Recently I stopped into Dillard’s with my husband while we were taking a lap around the mall after dinner. I’d wanted to look at some pajamas, which I was in dire need of replacing after more than a year and a half of perpetual unemployment. But I didn’t end up looking at the pajamas.

I ended up looking at the undergarments.

I’m a rather small, interestingly shaped individual and this usually means a nightmare in almost any clothing store. Even though I’m 5’3” (considered petite), I’m extremely short-waisted. So my legs are as long as a regular-sized woman while my torso is even less than petite. Nothing ever fits. Clothes aren’t made for me.

Underwear isn’t made for me either.

Now this post isn’t really about underwear, even though it’s kind of about underwear. Hang with me (especially if you’re a guy) and I’ll get to my point.

“Excuse me,” I asked a young girl working in the department. She was probably in her early twenties and seemed quite normal in the sense that she wasn’t dressed too conservatively or too ostentatiously. She had just the right amount of makeup on and looked beautifully herself.

“Do you sell any bikinis?” I asked, as that’s the only cut I can wear without the waistband coming halfway up my torso. “All I’m seeing are briefs.”

“Oh yes, we do,” she said, motioning for me to follow. “But we don’t sell a lot of them. We only have about three styles.”

She showed me the first style, which was stretchy and plain Jane. Not bad, I thought to myself. Then we moved to the next table.

“Now these are really great,” she said. “I own lots of these and I like the lace. It’s a nice touch.”

“Oh I don’t need lace,” I said almost before she’d finished her sentence. “I just need something comfortable at this point. I’m too old for lace.”

“What? You don’t look old to me,” she said.

“I’m thirty-eight,” I replied, never ashamed to tell my age.

“Thirty-eight! Wow. I hope I age as well as you have.” She smiled at me and folded some items on the table.

I smiled back and thanked her, as I could tell that it wasn’t just flattery. But something shifted in that moment and I began an internal dialogue with myself as I quietly picked up a pair.

I’m too old? Did I really say that? 

I can’t wear lace anymore? 

Why not? Really?

She doesn’t think I’m too old. Why do I think I’m too old?

My outsides haven’t matched my insides for the past four years due to medical issues. It was like I’d accelerated thirty years into the future even though my exterior wasn’t showing the wear. But in that moment, for the first time since age thirty-four, I realized that I sure was my age. My treatments had been giving me a better quality of life this year but I hadn’t found my way back, mentally, to actual age thirty-eight just yet.

Stuck is what I would call it.

“Maybe I’ll try a pair,” I told her, eyeing a purple one. “But, umm, one size fits all? Really? Is this a thing now?”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “I know it sounds really crazy but they really do fit everybody. You can go try them on over your existing panties and see what you think.”

“Okay. I’ll give them a try.”

Turns out they fit pretty nicely. In fact, those lace panties came home with me along with a sunshiney pair of yellow and white pajamas that I’d grabbed on the way to the fitting room. I left the plain Jane stuff behind.

I share this story to tell you that mindset means a lot, and also that you can change it in an instant if you want to. For me, I’d decided in that moment – in front of the underwear table – that I wasn’t going to condemn myself to an early retirement anymore. What a silly way to approach life, sticking myself into a category synonymous with washed up.

Maybe it’s not lace panties that seem out of reach for you at your “age.” Maybe it’s something else like a hairdo or a hobby or a job. Maybe it’s a type of music or staying out late, or having people over for an old-school style pool party with a cooler full of beer and rap music blaring from the speakers.

But perhaps you’re not actually as old or as boring as you’ve allowed yourself to slide into over the years. Perhaps the only person holding you back is you.

So how about you decide what age you are going to be and feel? How about you decide to no longer condemn yourself to a rocking chair because you think you’ve missed your prime? Why, because you’re a parent now? Because you’re tired after a day at work? Because you can’t binge on wine without destroying your body for a few days instead of a few hours?

You’re evolving. You’re gaining wisdom. Your body is aging but you’re not old. You’re the same you, really, that you’ve always been. Just a bit better.

I think it’s your internal dialogue that controls your reality sometimes. I’d hung onto a medically-induced “oldness” long after it had lifted from my life, because it had become familiar. Because I didn’t look particularly “young” anymore (i.e. twenty-five) when I looked in the mirror. Because I couldn’t do the physical things I used to do. Because my energy levels had dropped and I’m tired by 9 o’clock.

So I was automatically “old.”

Have you told yourself you’re automatically “old?” Maybe it’s time to use your own brain to reframe your perspective.

We all have the power to do that, today, if we want to. Our ability to shine is only limited by our desire to do so. So go out there, polish the old penny of a body that you have, and shine. You’re not too old for that.

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My first book, Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife, was released on August 18, 2020 by Warren Publishing and will be re-released on February 16, 2021 by White Ocean Press. To read an excerpt, check out reviews, see the author Q&A, or find links to buy, click the Learn More button.

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