Shorter! Blonder! YES!

Tags

, , , ,

About a year ago, or maybe a little longer, I decided to go blonde. Not because I believed that blondes have more fun, but because as I grew older – and more to the point, grayer – maintaining my (somewhat) more natural dark brown color became more and more of a battle. I’d get it done and in a matter of weeks my roots would grow out, leaving me bearing an uncanny resemblance to a skunk. Since I have very fair skin and blue eyes (and a naturally blonde sister), I figured I could get away with the switch. So little by little, I went blonde. I liked it, a lot. The blonder I went, the happier I became.

I’d been growing out my hair since I was pregnant with my daughter, who’s now 3 1/2. I hadn’t had long hair since around the time I got married (almost 14 years ago), so the change seemed like a good idea at first. Also, I was heavier than I preferred and I liked the idea of being able to hide behind my hair. The problem is, I have very fine hair. When it gets long it looks limp and lifeless. It also has the notable ability to tie itself into knots. The longer I let it get, the longer I spent in the bathroom trying to make it work. Small fortunes were spent on conditioner and detangler. My frustration grew along with my hair, but for a long time I refused to let go.

I spent a couple of months obsessively combing through magazines and Pinterest, dreaming of short cuts but fearful that they wouldn’t work for me. I reached a point where my fixation was eating up a terrifying amount of my time. Eventually I found a cut I loved in every picture – Julianne Hough’s pixie. I went to the salon and had it all chopped in one fell swoop. I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with until I did, but from the moment she cut my hair to my shoulders, I was relieved. When it reached my chin, I felt better still. It was a fantastic cut, and my stylist is terrific. My hair looks a million times better short – less damaged and full of body. The style suited my face. While it’s (sadly) true that I don’t resemble Julianne Hough, my stylist tweaked the cut in ways that made it perfect for me. I received more compliments than I had in years, which was nice too. But the best part? I felt like myself again. Short hair suits me. It makes me happy. It’s easy to manage but looks like I put more effort in, somehow. What’s not to like?

Today, I went shorter still. I wasn’t planning on it, not consciously at least. True, I’ve been trolling Pinterest again, checking out shorter cuts. Even so, initially I asked her for the same cut I got last time, and she gave it to me. It’s a great cut, too. But this time I looked in the mirror and even though it looked amazing, I felt like something was missing. So I pulled out my phone and showed her my latest Pinterest cut, and she LOVED it. More important, she was willing to change it, then and there, even though she’d just given me a complete cut. She’s fairly awesome. I really love the new cut; I felt better the minute she started snipping again.

As for blonder, that will have to wait until next time. I have a ton of platinum highlights now, but it can always be lighter. Meanwhile, though, I’m happy. I look in the mirror and like what I see. I’m not hiding behind anything anymore, and that’s a great feeling.

P.S. I wrote my two most recent posts on my Nook, same as always. Trouble is, I got an iPhone six months ago, and I’ve gotten sort of used to the autocorrect feature. Dependent upon it, one might say. Lazy, even. Not having the words fix themselves was driving me crazy, so I downloaded the WordPress app and wrote this on my phone. Sad but true story. It seemed to go fairly well, although I have yet to decipher how some of the functions work. Give me time.

Identity

Tags

, , , , , , ,

In the past, I’ve written a lot about being a work in progress. In case it’s not apparent, it’s still all too true. I sometimes feel like I’m coming from behind; I don’t think I grew as much emotionally in high school or even college as many people I knew. Back then I had no idea who I was, and the little I could figure out made me both uncomfortable and unhappy. I had a long way to grow to get past all of that, and I think it’s taken me longer than average.

So here I am at 45. I’m a wife and a mom. I love my family and I love to write. I’m very opinionated and am still intensely, sometimes desperately insecure. I often rub people the wrong way, without trying and frequently without any notion of what I’ve done wrong. The friends with whom I’ve somehow managed to avoid this trap mean the world to me. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and how to live without apologizing for whoever that is. I do think I’ve made progress, overall. My sense of self is still developing, yes, but it’s also strengthening. But then there’s the job stuff….

I need to find a job. I’m working part-time at the moment but it won’t  be enough money for the long haul. I never had a career, per se. I had jobs I was good at but I never had any passion for them, so the decision to stay home with my kids was an easy one. But now here I am, a stay-at-home mom who has basically been home – and happy to be here – for 11 years. I’ve been told if I go back to my old job I’ll be starting practically from scratch, something that holds no appeal financially or emotionally. But where to go otherwise? I have no clue, and it’s a terrifying concept. I had a period where I sent out countless resumes, often to no response. I went on several interviews, but nothing came of any of them. It used to be back in the day that I’d get offered nearly every job I interviewed for. I took it for granted. The overall lack of interest and/or response during my last round of attempts was uncomfortable and intimidating. It’s left me feeling not-at-all confident, and that’s not a good starting place. It left me curled up in an emotional ball, unwilling to continue to try. I’ve been licking my wounds for awhile now, but I’m running out of both time and excuses.

