Leaving space for me: Amy Pennington
This essay was written as part of an empowerment campaign, “Wear Yourself In,” led by eco-luxe skin care company Kari Gran. In response to the beauty industry pushing an impossible idea of flawless youth for years, the campaign encourages women to be kind to themselves, and their skin, as they reflect on beauty, aging, wisdom and self-acceptance.
Amy Pennington is a cook, author, and urban farmer. She has been featured in Bon Appetit, Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, GOOP.com, and Apartment Therapy, in addition to writing “Urban Pantry,” “Apartment Gardening,” “Apples from Harvest to Table,” “Fresh Pantry” and “Salad Days,” which is due out April 2017. Amy lives in Seattle, where she also runs GoGo Green Garden, an urban farming service specializing in organic edible gardens for homes and businesses.
When I was younger I used to love to wear myself OUT. In my 30s I had energy in excess. Naturally, I got tired as I worked and lived across an 18-hour day, but I’d rebound quickly. At the time I didn’t realize things would change as I aged. I love(d) my mix of business and pleasure and assumed I would always be exuberant and have boundless physical energy. Things have changed.
I noticed it as I crested up and over 40 – suddenly I couldn’t work past 6 p.m. I tried, oh man did I try. Writers write and I had always spent my evenings writing articles, books or answering emails. My days were full with other work – meetings, gardening, schmoozing, r&d and I had never spent daylight hours idle at a desk. But something had changed – I just couldn’t focus after 6 p.m. Rather than fight it, I honored it. I thought to myself, ok, this too shall pass. Well, it didn’t pass and it suddenly occurred to me…..am I aging? And the answer rushed in screaming, “YES!”
I have since made a conscious decision to chill out and effectively wear myself in. It is no surprise to me (being one who does not believe in coincidence) that this timing was concurrent with a deep dive into spirituality.
Life has a funny way of working out when you start leaving space for things, and relaxing into a new, slower pace created a vacuum that I didn’t rush to fill. Suddenly, my evenings were free. I would wake up and think to myself – no rush. I allowed myself to simply sit and be contemplative. And what a beautiful gift those moments are! Looking back, I applaud the younger me who was aware enough to honor the physical cues my body was sending and started taking a little more time.
I started taking care of myself in new ways, too. I’m a food lover and food lovers eat. Once a major over-indulger, I stopped trimming fat off of steak only to be sure I had enough for every bite and started skipping the beef all together. My systems were slowing down – that was clear to me. Fascinated with the process, I would eliminate foods from my diet and monitor any noticeable, beneficial changes. Today, I’m like my 93-year old grandma and feel like I eat far less then I have in the past. No surprise, I’ve lost a pound or two every year for the last handful of years. My doctor was quite pleased. I really didn’t mind either way.
Now my skin hangs in places it hadn’t before and I focus on loving that too. My skin is well nourished. My body is well nourished. My only other job is to love all of the changes that come along to mark time. They are easy placeholders to look back on and marvel at. “Hey, my ass was never down there before!” and isn’t that interesting?
So, I’ve simplified. My diet is simple. My life is simple. My time is my own. My choices are my own. There is no conflict or grief about the process. Instead, I choose to nurture and love myself in all ways. I’ve never been a big fan of rules anyway (ask any police officer that has ever bothered to pull me over) so it is nice to be in a place, and recognize I’m in a place, where I’m allowing things to flow.
I often visualize my self floating down a river in summer, on a big comfortable tube, hair back in the water and hot sun on my skin (I love a tan still, even though my wrinkles are starting to develop), sounds of nature all around and I’m just watching the world float by. Friends, dramas, rules about what to eat, who to be, family obligations – and I’m just floating lazily by, blissed out.
I wish this for everyone. If you do nothing else, hop on an imaginary tube and float, and if you can get on one in real life? Even better.