A deep, violent storm has been raging within me. Yes, inside this placid, smiling, suburban woman has lurked the heart and soul of a daring adventuress, stalled by circumstance, bad luck and ennui. What can help our heroine, she with the lofty ideals and intentions but crappy follow through and dashed enthusiasm? Only one thing, one possible hope to summons the force. A haircut!
Do I have your attention? Okay, time for a sad confession. In spite of my brave and completely hopeful pledge to think more kindly of myself, I failed. Sort of epically. Those bad voices in my head would not be silenced. I was truthfully ashamed of myself, which didn’t make things any easier. Adding to that wave of negativity, I had one of those super depressing job interviews this week, where I drove 35 miles to meet with a recruiter, who not only was running late, hadn’t taken the time to read the writing samples she had requested from me the week before, seemed totally indifferent to me, and worst of all, gave me about 12 minutes of her time. I was bumming pretty hard.
But since I am always trying, if not succeeding, to look on the sunny side of the street, I decided I needed a sort of radical change, a physical shift of the kaleidoscope. According to Coco Chanel, “a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” So I started googling hairstyles. Did you know you can actually google “cute short curly hairstyles for fat faces”? You totally can! So I text messaged a bunch of short curly “round” faced hairstyles to my style guru (aka my sister) and armed with the selected picture, I took myself to my stylist. And she was hesitant at first, lovely woman that she is, she is a bit change adverse. But I was like, hell, do it. If I hate it, it will grow back. And so she did.
I left the salon feeling lighter than air, with a very sassy short little do. I was fresh, alive! I sent my sis a picture. Cute, she said! So chic! Me? Chic? Who could have thought? And then I got home. And this happened:
6:00: So cute, so perky. I love it!
7:15: Wait, didn’t my Mom have this haircut?
8:30: (while watching Saving Mr. Banks) Wait, does Emma Thompson have my haircut?
9:25: OMG, I have Nellie Olsen’s haircut!
10:15: I hate it! I look like a boy!
10:20: It will grow, it will grow, it’s just hair.
10:45 Hmmmm, maybe it’s cute?
11:10: I should totally start wearing makeup
Now it’s been a day. I’ve passed through all the stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’m still feeling kind of invigorated by the cut. My sister has assured me I don’t look like my mother. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And I’m really hoping that Coco knew her shit, and that this bold new look will help usher in other changes. Or at least help me be more truthful to my intentions of trying to feel better about myself. And tonight, when I go out, I’m going to put on a little makeup, fluff up my short curly locks, and try to feel beautiful. And if I don’t completely succeed, I’m going to award myself 10 points for trying. And sooner or later, I’ll get there.
The end, for now
Are you familiar with the term Bucket List? Let’s take a scholarly approach, shall we? According to Merriam Webster, the Bucket List is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.” And while we are so scholastically inclined, were you aware that there was also something called a Fuckit List? Per the Urban Dictionary, “A list of people, male or female, you want to have sexual intercourse with before you die.” Now, don’t say you never learn anything from me, okay now!
Anyways…I’m 52, in the mere Autumn of my life, and I’m not quite ready to start thinking about the things I want to do before I shuffle off my mortal coil. Or just shuffle off to Buffalo. For chicken wings. With celery and blue cheese dressing. But, tired of spending my days, and even worse, nights, worrying and fretting about things that aren’t going so well, many of which are outside of my immediate control, I have been trying to while away some happier moments making a list of things I REALLY want to do. Not before I die, but once my topsy turvy life rights itself again.
