Monday, January 28, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Authenticity

I've noticed an icky trend on social media -- the airbrushing/photoshopping of photos. I also dislike the Snapchat filters (for the love, no one has eyes that big! Or looks like a deer, either), but at least those are pretty obviously fake.

I think what makes me sad is that women feel that they can't present their authentic selves -- that fine lines need to be erased, any signs of actual aging whisked away with a blurring tool. And what makes me sadder is that people tend to compliment others on these altered posts -- "You look amazing!" or "Beautiful!" or "Wow, you don't age at all!" UM, THAT'S BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE OF TIME HAS BEEN DISAPPEARED WITH MY MOUSE. And it reinforces that a woman (because I have yet to see a photoshopped man) is more beautiful when your hairline is fuzzed out because you smoothed out your face of all your history, while I think history is what makes you beautiful. 

I wear makeup -- nothing crazy, no contouring or lash extensions, but I can't imagine going beyond enhancing what's there to actually altering a picture of myself to make me look younger or different. Tilting a smartphone camera to take from above a bit more for the sake of the jawline...sure, but everyone knows that trick and the background of your photo gives it away (what, more floor than wall? HUH, weird.). 

I decided, along with a lot of people lately, to stop dyeing my hair (for a while at least), setting the silver free. I'm curious just how much I have, and I'm enjoying the silvery "highlights" at my temples (random wiry grays around my part, not quite as much). So that goes with authenticity, but is not to say that I wouldn't go back to dyeing if I decide that maybe it's a bit too much silver for 42. I'm thinking though I might dye just the ends, and let the silver fly and do an ombre type thing for fun, but honestly I am enjoying not having a colorist salon bill. 

But, at the same time, I do get facials from time to time in the name of self care and attempting to avoid the dreaded Crepe Neck, and this last time I was snookered into doing a chemical peel. Which sounds horrific and terrifying and medieval, but it was just like having multiple layers of toner put on and exfoliating the crap out of my outer layers of skin. Is that cheating? Is it weird to embrace the gray hair but try to stave off evidence in my skin? 

I don't think so, but tonight I thought it was kind of funny that I am letting my hair go back to its silvery roots while peeling off my skin to look younger there. I guess what makes that different from the photoshopping is that I'm more than happy to tell you all about the various concoctions and products that are working to make my skin all (hopefully) radiant (and not just a leprosy'd mess). I would never pretend any of what I do is natural, unless I was lucky enough to come by things naturally, like all those supermodels I see in magazines (ha HA ha ha, SO REAL). 

Here I am, in my silvery peeled-face glory, nary a blurring tool in sight. 

Look! More wall than floor! Also perhaps some red wine residue on my teeth... So far, my skin is not ACTUALLY peeling. Fingers crossed. 

Oh dear, more ceiling than wall is DEFINITELY not the way to go. HAHAHAHAHA

I guess what I'm getting at is that I am sad that social media rewards inauthenticity, and that it makes people want to put forth a "better" version of themselves than reality, which I don't find attractive at all. I would hope that most people would prefer beauty that's imperfect, that has laugh lines from good times and crinkles from  years of good living.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I polished up a letter I'd written to Bryce, cleaned the house and made a tasty dinner while he was at work (I had the day off due to the holiday), and got ready for the most stressful 15 minutes of my life.

I had written a letter to him while visiting my best friend, and that letter was basically a treatise on why we should get married. We had talked about getting married before, and Bryce was feeling down on the institution and at one point said in frustration, "Why does it always have to be the guy that proposes?"

Well, I fixed that.

The letter talked about how good we were together, how I believed that marriage would create a deeper partnership and the basis for our family. I included some very unromantic details about how it would be helpful legally, but most of it was why I really, really wanted to officially become husband and wife.

Bryce is a slower reader, and he didn't know exactly what was in store for him, so when I gave him the letter and said "Read this" and then tried (and failed) not to stare at him, he said, "could you go do something for a little bit? You're making me nervous!"

At the end, he got teary, jumped up from his chair, and yelled, "YES! YES I will marry you!" (I was pretty sure he'd say yes, but I was still super nervous myself.)

It was a beautiful moment, and another milestone in our beautiful life. It is crazy to me that it's been 10 years since that moment, and to think on all we've experienced -- the joys and the suffering, the transformation, all that life lived together. We don't have fancy plans for tonight, but I feel like just sitting in our new home, surrounded by our books and cats and cozy nooks and music and yummy food (and maybe a little champagne), that will be celebration enough.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Monday, January 14, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Honesty, and Delayed Sadness

One of the reasons why I love working with middle schoolers is that they do not shy away from difficult questions. Most of the time, if they feel comfortable enough to ask a tough question, I like to answer it (appropriately of course), because they genuinely want to know. (Although today a student asked, as a "Health question," when I lost my virginity... after I got over the shock I let them know that I was ABSOLUTELY not going to EVER answer that one, and that was more a question for parents, which was met with "EW! Why would I ask them?" and I answered with "THEN WHY WOULD YOU ASK ME????" Weird, weird, weird.)