I am lucky in that I’ve found a husband and partner who accepts me as I am, in whatever form that takes on a given day. He loves me no matter what, and that’s not just lip service. I am grateful, and I adore him. Unfortunately he’s going through a similar struggle, job-wise. It’s a difficult thing for one half of a couple to be going through, but both? We can commiserate but I think it’s hard for either of us to offer fresh perspective or inspiration of any kind. Tough stuff, this.

Anyway, I’m here, writing about it. Me, in all my iterations, like them or not. I’m learning to, thankfully. It feels like the right place to start.

Starting Over

Tags

, , , ,

I know. As titles go, it’s a bit obvious. A little too on point, perhaps. It can’t be helped. I’ve written this post a dozen or so times in my mind, but couldn’t seem to commit. The subject matter changed every day, and sometimes several times even within my imagined post. Too many thoughts in my head, and my mind wasn’t allowing me to organize them. I couldn’t focus, and I didn’t want to overwhelm my readers. Readers, ha! I haven’t written anything in 10 months or so… I doubt anyone’s been hanging around with bated breath, except for maybe me. I’m more than a little curious to see what I’m going to say, now that I’m finally going through the process of saying it.

I should fill in some obvious blanks, but honestly that’s a post for another time. I’d rather talk about where I’m at than where I’ve been. Where I’m at in this very precise moment is obsessing about food. Again. Plus ça change…. plus c’est la même chose. I’m back at Weight Watchers and doing quite well overall. I’m down around 20 pounds or so since October. When I started this time (time four? time five?), things were oddly easy. I was very relieved to be back, and my appetite fled the scene. I had no desire to overeat, and zero interest in sugar. For once, my biggest problem was that I couldn’t seem to eat enough. Crazy, right? I was eating a ton of fruit and veggies and couldn’t seem to eat as much overall as I was supposed to. The weight came off reasonably quickly. I’d lose a couple of pounds one week and only a few ounces the next, even if I’d changed nothing. I never “cheated” or overate so it made me somewhat mental that it wasn’t coming off faster still, but steady progress is always a big deal. I had lost around 19 pounds just before Christmas, and then I went home to Chicago for 11 days. “Aha!” you might be thinking. “Here’s where it all fell apart.” Actually, no. Yes, the food was heavier. There were (far) fewer vegetables, and I did indulge more than I would have at home. Regardless, I gained less than a pound the entire trip. Amazing, considering. Stalled a bit on my return but then lost another 2 1/2 pounds last week. I hit a couple of milestones in the program, which were celebrated at my meeting, and here I am. This past week we ate out quite a bit. I made many poor choices and Monday morning the scale made note of them: I was up a full pound. I’m mad at myself and more than a little frustrated. I know exactly what I did wrong, in obsessive and excruciating detail. It’s not important, really. This is the real question, and it’s a biggie:

What is it about success that scares me so much?

I have a deep-seated fear of success, and it gets in my way. Oh, fear of failure is in there as well, naturally, but it’s obvious and doesn’t need dissection. This fear of success thing is a tricky bastard. I WANT to be thin. I want it badly! I want to be able to wear – and look fabulous in – whatever I want. I want to feel pretty, as well as comfortable in my own skin. I was making progress, people. I was ON MY WAY. Then WHAMMO, the desire to eat crappy food returned full-force. Suddenly, I wanted fat, I wanted sugar. I wanted to have my cake and lose weight, too. I wanted it MY way. Trouble is, my way is a total fail and I know it – I’ve been proving it for years! What was it about reaching some of my shorter-term goals that scared me back to the dark side? These were absolutely smaller, initial goals. Losing 20 pounds is great, and I’m not trying to downplay it, but the bottom line is I have another 40 or so pounds to lose. I need to stick with the program and not start deviating from a plan that was working. It was working. It WILL work. But I have to face my fears, success included.

I have a long road ahead, so why am I carrying my own jackhammer?

Food (ahem) for thought. So for the moment, it’s back to basics. Lots of fruit and vegetables and a general avoidance of sugar are good starting places. My meeting leader says, “You can eat what you want, or you can wear what you want. You can’t have both.” Truer words were never spoken. For me, clothes are a big deal. The possibility of feeling attractive – to myself – is a HUGE deal. I need to let go of the fear and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Speaking of which, adding in some exercise is not a terrible idea, either.

So for now, this is where I’m at. Subject to change without notice, always. I promise not to take 10 months to report back.

I Wanna Get Better

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The title of this post was borrowed from a song by Bleachers that I’m currently into, and the lyrics hit home. Life has been busy, crazy and stressful. I’ve been struggling just to make it through from one day to the next. Really struggling. For awhile there, each day seemed worse than the day before. My attitude regarding my circumstances (which are admittedly shitty) had deteriorated. I was having a difficult time even imagining a point at which things would not suck.

