologetic for. Therefore, I am not beautiful FOR my age; I am beautiful BECAUSE of it.
"I do not feel less beautiful, lovable, or desirable because I look differently today than I did in my 20s. Quite the opposite, actually. Aging has given me experience and wisdom and a level of confidence that you can never have when you’re young."
I believe that I have a healthy relationship with aging because of my mother, Alice. She is 71, absolutely physically and emotionally beautiful, with bright red hair, a particular shade of which you will never see in nature! Since my dad died, she is often asked out by men much younger than she is (which she finds fabulous, and loves to see the expression on their face when she tells them her age). She has never had plastic surgery or Botox, and she never will. She is stunning, but what radiates from her and makes her so captivating is her enthusiasm for life, openness to new ideas, readiness for adventure, killer sense of humor, and immense gratitude. She said to me many years ago, “Seane, the face you have at 50 is the face you deserve. Be kind and love with all your might. It will show.” When I asked her what her advice would be for “aging gracefully,” she said, “ Screw gracefully! Age wildly!! Move along with the times, keep learning, stay curious, have a ball, laugh louder than everyone else in the room, let go of bullshit that really doesn’t matter, and get the fuck on with it!” My mother has been an example to me about how to celebrate and honor the privilege of aging, and that self- confidence is the true key to agelessness (and that a well-placed F-bomb is sometimes essential when making a point!).
This time last year, I took a much-needed sabbatical. One reason was so I could write a book, but also as a 50th birthday present to myself. I wanted to take a break from teaching and use the time off the road to re ect. Turning 50 was a milestone moment, and I wanted to mark it with some kind of initiation. I wanted to look back at my last 49 years and honor this passing of time, re ecting on what worked, what didn’t, what I learned, and what I resisted. I wanted to confront any limited beliefs that I might still have, reframe all old narratives that I was still attached to and let them go. I wanted to meet with other women older than me and see what wisdom they had to share. I wanted to ritualize this transition and set clear and empowered intentions so that I could step into this sacred phase of my life meaningfully. For me, turning 50 was about letting go of shit that doesn’t matter, taking full ownership of my emotional experi- ences and the wisdom that I have gained along the way, using my voice, talent, and skills more deliberately and courageously, stepping fully into my role as a leader, being of service in a more mature and integrated way, and mentoring others (especially young women) as they navigate through their own experience of life. If aging means I get to do all of this with strength, confidence, humility, gratitude, and grace... then bring it on!!
"If there is a “youth serum,” then it is to love—big, beautifully, messily, with devotion, tenderness, and real care— everyone and everything as extensions of your own magnificent soul."
There is much I can share that I learned during that time off, but unsurprisingly, the biggest takeaway I can offer you is to forgive. I know you have heard this before, but there is a reason for it. Resentment is a poisonous, caustic energy that depletes us of vitality. I don’t have any interest in holding on to any resentments or anger from my past. It’s not worth it. It’s an old, yet familiar, energy that does not serve my health, happiness, wellness or growth. So I’m done. I forgive. If there is a “youth serum,” then it is to love—big, beautifully, messily, with devotion, tenderness, and real care— everyone and everything as extensions of your own magnificent soul.
So age on! Grab each second heartily and kiss life fully and deliciously on the mouth. Let’s not buy into the limitations that aging in our society presents; let’s instead rede ne aging as something we “get” to do. Something that not all souls will have the option of. Let’s heal our own limited beliefs around aging and beauty and do the inner work necessary for self-con dence, acceptance, and empowerment. Let’s share our wisdom, be of service to this planet, and not be attached to things we can’t control. Let’s embrace the inevitability of change and experience the true beauty of our being as LOVE. Let’s allow the quality of our life- long joy to be determined not by the amount of days in our life, but by the amount of life we live each and every day.
May your life be blessed in all ways. May your journey towards awakening bring you home to who you truly are and illuminate the transcendent presence of Source that is within. May your self- worth not be dependent on how your body or face looks, or your age; instead, may your self- con dence come from knowing who you truly are. May you honor that ageless soul within that knows that our ultimate beauty is in our in nite ability to love. Be that love, share that love, serve that love, and live forevermore, timelessly, agelessly, in nitely in God’s grace and light. Blessed be.