Alexandra Levin is in love with her wrinkles
We all have wrinkles. We can choose to hide or get rid of them, or we can choose to embrace them. Here is why I am in love with some of my favorite wrinkles, and why I invite you to fall in love with yours.
I got my very first wrinkle at 19. An only child of doting Jewish parents, I was both a mama’s and daddy’s girl at the same time. I was protected and taken care of. Our family had attempted to leave communist Russia for 13 years (since I was 6) and the government consistently refused. Twice a year we applied for exit visas, and twice a year we were denied. Then, at 19, I was unexpectedly given permission to leave Russia… but on my own, without my parents.
Fast forward three months, and I find myself on a plane leaving Leningrad. I was 19, feeling desperately alone in the world, terrified, and not knowing if I would ever, EVER see my parents again.
That is how I obtained my first wrinkle. What I got with it was the gift. At 19, I learned how strong I really was. Beyond my own imagination I was capable and I could do anything. I received THAT learning and lifelong insight out of the most devastating experience of my teenage years.
I am definitely keeping that wrinkle.
More favorite wrinkles formed when my 20-year-old daughter was planning to travel to Israel right in the middle of a war. Everyone in my family questioned me as a mother for allowing her to go, and demanded that I stop her.
I did a lot of soul searching. How would I live with myself if I didn’t stop her from going and yet…? I could not even let myself think beyond the yet. Scary. What if everyone was right, and I was wrong, and it was my job as a mother to stop her? What if…?
Yes, of course, I wanted my daughter to be safe. I also wanted her to know that she is free – given our family fought so hard for our freedom. What lesson would my daughter be learning if someone else (even her mother) had more power over her choice than she did? After all, I had been given the gift of a tough choice myself at about her age. Then I made a decision: I told my daughter that I trusted her to choose for herself and that I would support her in that choice. My daughter chose to go.
This sweet basket of wrinkles revealed themselves when I took that stand for my daughter and her right and ability to make choices in her own life.
Because of those wrinkles, my daughter went to Israel and had the most profound experience of her life. It formed within her a passion for travel that now has her just returning from her second summer-long backpacking trip to Europe, writing a travel blog, and making spectacular travel videos.
At age 20, my daughter learned that she can trust herself with life-impacting decisions… and, more importantly, that she has a voice and a choice.
That is a bunch of wrinkles I wouldn’t trade for anything.
As I mentioned before, I am in love with my wrinkles. I have shared a couple of my favorite wrinkles with you, and here are a couple more…
I earned another set of wrinkles when, at 25, I found myself in a lifeless marriage with my first husband and the father of our daughters. Married for eight years, I had tried everything I knew to make the marriage work.
The wrinkles started to appear when I felt like I had to choose between my daughters having their parents together or me being happy. More showed up when I finally chose to get a divorce.
What I learned with those wrinkles is that I deserve to be happy, and that I am the only one responsible for that happiness.
I’m keeping that batch of wrinkles for sure.
More stripes were earned a few years ago when I found myself at the end of a 14-year good (second) marriage gone bad. I had been stuck for the last three years, married to a man who turned emotionally unstable and verbally abusive. Doubting myself and my value, I questioned the viability of my gifts and talents. I forgot how capable I really was. He had me convinced that I would not survive without him…and told me so regularly.
Those wrinkles emerged as I went through the eye of a needle to find the keys to getting unstuck. Why was I staying stuck in a marriage that I really wanted to be free from? I found the answer in the process of reviewing a manuscript for a then friend of mine, Darrell Gurney. He had asked me and several others to give him feedback on his unpublished manuscript, The Back Forty: 7 Critical Embraces for Life’s Radical Second Half.
Take a peek at what I saw:
I am 19, on that plane out of Russia… I am scared and alone… wondering if I will ever see my parents again… wondering if I am making a mistake… and I am on my way to the freedom that our family so sorely dreamed of for 13 years… yet, I am afraid of going out into this new free world by myself… I am actually afraid of freedom.
To that 19-year old, freedom looked scary. At that moment of realization, I saw clearly that what kept me stuck in the marriage was a 19-year-old, scared of the freedom she wanted so badly. However, now I was no longer a scared 19-year-old. That story was complete… so I put it back where it belonged, in the past.
Becoming freed up from this past-based fear of freedom, within a day I told my husband that we would be getting divorced and declared that it would be amicable. Within a few months, I was out of that that marriage… as well as that mindset of fear around my own freedom.
What I gained along with those wonderful wrinkles was the confidence that I can not only survive, but thrive on my own. I wasn’t sure how I would make it at first, and yet I knew that I would. Within a few short months, I realized that I could stand financially and mentally on my own two very capable feet.
I’ve been sharing with you that I am in love with my wrinkles. Here’s how I got to fall in love with them…
It all hit me one sunny Sunday morning as Darrell and I were making our way through Los Angeles traffic. I thought about how I have been transformed by the gift of my life’s challenges, wins and losses, and how much I love the older and wiser version of my Self that I have become. My wrinkles are not only part of the package that came with those life experiences, but they were the very stripes and awards earned due to them. I realized that who I am today is inseparable from the wrinkles that formed me.
Every wrinkle, every experience, every lesson I learned and challenge I faced, contributed to making me exactly who I am today. I now possess all the gifts and talents to create my life according to my own design. To live it on my own terms, and to contribute to others are represented in those wrinkles. Because of everything I claimed along with the territory of those wrinkles, I am now creating my own inspiring, playful, passionate, and radically purposeful second half of life.
According to the Ancient Art of Chinese Face Reading, when we erase our wrinkles, we erase our gifts. Our wrinkles show how we have lived our life and even what we are designing in our future. Horizontal lines on the face are signs of lessons learned in life when we experience challenging times. This philosophy states that, if we remove those wrinkles, we lose the lesson… which means we may encounter the same challenge again to re-learn the lesson.
Now why would we want to do that!
My wrinkles remind me of my growth, the path I have traveled, and who I am becoming. They serve as road signs alerting me to utilize my choice of who I want to be. They wake me up daily to the power I have to transform who I am as a matter of my word and commitments.
In The Back Forty, we propose that we have all chosen the specific experiences and events of our lives to create a laboratory for research and development. When assessed, they allow us to discover what we are really here to do.
My wrinkles remind me of the lab experiments I chose to conduct in my life to gain the gifts, the learnings, and the growth I now possess. They give me the keys to an exciting, joyful, and radical Back Forty – my second half – and to living it on my own terms.
I am in love with my wrinkles.
And I invite YOU to fall in love with YOURS. Check out The Back Forty HERE