The trouble with having an attitude that miserable is that it tends to leak. Soon, those around you are almost as unhappy as you are. I suppose if you’re entirely self-absorbed, that wouldn’t matter. Happily for my family members, I am not quite that selfish. Eventually I am forced to pull my head from the dark place (yep) and acknowledge that my attitude as well as my behavior impacts others. I had a meltdown of sorts recently that involved screaming and crying and pretty much losing it completely… in front of one of my kids. Not good. I’m hoping it was a bottom of sorts, but regardless it was a wake- up call.

I had a friend who I described the experience to offer the opinion that my meltdown was “completely understandable.” Possibly. I am not overstating the awfulness of our circumstances, unfortunately. But here’s the thing: I am a mom. That comes first, always. How I respond to our circumstances – like it or not – will inform how my kids respond to them. Every day, they learn from me. And what would I like them to learn? I’m not suggesting it’s not okay to cry in front of your kids, nor am I suggesting that anyone should pretend that things are okay when they aren’t. But crying is one thing, and completely falling apart is another. I pray for strength for my kids, and that’s all well and good. But it’s up to me to illustrate it, too. I get to choose how I react to our circumstances. Feelings are one thing, behavior is another. I’ve acknowledged that things are tough, and I’m allowed to do that. That’s healthy. But there’s a point at which, in order to feel better, I need to move forward. I’m at that point.

I am grateful for the people I can turn to with anything, the people who will accept my depression and my craziness and my mood swings and who will listen, offer advice when warranted and continue to care about me even when I’m feeling less-than-lovable. Everyone needs someone who will tell you that you’re holding up surprisingly well, but just as important are the people to whom you can respond, “No, I’m really not.” I am lucky to have several people like that in my life, people who help me figure out how to keep it together when I’m falling apart, and who are willing to help pick up the pieces when I’ve actually come a bit unglued. People who convince me by their continued acceptance that maybe I’m not as out there as I think I am. Or maybe I am that out there, but that’s okay too. They like me anyway.

My husband and his entire family are stoic. Sometimes that outward appearance of calm is comforting, others it’s absolutely maddening. “Why aren’t you freaking out? Don’t you care that this is happening to us?” Stoicism can read as indifference. My entire family us the opposite of stoic. We’re dramatic, often histrionic. We yell and cry and occasionally throw things. We’re prone to tantrums and yes, breakdowns. The contrast is awkward. My husband’s stoicism during this time of intense stress sometimes leaves me feeling even more out of control. Never a good feeling.

The day after my meltdown, I woke up wanting to change. I didn’t immediately feel better, but I knew I wanted to feel different. Later, I found a post on Facebook that offered some concrete suggestions of how I could do that. That might sound cheesy, but here’s the link to the post:

http://www.lifebuzz.com/start-doing/#!FDoAg

Awesome, right? So many of the suggestions were directly applicable to my life. They really resonated. Does this mean I will wake up every day with a better attitude? Not necessarily. Change is not static. I need to decide every day to view things differently, and make my outlook as positive as I can manage. For myself (because feeling miserable day in and day out and believing things will never improve isn’t a very pleasant way to live) and for my family, especially my kids, because they are still learning how to respond to stress. I want them to learn how to respond in a healthy way. Hopefully, every time I feel I’m about to unravel I can shift my focus to that, and them. They are reason enough to want to get better. Today, I choose to try.

45 Going on 14

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club

Back when I was 14, I had all kinds of confusion, obsession, identity and self-esteem issues. “Who am I, really? Who do I want to be? Am I cool enough to hang out with her? Does he like me or just think I’m a basket case? What do I want to be when I grow up? Will I ever stop feeling this way?” Well, at 45 I have the answer to the last one, and unfortunately for the moment it’s still “no.” So now what?

Okay, so I’m exaggerating somewhat. I’m happily married and my husband either doesn’t think I’m a basket case or happens to find basket cases attractive. Either way, it works. I have two beautiful children, and while my 14-year-old self wouldn’t have believed Future Me if I went back in time and told her I would someday love being a mom, it’s undoubtedly true. My kids are the best part of my life. At 14 I knew I wanted to be a writer, and at 45 I still know I want that… I’m just not any more clear on how to get there than I was all of those years ago. Questions about friendships and how others see me still plague me, as do issues of confidence and self-esteem. At 14 I knew most of my friends shared a lot of the same questions. At 45 I’m both annoyed and embarrassed not to have moved beyond many of them. I’d like to think I’ve evolved in the last 31 years. Good God… the math on that just hurt my head. I’ve had 31 years to work this stuff out, yet I’m still working. That’s kind of horrifying.

I think at 14 I would have assumed I’d have the answers by now, or at least stopped caring so much about the questions. In some ways I’m an entirely different person than Past Me, and I’m quite grateful for that. In others, the similarities remain glaring. And really, who wants to be an adult with the inner angst of a 14-year-old? Okay, perhaps not the entire package of angst, but a larger portion than I’d like, or feel good about confessing to. But I can tell all of you, because… okay, there’s really no good reason why. This is just what I do. I may not feel very secure in my choice of writer as a career path, but when I write I feel insulated in some odd way… secure. Protected, even. It’s probably a false sense of security, because the written word has gotten me into fairly deep trouble more than once. And is likely to again, but still I persist.