So when a 7th grader who has a tendency to be naughty, but also oddly thoughtful, asked me in study hall last Friday if I had kids, and I said no, and he asked why... I figured I'd be honest.

I told him I'd wanted kids real badly, but that it just didn't work out.

He said there was medicine, that his mom had used medicine.

I said we did the medicine, and it didn't really work.

Then he said we could have tried adoption.

I said we did try adoption, two years of adoption, and that didn't work, either. (That blew the kids' minds, they didn't know that could not work out.)

He asked why it didn't work out, and I told him.

We'd done years and years of the medicine way. We had 6 opportunities where we could have been chosen to parent, but weren't, to varying degrees of devastation.

But most of all, we hit a point where we just couldn't do it anymore, where it took too great a toll on our physical and mental health. I said I was real stressed, and it made me sick. It was not a good situation.

There was some arguing about whether or not "sticking with it" is positive in that sense, and I might have brought up the fact that when you're in the emergency room, maybe it's time to reexamine your life and decisions and let it go. That 8 years was quite enough of living for something that didn't happen and felt like it never would.

And then he said,

"Well, I'm sorry. I just thought you'd be a really awesome mom."

And I said,

"Aw, thanks. Me, too. Me too, but life had other plans. It's a real shame."

I congratulated myself on sharing but not oversharing, of giving a dose of a storyline most kids don't get when it comes to family building, and most of all NOT CRYING. Not even a tearing up. I even managed to completely calmly say, "But you know what? I get to take all that mom energy that I would have used on my kids and SPREAD IT OUT TO YOU!!!" and then laughed maniacally.

But then Saturday night it came back to haunt me. The unfairness. The fact that everyone had a story about people who DID make it to the end with a baby, and I seemed to be this anomaly.

And that naughty boy with the core of goodness, who thought I'd make a good mom.

I cried. I couldn't stop. I fell asleep with a wet pillow.

But, I woke up and felt the gratitude for all that I do have, for the energy I have for my challenging students because I get most of my nurturing in at school and can come home and sink into my lovely home, my wonderful husband, and my cozy cats. It didn't linger, but in that moment of delayed sadness, the grief just seeped out like a spring.

Being grateful for what you do have doesn't mean these moments of grief won't remind you of what you lost. But I am also grateful that the farther I get from the rawness of it, the faster I bounce back.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Letting Go of Rituals

In New Years' past, I may have been utterly crazy when it came to the traditions meant to usher in a good year to come.

I had a checklist of things meant to ensure that THIS year would be better than the years before, that it would be less cursed-feeling, less painful, and bring more good things than challenging. Now that I think on it, it was eerily similar to my rituals during fertility treatment (I must wear orange underwear during the 2 week wait! I must light and burn red candles and snuff them if I must, never blow them out! I must spend time willfully visualizing the baby that was surely hatching and attaching!), where I felt like I would be personally responsible for a shitty year if the rituals weren't completed just so.

A short list:
- bowl of oranges on the table
- complete cleanout of the house, with all dirt removed from even the trash bins before the ball drop, so it could be a clean slate
- Banging on pots with a spoon out each door with weird banshee yelling, to scare away bad fortune

My mom always said you should have a tea kettle singing at midnight, but I'm not entirely sure why (maybe she can tell us in the comments) and I haven't had a proper tea kettle in years and years, so I let that one go.

I knew things were getting on the obsessive/unhealthy side when I yelled at Bryce for not getting his pot and spoon ready to bang out the door on time, and then I may have actually said, "If anything shitty happens this year it's YOUR FAULT!" Which, in retrospect, I regret and feel real stupid for saying. (That one came with fairly instant regret, actually.) A wooden spoon clanging against a pot never really did anything for us, so I don't know why each year I clung to that.

Also, two years in a row Bryce broke the wooden spoon he whacked against the pot. I'm not sure what that means in terms of good luck/bad luck, but I think the force with which Bryce clanged the spoon against the pot said more about how he felt about this particular tradition than about any luck that would or would not come our way.

This year, we started in a brand new house, with no need to do a deep cleaning as it was pretty darn spotless when we moved in and not much had schmutzed it up by 12/31.

And I let all that other stuff go, minus the champagne toast and the kiss.

There were no oranges.

There was no pot banging out the door.

There was no panicked running of the kitchen garbage bag to the garbage toter outside at 11:50.

And it felt...freeing. Bryce was able to return to his own tradition of reading a math book at the turn of the year (one that I may have overrode with the crazy cookware percussion demands). It was calm, and quiet, and without demands or expectation.

Maybe we didn't feel the need to do any of those things because we are at peace.

Maybe it doesn't feel like there is any bad fortune skulking at the door to chase away, anymore.

Maybe all of those rituals are unnecessary because there's nothing we need to demand of the new year -- we aren't asking for anything beyond happiness and health, and we've accepted that our happy life is going to be different from what we'd originally envisioned, and we are surviving and thriving in that new reality.

It is lovely to be free of the striving, of the bargaining, of the constant feeling of disappointment that came from always hoping and expecting things to be different. It is wonderful to sit in what is, and to soak in every beautiful moment.