It’s very easy to be attractive when you’re young because youthfulness is, of itself, attractive. As I wander the mall at 68 I see young people sizing up one another and deciding who is attractive and who is not… but, now, I know something that they don’t, and it’s that they all are attractive because they are young! At the same time I have learned that each age has its own beauty. In someone older there is the attractiveness of a personality that has discovered itself through the trials of time. There is the attractiveness of wisdom grown through experience. As we age we lose many things… the car keys, our cellphone, a lover… and yet one of the hardest to lose is who we have always been.
On a Facebook post I read: “’How does one become a butterfly?’ she asked pensively. ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.’” To “become” requires a willingness to let go, a willingness to pursue the unknown of “Who do I want to be?” The answers to this will not simply drop down out of the sky; they are already hidden within the depths of our heart, and we must be willing to dive for them. In the movie “Imperium” a character observes, “Just because you’re not looking at something does not mean that it’s not there.” It is only by diving deep within our heart that we come to see the “us” who we have not yet seen.
Once the caterpillar is ensconced within its newly-spun cocoon we can be tempted to think that it passively waits there to become a butterfly. But I suspect that this is not the case, I suspect that it spends the time dreaming of the butterfly that it wants to be. For many of us there isn’t always a straight path to who we want to be and often we don’t always know what is going to fail, until it fails. But once it fails the important question is: Now what? Wrapped within our failure we have the chance to ponder, to formulate, to dream, so that a different “us” comes out of that cocoon.
Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” When we were young we couldn’t imagine how we would get to be old; and then, one day… there we are! Now, at 68, I find gray-haired people very attractive, even more so than young people because we gray-hairs have done the impossible: We have spread our wings, we have flown away from who we were, and we have become.