This summer I was at an event, and I met a woman who was my age (late forties), but who looked at least a decade younger than I. I marveled at her wrinkle-free, perfect skin and flowing brown hair. She lives in Florida, land of sun damage, whereas I live in Maine, where we can’t even make Vitamin D six months out of the year because the sun is too low in the sky. What good genes she must have to have escaped the ravages of time and elements, I thought.
She was quick to inform me that she dyes her hair, Botoxes her wrinkles, and covers her skin with tanning cream and make up. I do none of these things. She was encouraging. I could look as young and good as she through such a regimen.
When she left, I turned to the woman next to me and said, “I want to look like that.”
“No you don’t, Zoe,” she replied.
“Yes, I do!” I insisted.
“If you did, you would,” she said; and of course, she was right.
But in fact, I do want to look younger; I just don’t want to succumb to the societal messages that insist I have to change myself to do so. I don’t want to buy into the idea that natural aging is bad and must be remedied. I have always wanted to grow older gracefully, at least in theory.
Plus, I’m busy. When I prioritize what’s important to me, regularly spending time in a hair salon or doctor’s office, or on a plastic surgery table (or recovering from surgery) isn’t high on the list. When I’m not working, I want to be outdoors, or with my family and friends, or practicing Aikido, or running up a mountain, or swimming in the ocean.
But I do feel that persistent tug, and I do know that my values and my desires are in conflict. I want so many things that contradict each other: a restored planet, but also the various technologies that pollute; a simple life, but also the many things – appliances, clothes, and multitude of stuff – that are pleasurable; a locally-based, MOGO lifestyle, but also to travel to new places.
So far, in the realm of personal grooming, I am largely able to resist my desires in favor of my values. But the tug is always there, always reminding me that making MOGO choices -- however we define them -- can be challenging, when what is most important to us is eclipsed by pressures that stem from a combination of wants, fear, society, peers, and systems that we didn’t create but which influence our lives and choices.
The Borg, a collective from the Star Trek universe that turns humanoids into machines, say that resistance is futile. It is not. The inner struggles we face and confront with conviction allow us to grow and choose consciously and conscientiously. And in this struggle, we define who we are and what is important to us. We also get to more more fully live our epitaph and define the meaning of our lives.
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