(At this point I’m recounting the fable about the scorpion and the frog. Do you know it? A scorpion needs to cross a river, and asks a frog to carry him on its back. The frog says, “No way! You’ll sting me!” The scorpion says, “No, I wouldn’t do that. If I stung you, I’d drown!” The frog considers this and agrees to carry the scorpion. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. Stunned and dying, the frog asks, “Why did you sting me? Now you’ll die, too.” The scorpion says, “I know. It’s what I do… I couldn’t help it!”)

But back to the point at hand: Here I am, confessing all of this way-post-adolescent angst onto a blog. A blog that anyone can read. Because I can. Because you’ll read it. Because knowing you’ll read it gives me immeasurable satisfaction, even if the content itself makes me vaguely uneasy. Weird, right? But I’m a weird girl, and yes, possibly even something of a basket case. “The Breakfast Club” remains one of my favorite movies of all time, and Ally Sheedy’s character was kind of a revelation for me. I could so relate. Honestly, I wish John Hughes was still around to write a movie about adults who still face many of the same emotional challenges as their teenage counterparts. I have no doubt he’d get it right. Whether or not I will remains to be seen.

The Hole

Tags

, , , , , ,

Hole imageOkay, time to write. Powerlessness. It sucks. There is so much going wrong in my life at the moment that it would be exhausting – to both me and the eventual reader – to list it out. So I won’t, but I’ll talk about some of it at least, because that’s what I do. It’s how I ended up here to begin with, and also, sometimes it helps.

I recently finished a three-week stint as a production assistant for a reality TV show. For the most part I enjoyed it. It was very different from anything I’d ever done, but in a good way. The notable thing I didn’t love was the long hours: 12-hour days and 60-hour weeks. I’ve never had a work schedule like that in my life, and it really rocked me. I was fighting something my last couple of days of work… the set medic (who was a total sweetheart) was perpetually plying me with Emergen-C and DayQuil. Still, the job ended and I promptly lost the battle. I’ve been coughing and hacking for a week now, and it isn’t improving my view of the world.

The pay – in spite of the long hours – is not very high. There’s a daily rate that breaks down to 40 hours at just-over minimum wage, then an additional 20 hours at time and a half. It’s not entirely the money I am complaining about, though. It’s more than I’ve made in awhile, and it felt great to be earning it. While I am grateful for all of the things I’ve been given in recent months (exceedingly grateful), I am not entirely comfortable with them. I’m far happier contributing to my own well being and that of my family. It makes me feel like a functioning member of society, and I appreciate that. No one likes feeling useless. Therefore, it was worth it to me to work 60 hours a week and barely see my family. The days I had off were erratic and difficult to plan around, so I essentially had almost no social life. But still, earning money just feels good.

In the end, the hardest part wasn’t the long hours or the amount earned. The hardest part was that the money I did earn went away so fast it’s almost like I never received it. Food, gas, a particularly costly Target run (it’s amazing how a handful of $15 necessities such as diapers, toilet paper and sunscreen can suddenly total $150… more than I made in a day). There were other odd expenses… my daughter’s health insurance company either lost her Social Security number or realized they never had it, so that got put on hold until we got a copy of her birth certificate ($23) to give the Social Security office, who then said they actually didn’t need it in order to give us her card. My husband spent three-plus hours in a gargantuan line to get that document they insisted we give them that it turned out they didn’t really need to begin with, time that would have been better spent doing any number of things, but I digress.

The best I can describe things is to say that I feel like I’m at the bottom of a very deep hole. It’s cold, dark and unpleasant, so of course I want out. I try to climb, to no avail. The money I made feels as if someone is throwing change down into the hole with me. It’s great that it’s there, and that I earned it, but trying to stand on it isn’t giving me much of a leg up, no matter how carefully I stack it. The hole is just as deep and I’m just as stuck.

I don’t mind hard work, and I am willing to work long hours. But I need my efforts to count for something. If I’m working 60 hours a week and it’s still not enough to get me out of the hole, then what? Even if I still had the job, or got a similar position, it wouldn’t be enough. That’s incredibly frustrating, and it leaves me feeling like there is no way out. Resumes I’ve sent attempting to get positions similar to my original one (executive assistant) have largely been ignored. I haven’t had a decent interview in ages, and the interviews I did get were for significantly lower-paying jobs. I could make myself crazy wondering why none of those came through, and I have. The bottom line is, there are too many desperate people vying for too few jobs. I’m not fresh out of college, and much of my relevant experience is not terribly recent. I’m still the same person with the same skill set, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. It’s maddening.

