If you would ask me what the biggest advantage of getting older is, I will tell you that for me is finding my own style and not caring about what the Joneses like.
Take my garden. At one time in my life, my idea of a beautiful garden was a manicured lawn, well trimmed bushes and trees, symmetrical hedges and carefully picked complimentary plants. I still enjoy looking at these kind of gardens in other people’s properties, but for me, a garden that makes sense is the one that mostly consists of edible and medicinal plants.
There is something luscious and sensual about organic vegetables grown by your own hands and effort. The beauty of a garden full of kale, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes is intoxicating. I find myself full with a sense of wonderment and happiness when I see my little sprouts emerge from the soil and realize I have everything I need to nurture my body and soul. The fact that I can buy them for less money and certainly through less effort at the Feria does not diminish my enthusiasm hin the very least.
My son told me the other day that I’m beginning to look like a tree hugger, a statement which meant for me that my connection with the earth is beginning to reflect in my physical appearance. I have always been a “hippie” at heart, always somewhat a Bohemian, probably influenced by a father who wore shoes only for special occasions and then under protest and who died with his long white hair in a ponytail and a white beard so long he was chosen to play Santa Claus. My father was far from perfect but as I grow older I appreciate more and more his unconventional ways, the joy of walking barefoot or getting my hands dirty when planting my garden.
For a while I played the “conforming” game, I had the big house, three cars, the high stressed, high paying job, the “good dishes” , a closet full of clothes, a mortgage, credit cards, anything to “fit in” even if it meant to deviate from who I really was at my core. But as of a few years ago, I began to notice a shift in me, it started subtly, I stopped dying my hair, I started exploring other religions outside of what I had been taught, mainly Buddhism which had always intrigued me, I became more aware of what I ate, I had always been a strong animal advocate and felt like a hypocrite eating them, I started gradually with cutting beef out of my diet. When I moved to Costa Rica and heard a pig scream in agony while being killed it was easy to add that to the list of foods I would not eat, followed by chicken once I learned of the conditions they endure before being killed and smelling the chicken farms when driving by them. I could talk all day about what we do to the earth and other sentient beings but this writing is not about preaching or converting anyone to my way of thinking, I think everyone is where they need to be and changes will come when the time is right. This writing is about how aging has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and given me the freedom to do what feels good.
Take possessions, I moved here with 11 suitcases carrying a ridiculous amount of unnecessary items. I remember my daughter, who is wise enough to have never fallen into the consumerism trap, looking in amazement at high heel shoes, leather purses, jewelry, and suitcase after suitcase of clothing (this is after giving away or selling more than half of my possessions before coming here, so in my mind I had already thinned out my possessions) . Within the first two months I gave away perhaps a third of what I brought, within a year that figure probably went up to half, and now, after almost three years here I probably have maybe 25 percent of what I originally brought and IT FEELS GOOD, not only does it feel good to share my material wealth with people who need it more but it has LIBERATED me to do more of the things that bring me joy. Less stuff means less cleaning, less clutter, less organizing, more time to read, to play with my dogs, to look at a beautiful sunset, to find my spirituality, to learn more about this journey we call life, to prepare for the next journey. Less stuff means more time to walk barefoot in the dirt. I bet my Dad would be proud.