It’s not the list of things I would do if I suddenly won the lottery and gained unlimited wealth. That’s a fun list too, and I might suggest you be super nice to me, because I plan (in my imagination) to be VERY generous. But the list I’m working on now is more just things that I could achieve, and hope to, with a reasonable amount of cash and a little sense of adventure. It’s not a huge list, but I add to it all the time, so unless I can start to cross some items off, completed, eventually it will get longer. And now, I give to you:
Things I Want to Do, Sooner Rather Than Later
1. Go to Alaska. Definitely to see the glaciers and totem poles and frolicking whales and such, but even more desirable, to see the Aurora Borealis, aka The Northern Lights. This is a nice little educational post, so if you don’t know what this is, you are going to learn something else new. What, you thought I had peaked at the Fuckit List? I don’t think so! Anyway, we will consult The Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts page:
The northern lights, one of several astronomical phenomena called polar lights (aurora polaris), are shafts or curtains of colored light visible on occasion in the night sky.
Doesn’t that sound super cool? It’s the ultimate nighttime light show!
2. Go to Florida, to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I can’t help it! I know it’s geeky of me, but I really, truly do love Harry Potter and his little friends more than I should. I have read every book in the series, multiple times, and have seen every movie, multiple times multiple times. (not a typo, I’ve seen those movies A LOT!). I want to trip happily down to Diagon Alley, with a mug of butterbeer in my hand, and buy a souvenir t-shirt at Hogsmeade. I want to explore the mysteries of Hogwarts and take a ride on a hippogriff. And if I can pick up some candy from Honeydukes, well, a girl can dream, right? (disclaimer, I know they are opening a Wizarding World here in L.A. sometime in the future, but for now my sights are set on Florida).
And while I’m in Florida, I would also like to visit my cousin Josh (just in case he’s reading this and gets insulted), and go to the fake safari world at Disneyworld, aka The Animal Kingdom Theme park.
3. Not quite convinced of my geekiness? Someday, I want to, no, someday I WILL attend the The Bracebridge Dinner, at the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite. Celebrated annually since 1927, this Christmastime event turns The Ahwahnee into an 18th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. We’re talking squires and ladies and turkey legs and wine filled chalices here, all scene set by the glorious background of Yosemite, one of God’s most perfect landscapes. It’s not inexpensive, and with the uncertainty of December weather, not always easy to get to. All the more challenge, I say! Who’s with me?
4. Learn to paddleboard. In Hawaii. For a really long time, I had a dream of learning how to surf, but I think that board may have sailed. It just never happened. I’m not at all coordinated and have a bad knee. So, I think I am switching out that dream to paddleboarding, which looks much easier but not so easy that it won’t be a triumph if I can master it. And I want to do it in Hawaii, not Marina Del Rey, or a cement pond type lake. I’ve only been to Hawaii once, but it was a dream come true. I loved it so much, but only got to one island, Kauai, which was awesomely beautiful and wonderful and serene. I have to get back there at some point in my life. Preferably sooner rather than later, and hopefully, more than once. And if, while I’m there, I manage to eat shave ice every day, that’s just gravy. Or shave ice. Either way, a very good thing.
5. And speaking of eating, I want to attend the New Orleans Roadfood Food Festival. I actually had tickets to the main event for this last year, but life got in the way and I didn’t make it there. This is a mega food festival, sponsored by the team behind the Roadfood website. For those of you unfamiliar with this, this is a group devoted to driving around the country, eating at local diners along the back roads of America and then writing about their experience. Originated by food writers Jane and Michael Stern, in a series of books, Roadfood is all about inexpensive, regional meals. I’ve been obsessed by the books and website for many years, and when I found out they started an actual food festival, featuring the most celebrated regional dishes from New Orleans, Louisiana and all across America, well, that’s my idea of a good time!
There you have it, my little list. Maybe not my immediate future, but hopefully my near enough future. Enough to keep me looking forwards, not backwards. Do you want to come along? Because the only thing that would make hitting the items on this list even better, would be hitting them in the company of someone who would enjoy them as much as me. Who wants some shave ice?
The end, for now
I’m going to put something out there, but it is not meant to be shocking, self-deprecating or a cry for help! This particular topic keeps rearing its “ugly” head, and I have some things I want to say about it, but it’s a tricky one. So, I’ll just take a deep breath, and write what I have to write, and we’ll all see how it comes out.