I’m not lazy, and I’m not waiting for something to be handed to me. I’m not comfortable with handouts. I want to work, but I want that work to feel like it’s creating momentum. I need to feel like there is a way out, a way to improve my family’s situation. I feel better when I’m working, and that’s worth something. I’m not discounting it. But that good feeling simply isn’t enough without an ultimate sense of forward progress. I want to know that my efforts are creating actual change… in my overall circumstances, not just my attitude.

So next week I’ll go back to working for my friend until something better comes along. I’d absolutely do P.A. work again; it might not be getting me out of the hole, but there’s something to be said for food, gas, diapers and toilet paper. The hole could be deeper and still more miserable. I’ll do anything to prevent that. Gratefully, too. But I still want out of the damned hole.

Please.

Strange New World

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

GatorIt’s been awhile. To fill in the gaps: I got the job my friend was gracious enough to filter toward me. It was as a production assistant for a reality TV show. For me, it was very much a strange new world, and it took some getting used to. The hours were insane – 12 hour days (60-hour weeks!) not including 90 minutes of travel time – and for the first time in ages everything in my path was foreign. I kept saying it reminded me a bit of my semester in Paris… new people, new culture, lots of stress. Everyone was very nice, which was helpful as I was flying blind much of the time. I was equipped with a walkie and “surveillance” (the earpiece thing that makes everyone look like a Fed), and much of the language used was more or less in code, at least from my angle. Moreover I had a horrible time hearing what was being said, period. Too many concerts, maybe? That made things difficult. Also, conversations would occur during which I was asked to switch channels, and I’d forget to switch back. Whoops. They’d have to hunt me down and remind me. All of the filming equipment was new to me as well, so when someone would ask me to bring something over near the boom or the jib I’d have to ask what they were referring to. Awkward. The first week I was so exhausted from the abrupt shift in schedule I could barely cope. I went from sleeping nine or ten hours a night to getting up around 5:00 AM and not getting home until 8:00 PM. I’d eat dinner, watch a show or two if I could stay awake that long, shower and go to bed. I averaged five hours of sleep a night… it was brutal!

When I started I assume the intent was to have me as a general P.A., which meant I could have been doing anything from emptying trash to wiping down porta-potties (eww!) to restocking the “crafty” (or snack) areas. I learned to drive a “Gator,” which is something between a golf cart on steroids and an off-road vehicle, a 15-passenger van (hated driving it) and two different mini-vans, all in the first week. (I don’t hate mini-vans as much as I thought, and owning a Town and Country wouldn’t suck.) But day two they switched me over to exclusively dealing with talent. I’m not sure why, but I am grateful. Apparently my new title was something like “Talent Wrangler,” although I was officially just a P.A. Regardless, I moved on from toilets and trash to people, and my experience was better for it.

I can’t offer any detail about the show, but the “talent” I was working with were all incredibly fit. The first half of the job I was solely dealing with men. I didn’t mind that, actually. They were all very nice. Some were younger and so were a bit more immature, but as I am impossible to shock, that didn’t matter much. They were entertaining, and often appealing to look at. As I am not prone to comparing myself to men, their level of fitness wasn’t upsetting to me. I could just hang out and take it all in. For a variety of reasons, they weren’t allowed to talk to each other. This meant they spoke almost exclusively to me. Yes, I got paid to chat with athletic guys all day. That part of my job didn’t suck, I can assure you. Also, I like to talk, even to people with whom it would seem I have little in common. Fun stuff!

But eventually I had to deal with the girls, and that was harder. It wasn’t that they weren’t nice, almost all of them were. There was definitely a different dynamic, though. Also, if you have the tendency to struggle with weight/self-esteem issues, I can’t in good conscience recommend hanging out with athletic women 12 hours a day. Hello, giant mind fuck! Sorry… there might be a more delicate way to express that, but that was how it felt. Spending my days surrounded by women with six-pack abs, cut arms and a notable lack of cellulite really did a number on me. I didn’t realize how much my perspective had been altered until I found myself having a mini-breakdown in a Target dressing room. There in that mirror, there were no six-pack abs, no chiseled arms. There was only me, and I had a hard time coping with my own reflection. Rough stuff. In my normal world, like most of us, I am surrounded by a range of bodies. Many are better than my own, absolutely, but some are worse. There is at least the suggestion of balance. On the job, there was none. I had few days off and little to no exposure to the “real” world, and the world I existed in involved nothing but ridiculously fit women. I’m sure there was a lesson to be learned here, and I hope at some point I latch onto it. For now, I’m just grateful to have made it through to the other side, and to have found my way back into my world. Not everyone there has six-pack abs, thank God.

Filming ended yesterday, and as suddenly as the whole thing had begun, it was over. I made friends among the crew this month, and I was more upset than I imagined when the whole thing ended. It wasn’t my normal world, but it was a fascinating one. I learned a lot, about TV production and about myself. I learned that I can handle more than I think, and am still fairly adaptable when I need to be. I learned that I have no idea when I’m being flirted with (long story) and that you can make friends in very unexpected places. A strange new world, indeed. I’m glad I got a chance to experience it. Would I do it again? It’s funny, I was on the fence the entire time, but when the show ended I learned that yes, I would absolutely do it again. I miss it already. Crazy, right?

