Harsh Reality  – Of Ageing

As you approach your middle years, have you ever experienced a time when you see yourself as others see you?

The “real” you I mean here. Not a perception of what you once looked like many years ago.

Open and exposed with your with your belly fat, your double chin, your wrinkles, your lifeless hair and your gnarly hands.

I did.

And so did Winston Churchill.

In 1954, a portrait of Winston Churchill was commissioned by both Houses of Parliament, for his 80th birthday. This was indeed a great honour!

The painter was a man named Sutherland and was known as an artist who captured the real person, without any inclination of flattery. The finished portrait appalled Churchill. In fact he was furious and his wife later burnt the painting because it had upset him so much.

The portrait showed a man that was tired, grumpy, and openly displaying its toll on Churchill as he was leading the country. Churchill wanted a likeness of being brave, fierce and noble. Some critics to this day praised the strength of likeness while others condemned it as a disgrace to Churchill’s legacy.

You see, Churchill was forced to face his own ageing body and mortality through this portrait.

There comes a time in our life when we realise that the way we see ourselves is not what others see us.

I can remember an old friend once stating to me how much my face had aged and that she still had a youthful complexion, and that people would never believe we were both 50. I was dumbfounded. I felt like telling her to have a good look at herself in the mirror. I knew that I had aged, but my friend was no spring chicken either. Needless to say I could not be bothered to set her straight, she needed to have her own moment with reality.

You see, I already had mine two years prior.

One picture was my defining moment.

A picture that still remains vivid in my mind to this day.

Suddenly, at the age of 48, I realised how overweight I had become. I must have been able to mentally block my expanding waistline or perhaps I was simply in denial.

Until that one defining moment; when someone took that picture and showed it around before I had the chance to delete it. A trick of the light or unfortunate angle, but undeniably there for everyone to see.

I had to take a step back and do something about my ever expanding waistline.

It was not just the weight gain that bothered me. Once I saw that picture, it was like a pandora’s box had been opened. I noticed how my hair was dull and lifeless and I was tired all the time, despite sleeping for nearly 10 hours every night. I was constantly irritable, short tempered with my husband and children. I was a wreck.

Churchill had the body of an 80-year-old man who had his illusion swept away from him but what was my excuse?

Comparing myself to Churchill may seem strange. But his story is one that resonates with me. It made me realise that every now and again we need to see ourselves in a different light if we are to truly help ourselves grow.

I did not wallow in self-pity when I saw my photo but saw it as an opportunity to change. Okay, perhaps I did cry for a day or two and was horrified when I saw other photos taken that day. But I did get over it and I was grateful that I still had time on my side. Time to make the necessary changes for a fuller, more vibrant life, with less weight and more energy.

The good news is that for all of us it is never too late to change. But, there also comes a time when we do have to admit defeat and admit that some things are inevitable. To be happy within your body and truly love yourself wrinkles and all is a blessing that eludes many.

Julie Dargan

RN, ND, BHSc, Author & Speaker