In my whole life, I don’t think there was ever a day where I felt pretty. And while I think I carry myself with a certain confidence most of the time, that confidence rarely comes from security with my outer self. Instead, I feel that I am too fat, my skin’s too dry, my smile isn’t white enough, I don’t know how to dress, etc. A whole litany of issues of self-doubt. I don’t think it helped that in high school a boy I liked told me it was a good thing I had nice skin because otherwise I would be a real dog. That kind of thing sticks with you.
It’s gotten worse. The past several months of worry and anxiety hasn’t made me feel any better. I feel like I always look tired. I haven’t gained extra weight during this time, but after an early victory through increased exercise, where I lost 12 pounds, I have reverted back to my weight of a year ago. In spite of continuous exercise and trying to be careful with what I eat, I just can’t seem to make the scale go back in the right direction. I definitely don’t feel pretty now, and it takes a lot of inner fortitude to keep from feeling completely Quasimodo-like.
But here’s the joke, and the joke is on me. I recently went through some old pictures so I could have them scanned digitally. And when I looked at some of these old pictures of myself, say when I was 20, or 30, or even 40, I was shocked by how pretty I looked! Beautiful, even. And what a crime that I never knew it or felt it. And I have to wonder if I could travel ten years forward, and take a look back at my 52 year old self, if I might possibly feel the same way?
The reason I am sharing this is that this lack of self confidence in one’s physical appearance feels like an epidemic, at least amongst some of the women that I talk to. I want to be very careful here to not give away anyone else’s private story, but in the past few months this has just come up too many times, there are so many lovely, radiant, beautiful women walking around not feeling good about themselves. It hurts my heart.
And I tell them all my theory, about the ten years thing, and in that moment we can all see the logic and agree. But mere minutes later we revert to thinking our arms are too thick, or our skin is too blotchy or whatever other flaw we can focus on, instead of counting the things that make us lovely and loveable.
What’s the cause? Is it the “Hollywood” ideal that we can never attain? Maybe. The constant saturation of social media, where everyone seems to be living a happier, more attractive life than you are? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter to me what the cause is, the only thing I care about is the cure.
Like a muscle that must be flexed, we must stop allowing ourselves to think this way. We must also be careful not to carry this legacy to our daughters and nieces and young women we influence. I’m not sure if this issue started with my generation, but I certainly never heard my mother or grandmother express such sentiments. So if this started with us, it must end with us.
Yesterday I was at the dentist, and the dentist went on and on about how I looked like Shirley Temple. And while I found it pretty funny, I was also a little humiliated. How could she compare me with a cute, little girl, America’s Sweetheart, so adorable, when I felt so absolutely hideous? I knew that she wasn’t trying to be mean or malicious but it confused me all the same.
Have you ever seen that magazine feature, I think it’s in Marie Claire, where they go around the country and ask girls in different cities, what they like about themselves? And they all answer with things like “my crooked smile makes me unique” or “my thick eyebrows give my eyes definition.” I always thought that was pretty funny, and a little egotistical, but now I’m thinking they may be on the right track. Instead of focusing on our shortfalls, we have to work at understanding our assets. And it’s going to take work since we have programmed ourselves to think so differently.
From now on, when I start cataloging my physical flaws, I am going to move every brain muscle I have to think in a different way. And while I will continue to strive to improve in areas that I can control, like diet and exercise, I will not allow myself to focus on my flaws. It’s not going to be easy, but I will try to think of at least one thing I feel good about each day. I will also keep telling the women around me how beautiful they are until they believe it themselves. And if you are one of those women that don’t have this issue, God bless you. In ten years’ time I hope to be you too, and look back at my old self and say, damn, she looked good, AND she looked like she knew it!