The March of Time

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goldie Hawn Oscars

I saw a post this morning linking to an article about Goldie Hawn’s appearance at the Oscars. The title was: “Goldie, We Love You Just the Way You Were.” The upshot was that viewers thought she had had too much plastic surgery, and believed she was more beautiful “before.” Sounds a little vague to me. Before she had plastic surgery, or before she had the audacity to get older?

Confession: I too gasped when Goldie and Kurt appeared onscreen. Here’s the thing… I had a little bit of up close and not-exactly-personal experience with both of them, back in the 90’s. In 1994, my boyfriend was a senior at Crossroads, a private high school in Santa Monica. (Don’t do the math; my boyfriend was much younger than I was. Not young enough for me to get arrested, but… young enough that at the time I looked it up, just to be sure.) Anyway, at the end of his senior year there was something called a “Senior Appreciation Day.” Basically you sat in a small room with about 10 students, their teachers and families. The teachers went around in a circle and talked about what was wonderful about each student. Goldie Hawn’s son was in that class (in retrospect I realize it must have been Oliver Hudson, which kind of makes me want to pound my head into the wall now, but at the time he must not have been too remarkable) and I was blown away just being in the same small room as Goldie Hawn. She was gorgeous! It was Goldie Hawn – sitting about 10 feet from me! She was funny and smart and emotional, because her son was graduating from high school and like any other parent, she was worked up about it. I will reiterate, she was gorgeous… and only a few years older than I am now (crap!). There was no stage makeup and no fancy gown, but I was wowed. We saw her again (along with Kurt and Kate) at the graduation a few weeks later. Still gorgeous. I have no idea if she’d had work done back then or not, but it isn’t relevant. She looked great. How she looked that summer is how I picture her, to this day. So her appearance at the Academy Awards was kind of a shock. It was the march of time, smacking me in the face.

I am not the biggest fan of plastic surgery, but I’m also not necessarily always against it. Are there people who go too far? God, yes. And women are often the victims, as we are typically held to a higher standard. Women as a group seem more desperate to hold on to our youth, and I include myself in this. I use whatever creams I can afford, wear sunscreen rain or shine (now, anyway – wish I’d started at five), exfoliate… and still I stare in the mirror and lament the latest fine line, the creases from my pillow that hang around for easily 30 minutes after I wake up, and the perma-freckles that are the constant reminder that yes, I really should have started using sunscreen religiously at five. I think about what I might choose to do if things got worse (wrinkle-wise) and money was no longer an object. At this point I haven’t contemplated drastic measures… but I’ve thought about microdermabrasion and laser peels. Maybe an eye lift, far down the road. I don’t think about botox, but only because I am exceedingly afraid of needles (I was 22 when I finally got my ears pierced). But bottom line, I will be 45 in a couple of days, I’m broke and still I think about this stuff. And I’m a fairly young-looking almost 45, I think.

So who am I to judge Goldie? Who is anyone? She’s a Hollywood icon in her late 60’s… that’s a whole lot of pressure. The media is so eager to pick stars apart… what they’re wearing, whether they’ve “let themselves go.” The same people who are claiming to have preferred Goldie “before” are likely contemplating a “before” that either doesn’t exist (pre-plastic surgery? Given her world and its expectations, who knows when she started?), or a “before” that existed so long ago she wouldn’t resemble it now even if she’d never had work done. Whatever she has had done is her choice, and I don’t fault her for it. It’s no one’s business but hers.

That said, I am starting to appreciate the actresses of a certain age who have either not had work done or have super-fabulously subtle plastic surgeons. We were watching a TV show the other night and there was an actress who’s somewhere around my age who I’ve seen in various shows for nearly 10 years. There was a close-up scene and I noticed she had many horizontal lines on her forehead, and I don’t mean that at all disparagingly. Maybe it’s from living in L.A., but I’ve become acutely sensitive to foreheads that never move. I notice them, all the time. So when the rare actress exists who is actually allowing some age to show, I’m oddly excited. You see, regular women get held up and hold themselves up to the standards Hollywood sets. So when I see Jennifer Aniston or whatever nearly-flawless actress of approximately my age, I tend to feel less than. “Why can’t I look like that?” I wonder. Assuming the actress in question hasn’t just won the genetic lottery (hello, J.Lo), the answer is usually stylists and dermatologists and personal chefs and trainers… and yes, plastic surgeons. Conclusion: I can’t afford to look like that. Yes, I could (and should) watch what I eat and exercise more, but it ends there. I can promise I can’t afford to follow the skin care regimens of the Hollywood elite. I do what I can, but I still have fine lines and creases that seem to linger a little longer with each morning that passes. I am almost 45 years old, and I suspect all of this is normal. Sure, maybe the next generation will be more sunscreen-aware than mine was, and will reap the benefits of that. But aging is normal. Faces are supposed to move, and eventually wrinkle. We don’t look younger as time goes on, we just don’t. Finding acceptance of that – both on a personal level and as a society – is a damned good idea.

