Dear Second-Half-of-Life Women,

I saw a photo of myself today, in the kind of lighting that showed the new wrinkles, creases and gravitational pull that is part this chapter of life. And . . . I saw within myself, finally, the kind of beauty I have seen in other women who are also crossing the bridge from the young years to the wisdom years. It’s a beauty that seems to be a forbidden secret, because it so dramatically defies most of what we’ve been taught about what beauty is in our culture.

In this photo, I saw myself getting older. And I finally felt beautiful. It was a shock and a surprise, as I’m nearing my 5th decade. I’ve been all sorts of women over these decades, and I was certain a few years ago I’d already lived out the lives of the favorite women I’d get to be. I literally grieved over this belief.

I feel so silly now.

I want to tell you how beautiful YOU are. Sure, you can “pffffffft” at me—but I know what it’s taken to look as beautiful as you look today. You have a beauty that’s been earned through decades of living, enduring, building, creating, reinventing, and reinventing again. You have a beauty that cannot be bought or duplicated. You won it in battle. It can never be taken from you.

The only thing that makes it more beautiful is when you stand tall and own it—when you smile a knowing smile, or frown a knowing frown. When you decide that ALL OF IT, ALL OF WHO YOU ARE, AND HOW YOU ARE is worthy of being allowed a place of honor.

I used to be young. I know what it’s like to long for the body, and the health, and the energy that comes so effortlessly. But sister—that young and beautiful body brought you to THE BEST KIND OF BEAUTY . . . the kind that can never be taken away by gravity, sickness, or years. The kind of beauty that keeps getting more radiant as the years go by.

Some of these spans of years we go through age us dramatically. We can be convinced we did something wrong to bring it on ourselves, as if aging were something we could truly prevent if we only had lived a different way. Nope, we are all going to age. Why do we want to hold back on the gifts of it?

What if this new kind of beauty is really our soul saying, “IT IS TIME for you to step into this new era—it is time for you to be a wise woman. It is time for you to wear your badges, your robes, and your crown. It is time for you to be counted and named among the others. You are needed. Your wisdom is needed, your experience is needed, your patience and love are needed, your stories are needed, your fierce devotion is needed.”

Sister, here’s what I wish for you—no more shame, only pride and honor for what it’s taken to wear every wrinkle . . . every sag . . . every scar . . . every lump, every bump, every spot. Take the best care of yourself and then sing along when your body creaks, giving you a new beat to dance to.

I love you, I count myself among you. I will seek you out in crowds and give you a knowing nod, a confident smile, and an admiring bow.

You are so beautiful. Own it.

Here’s to the second half.

Battle-Worn Beauty
by melody ross

Battle worn beauty—
that’s the kind that I have.
I wanted to be flawless,
but my beauty cream is salve.

Maps are drawn across my flesh
of places that I’ve been.
Places I chose, but most I did not,
places I’ve visited time and again

Battle-worn beauty
makes some turn away,
for sometimes it’s startling,
but here I must stay.

In this battle-worn body
and battle-worn flesh,
there’s a light in my eyes 
if you look past the rest.

Once I was young.
I was beautiful too.
Life took that away
but here’s what is true . . . 

I earned every crease
and I earned every flaw,
fought so many battles
and the terror I saw . . .

is engraved on my body
and embedded on my frame.
Story after story,
too many to name.

They may be called ugly
or too stained by tears,
but this is a beauty 
that will outlast the years.

Too many battles
to be put on a shelf.
I am no longer willing
to battle myself.

To look in the mirror
and condemn what I see . . .
This battle-worn beauty
is a great reward to me.

This blanket that covers me
changed the shape I’m in.
It’s protected and sheltered
all that’s within.

So beat-up and battered
my beauty may be,
but inside a garden
grows wild and so free . . . 

and a heart that is strong
gentle and kind too,
but most of all wise
knowing all that is true.

So, if you’ll sit and talk with me
a beauty deep is what you’ll see.
Past all the drooping, creases, and lines
and you’ll see yourself too—beauty defined.

I promise to see 
the beauty in you,
and I promise to see
the same in me too.

I want to stop trying
to be something I’m not.
I don’t want to erase
this patina I’ve got.

And I want you
to be beautiful too.
This battle-worn beauty
also belongs to you.

This beauty needs
to be unashamed.
This beauty is something
to be counted and named.

So battle-worn beauty 
is what it will be.
I’ll wear it, I’ll own it.
I hope you’ll join me.

xoxo,

melody ross