By Stephenie Bushra Khan
July 10, 2018
I just turned sixty a few months ago and, for a couple of days, it was a mind-blowing experience. Many of my friends turned sixty this year and were really depressed about it. This is the entrance of being a senior adult. Gone is our youthfulness; many of us already have gray hair and wrinkled skin, loose skin around our necks, and cellulite on our legs. We no longer fit society’s definition of what is sexy and beautiful. Our minds do not match what we see in the mirror. Our bodies have become slower. Many of us start having health problems for the first time.
Many Western women try to stay young by having plastic surgery, trying to put a poison like Botox into their faces, or sculpting their bodies with tummy tucks. Old age still sets in; you can’t escape it. We are afraid that that by becoming older, we become invisible, devalued, and unloved. I have decided to grow old naturally. Many women in hijabs and who cover themselves feel that they have come to an age where, because they do not show their bodies, they might as well let themselves go. Even if you cover, you should do what you can to naturally look beautiful at any age.
Old age is a time when we begin to look ahead into our lives and see that time is limited. The prospect of our mortality makes us more aware of our relationship to God and our spirituality. It is frightening to nonbelievers to ponder if there is an afterlife. Many questions come up, such as, “What is the purpose of my life?” and, “Did I live my life well?” We realize that one day, time will go on, and nature will go on without us, and in this realm, we will no longer exist. What is more frightening than to imagine that all of us will have to go to the grave, and that is the end for everyone? We wonder if we will be remembered or forgotten. We wonder what our legacy or imprint is for the betterment of society.
We are afraid that that by becoming older, we become invisible, devalued, and unloved.
Now we look back and realize that we are no more than what we will be. There are regrets and lost dreams. There is the pain that we have caused others. There is a great deal of life that we thought were failures. But also, there are a great deal of accomplishments. There is a great deal of joy in living, like falling in love, raising children, pursuing our goals, and gaining an awareness of nature. There is so much to look at in the world around us.
There were loving interactions in the past, which we will miss. There has been rejection and suffering for all of us, which we could not avoid. We feel bad for whatever wrong that we did. Many of us will repent. Some see God as a punishing being and will fear Him; others see Him as a being of great mercy. Others have lost faith, and do not see God and all. Yet all of us feel, and the majority of us will feel great remorse and guilt if we have hurt someone or ourselves. One has to come to terms with it.
Now I am dealing with my own past. I did not always live life to the fullest. I suffered a great deal mentally, and blamed others for it. I made costly mistakes in my life and have paid the consequences. I asked God to forgive me if I had hurt anyone or myself. I made mistakes as a young woman on the verge of a future. Sometimes I did not value the people around me that were good to me. But I have become aware of much beauty in life and my relationships to those who stood by me no matter what. I have had many happy experiences, with my wedding day being the happiest day of my life, as well as the birth of my children.
The prospect of our mortality makes us more aware of our relationship to God and our spirituality.
I do not feel older. When I dream of myself at night, I see myself as young, with my very dark hair, and smooth skin, and thin body. When I look in the mirror, I see a white-haired woman with lines in her face. My conscience and my feelings are not different than when I was young. I paint and do the same routine that I have done most of my life. My children are grown now and gone. It is just me and my husband. We think of ourselves like we were before we had children and live our lives that way.
What is my future and what are my goals? After living my life as someone who recovered from mental illness, all I l want to do is appreciate life in the here and now. I try to accomplish what I can on a daily basis. I do have short-term plans for the future. I deeply am grateful to God for what I have, and that I have this life. All I want is what I have right now. I have everything that l can be thankful for. I realize it could all be taken away by death, sickness, or circumstances. I am just happy if those around me are happy, especially my family. I am grateful to get up in the morning to our comforting routines.
I have belief in a very merciful God, not a punishing God. I am not afraid of death. I do have major regrets in my life, but hopefully God and those I hurt will forgive me if I am remorseful. I do have belief in an afterlife—that in this multi-layered universe, all is possible. I am not planning my own death, or awaiting my funeral or where I will be buried. I will try to live fully to the end of my life, not knowing the end. God will judge that.
Sickness may come to me or my loved ones, which would drastically change our lives. Between my husband and me, one will leave the other through death. There will be suffering, but also more joys, if we let them in.
Until life ends, the pattern of suffering and joy will go on, like the leaves and sunlight on the floor. Even at times when I felt that I could not go on in life, I always had hope that God would fix things, and that hope will continue until my death. My belief in nature will continue onward, even when I am no longer in this realm and my body no longer exists. I plan to live my life agelessly, doing what I can do every day without thinking about old age, despite how I look as my body slowly falls apart. It is an attitude. We are all marching back to God into the Light.