It’s so easy to sit in judgment from the relative safety of our couches and lament that Goldie doesn’t look the way she “used to.” Who the hell does, really? No one should. If Goldie is happy with herself, that’s all that matters. The rest of the world – and especially the media, who has the gall to perpetuate this cycle of self-loathing and then judge those who react and/or fall victim to it – needs to shut the hell up. Time marches on, people, and no amount of botox can prevent it. If only we could learn to celebrate it instead of fear it, the world would be much better off.

Defying Gravity

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

warrior copy

I am not much of a risk taker. I would go as far as to classify myself as risk averse. I am anxious by nature, always worrying about what might go wrong. I fear (and dodge) disappointment to the point where one might think I was avoiding the Black Plague. I don’t put myself out there much, because avoiding risk means less possibility of getting hurt. Of course, it also means less possibility, period.

This aversion to risk colors nearly every area of my life. I don’t like to make big plans because I’ve had them fall through (or fall apart) too often. I was thinking about this today because my husband made the mistake of asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I just stared at him. It’s not getting older that I fear (although I admit I am not eagerly anticipating turning 45), it’s the notion of making PLANS. Much like New Year’s Eve, my birthday has been one of those days where expectation has been met with above-average levels of disappointment. In fact, I sometimes suspect that my birthday is cursed. Sounds irrational, right? Some examples: I once had a friend get into a car accident on the way to my birthday (she lived, but failed to make it to the party). A different year, I had another friend get a babysitter in order to attend. (She was aware of my curse theory and tried to convince me I was crazy.) She received a phone call in the middle of the party. The sitter suddenly wasn’t feeling well and needed to have a relative take her to the hospital. Seriously. More often than not, the failures have been less dramatic… more along the lines of, “What if you threw a party and no one came?” Lots of scheduling conflicts, or last-minute cancellations. It’s happened so often I’ve lost track, and also the desire to try.

What is it about the word “no” that holds such power? For me, it smacks of judgment. Along with no I automatically hear things like, “You aren’t good enough,” “You aren’t worth it” and “Are you kidding me?” The problem with “no” is that if you lack consistent self-esteem or self-belief, it has the power to wreak havoc. I say “consistent” because my problem isn’t a complete lack of self-esteem. I have some, and sometimes I seem to be able to access it, eventually. I can remember being in toxic relationships too long (sadly, more than once), paralyzed with the fear that he might break up with me, then simply waking up one morning and thinking, “I’m done” and never looking back. So it’s in there. It’s the voice that says, “Not bad” when I look in the mirror, on alternate Tuesdays, anyway. The trouble is that inconsistent access I’ve described. Sometimes I feel like locating my inner reserve of self-esteem is like playing with one of those handheld mazes with the little ball bearings, you know the ones? You have to have steady hands and tilt everything just so to make the ball head where you need it to. Sometimes you pick up the game and no matter what, the ball just will not head in the right direction. Others the ball drops into that little hole like magic, as if it were remote controlled instead of up to your own fickle hands. So it is with my self-esteem. It’s in there, I swear, but I never know when I can get the ball to drop.

Unfortunately, this fear of failure (which is what we are really talking about here, I suppose) gets in the way of my writing as well. I tend not to finish what I start, because if it’s not done, no one can see it and tell me it sucks. I have no trouble writing in informal blog form, but I think I only managed to post a poem once, and that nearly gave me a heart attack. I’ve had another saved as a draft for months, but I can’t bring myself to post it. I’ve convinced myself it’s still too raw. I’ve been working (or not working) on a children’s story for literally years, but it’s going nowhere. And send something out into the world – attempt to get published? God, no. I can’t cope. Just the idea of it has me fighting sickening waves of panic.

John Ridley’s acceptance speech (he won Best Adapted Screenplay for “12 Years a Slave”) really struck a nerve. Every word he said applied to me, except of course that he was standing on that stage to receive an Academy Award for his writing, so clearly he’d bypassed his fear. I don’t know how people do it; I wish I did. Debilitating fear is never fun to live with. (Note: I just looked it up, and he’s apparently published seven novels. Talk about overcoming your fear?)

When we decided to try to have another baby – in spite of our dubious financial situation – it was a gargantuan risk. We’d put it off for years because it wasn’t logical, and that was probably a good call. The smart call, certainly. But when I hit 40, I started to worry. Then I started to freak out. It had taken us nearly a year and a half to get pregnant the first time, and I’d been considerably younger. The sound of my biological clock ratcheted up to a dull roar. In the end, we realized if we had a baby and still lacked money we’d make it work, somehow. If we waited until we had money but I was no longer able to get pregnant… there was no solve for that. We had one of the soundtracks from “Glee” on regular rotation at the time, and “Defying Gravity” became an anthem of sorts. For once in my life, I was motivated enough to take a serious risk.