The end, for now
The past few weeks have definitely been filled with highs and some very low lows. For one thing, I had three different job opportunities at play that fell one by one by the wayside. It’s so hard to process these rejections without feeling completely dejected. It was especially hard because one of the opportunities felt like it came as close as anything has since I was laid off. I made the mistake of thinking I was finally going to get that great job offer.
It began about 4 weeks ago. I had applied for a promising position on a Monday morning. I won’t go into specifics, but it was a position that seemed to match my skills and background perfectly, for a well-respected company. By Monday afternoon, I had already been contacted by the HR Manager, passed the phone screen, and asked to come in for an interview.
Although I was told I would just be meeting with HR, I ended up spending several hours there, meeting with not only the person whose job I would be replacing, but the COO. By the time I had arrived home, I had already received a call to return meet with the owner of the company. I felt that our meeting went well, but he issued me a challenge. “Come back and work with us for a half day, meet the staff, and then come back and tell me what you think,” he said.
I had never heard of such a situation, but willingly agreed. And, I figured I must be a final candidate or they wouldn’t be asking me for such a commitment, or introducing me to their staff. So I went in for a morning, met with about 8 different people, conducted in depth conversations with key team members, toured all the related departments, and returned to the owner to share my conclusions.
I’ll be honest. I was actually half hoping/half expecting that morning would end with an offer. Things had seemed to go so promisingly. So, imagine my disappointment, and in fact confusion, when at the end of the morning I was told they were still sorting through candidates, and would call me within two weeks.
Now, part of the blessing, but also the curse of this journey, is that I am not on it alone. I have a wonderful group of close friends and family that are all in it with me, and I couldn’t get through this without them. But on the flip side, that means that I also have a group of people that share my disappointments and frustration. When I called my dad on the way home, he was actually angry for me, expressing that he thought I had been treated unfairly, and led on.
I definitely felt let down, but I realized that the company was trying to find the best fit for this important position. I understood why they were going about it the way they were, but also felt that they weren’t giving thought and consideration to the candidate’s point of view. That’s their right, but if I could have made a follow up suggestion, it would have been to be either wait until they were at the finalist stage to ask someone to come in for a half day, or to be clearer with them about their process.
While in the two week waiting period, two other jobs surfaced, and I interviewed by phone for both of them. They were great opportunities, but I didn’t think I was a perfect fit for either of them, and was disappointed but not surprised when I didn’t receive calls to go onto the next rounds. I was fairly crushed, however, to get the call yesterday that I would not be receiving a job offer from the first company; they were going with another candidate. I felt like that would have been a dream job, but it’s not to be my dream.
So what happens next? I sit here this morning, still sore and aching from the double root canal I had this week, with a slightly battered soul and spirit. There’s part of me that wants to sink into full despair, it’s all too hard. But remember when I said the last few weeks also had highs? I recently received a lovely and unexpected little gift from a friend, who reads my blog and remembered I said something about softening my feet, so she sent me some little tins of lanolin. Even lovelier, she sent me the most beautiful note, about how I had touched her with what I write. I can’t even express how much that meant to me.
Last night I spent several hours with one of my oldest and best friends, who knows me better than almost anyone. We laughed like idiots, but also shared our hearts, and I think, encouraged each other to keep trying to do better every day. In the past few weeks, I have also started a “secret” project with another dear friend, something completely new and different for me, and a great source of fun and creativity. I have also spent hours, literally, talking to my sister and my best friend over the last week. Between these two ladies, their care and comfort helps me to know, eventually, somehow, it will all be okay, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
So, once again, a dusting off, a picking up, and a starting all over again. And if I feel too tired and discouraged to do it by myself, all I have to do is call on any of the people mentioned above, plus a whole bonus list of other people who care. They are all blessings, and any time I lose my way, I just need to remember that, and start counting them. And if you are reading this, it’s likely you are on that list, so thank you. I hope and pray I can do the same for you.
The end, for now