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I remember letting go of two full bags that carried loads of grief after my divorce. I stared into them every day, I carried them around with me wherever I went. They reminded me of failure, loss, and heartache.

But the day came when I decided to let the bags go. People stopped asking me if I was okay, I stopped hearing I looked tired all the time, and I have not been asked since if I was letting myself go.

My mother was a model for aging gracefully. Her beauty gave her a glow that travels along with a long life well-lived. And while I would like to say I am my mother’s daughter, I tend to be following a bit more in the footsteps of my father, intense and scrawny. “Gain some weight!” My husband says. Fill it out…?

Mom showed me a picture one day of Georgia O’Keefe that has always stuck with me: hair pulled away, a sun-weathered, artistically intense, wise and soulful stare off into the distance. And Mom’s words to me were, “Debbie, this is beauty. Never do anything to change yours.” I never told her about the bags.

I admit, since last summer, the news about my health has weighed kinda heavy on me and I work a little harder to keep a spring in my step, but most days I feel a fullness in my heart that ignites inspirations, moving my thoughts away more and more from how I look to what I am.

But I also admit to zooming in on photos to take a closer examination of my neck, and groaning. At 64, it’s experienced a lot of stretching, jaws jowel, eyes crease and crinkle, and I suppose a plastic surgeon noticed all this when he followed me on Instagram. His story was about neck tightening surgery. “Oh my!” I said, “Honey, look at this,” as I put my hand to my neck and swore off social media for a week.

My mom knew true beauty comes from within. Beauty is all about giving and receiving love well. When you pray every morning, “Your will, not mine,” when you strive to surrender self and all false securities, when you seek to know His Face, I’m not so sure His answers will align with America’s portrayal of women and aging.

Other parts of the world say life begins at 50 not 30. So in response to my new “follow”, and instead of googling cosmetic surgery, I return to my mother’s advice. And the advice of French author Mireille Giuliano’s mother, “Be natural, keep your sense of humor, and do whatever it takes to be bien dans sa peau without torturing yourself.”

So here’s to you and all the women you love, and to a long life well-lived, filled to the brim and overflowing with love!

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