The reward – my daughter, Avery – has been phenomenal. Of course there are problems that are the inescapable result of our decision. The cost of daycare is so insurmountable that even should two full-time jobs manifest, we couldn’t both work (unless one of the jobs was extremely high-paying, which seems unlikely). This is what we live with, and it will impact our lives for several years to come. Am I sorry? Absolutely not. I’m sorry we’re going through this, I’m sorry the economy sucks and I’m sorry there is no reasonably-priced daycare in my area. I’m sorry about all of that, all the time. But sorry we decided to take that leap and get pregnant without a safety net? No. I believe in my heart it was our last chance to get pregnant, and we both very much wanted another child. Avery brings us so much joy. There isn’t a single moment I’ve regretted our choice, that risk. The reward is infinite.

You might think that would make me more open to taking other risks, right? Not so much. I remain a coward in most areas. Should I be trying to take baby steps, smaller risks that might help me become braver? Probably. Starting places are elusive things, though. One more thing to work on….

Parenting: My Mission Statement

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

parenting quote

A friend of mine posted today asking friends what their mission statement as a parent was. My first thought was, “On a daily basis or as a long-term goal?” She responded, “both” which left me thinking about the subject all day. It’s definitely something I think about all the time. regardless.

I did not grow up dreaming about being a mom. For a long time I was entirely convinced I just wasn’t the type of person “meant” to be a parent. I am not a natural caretaker, and I’ve never been good with kids. Hell, I wasn’t even all that good with kids when I was one. Then I met my future husband, and my attitude did an abrupt about-face. Not for him, mind you, but certainly in part because of him. How could I look at the man I loved with all of my heart and not want to create little beings who would be a part of each of us? So I’d changed my mind, but getting there was trickier than I could have imagined. It took us 15 months to get pregnant with my son… 15 very long months. They seemed long, anyway. Long enough that we started to be concerned that there might in fact be something wrong. Long enough that the giddiness we started out with was well and truly gone. When you’re single, you’re convinced that even if you do everything perfectly (well, as perfectly as one can without practicing abstinence) you’ll somehow end up pregnant. When you start trying to get pregnant and it turns out not to be as easy as you’d imagined, it seems like the world’s biggest irony.

After 15 months, we did get pregnant, no medical intervention required. We were elated. Then, after 13 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, heard a sound like running water and thought I’d peed my pants. Looked down and saw blood all over the floor… a terrifying amount of blood. I assumed I had miscarried and immediately went into a state of shock. I couldn’t even see the point of going to the ER… I told Chris they weren’t going to be able to do anything, anyway. In the end, we did go to the emergency room, where I was forced to describe what had happened. They asked about pain, and I responded there had been none. I was told I probably had miscarried but they wanted to do an ultrasound regardless, to determine that I was all right. I remember thinking that was stupid, and that I obviously wasn’t all right. They had already given me an exam and were startled by the amount of blood. I was still bleeding, although not as profusely. Got taken to the ultrasound room, feeling like I was caught in a nightmare. The tech spread the gel over my abdomen. There was a long pause, and then I remember Chris telling me to look at the screen, and I couldn’t understand why he would want that. The screen was massive… not a small computer monitor like the normal ones but a giant one mounted near the ceiling. I saw it when we came into the room and thought it was cruel to have the screen so large here, of all places. I couldn’t imagine people ended up there often under happy circumstances. Anyway, again Chris told me again to look, that it was all right. I couldn’t imagine anything being all right, ever again, but somehow I looked. There on the screen was my baby, moving… dancing. The arms and legs were all in wild motion, and suddenly the giant screen didn’t seem like such a bad idea, after all. I couldn’t believe it. The detail was incredible… the last ultrasound I’d had he’d looked like a tadpole. Instead, now there was a baby on the screen above my head. A dancing baby. A very obviously alive baby. A miracle, really. I sobbed with joy.

No one was ever able to definitely tell me what had happened. They call it a “threatened abortion,” which seems like the worst name ever. Not only could they not tell me what had happened, or why, they couldn’t promise it would be okay, either. I spent the next several weeks afraid to move, as if lying still with my legs clamped tight would prevent a miscarriage. I prayed constantly, but I only wanted one outcome. God’s will in this was not relevant to me. I wanted one thing: that the dancing baby would live. The other thing I prayed for, almost as often, was his happiness. I wanted a happy child, probably because I hadn’t been one. I didn’t want my child to ever experience the kind of unhappiness I’d struggled with. Still don’t.

So my mission statement as a parent? Day to day, my goal is to remember what matters, to breathe before yelling, and to love them and make sure they know they are loved. Long-term, my goal is that they become strong, confident human beings who know exactly who they are and are completely comfortable with it. It’s also my long-term goal for myself, as it happens. Goals are a good thing.