Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Life Without Glasses

body-shape-hourglassI crawled out of bed this morning, stumbled to the bathroom, flipped on the light, and caught sight of my naked self in the mirror. I saw an hourglass shape: large rounded breasts, small waist, lovely curve of tummy, hip and thigh. I saw long, free locks tumbling over my chest and shoulders.

I stopped and stared. I thought, “Wow. I’m really beautiful.”

What??? That’s NOT my usual reaction when I see myself naked.

But this morning I didn’t have my glasses on yet, so I couldn’t see the dimples and ripples and jiggles and sags that usually command my attention. I could only see the outline. The big picture. And it looked pretty darn good to me.

I find it both sad and amusing that at age 57 – deep in menopause, when all hope of rock-hard firmness is gone, when skin elasticity cannot be regained, when my weight is higher than my Wii or my doctor would prefer – that NOW is when I can look at myself and say “Damn, girl, you’re hot.” Why couldn’t my firm, thin young self have known that?

I can blame coming of age in the skinny 70’s, when the ‘ideal woman’ looked like an undernourished pre-adolescent boy with cartoon bosoms. I can blame society, men, women, parents, Hollywood, Argentina, porn…the list of righteous blaming runs long. But blaming moves me into the past. It detracts from the joy of now.

So I put that thought down and step away, consciously choosing to bask in my current self-acceptance rather than wallow in moments gone by. I can’t change them. Why relive them? Much dissatisfaction and even depression comes when I focus on the past or the future. Disciplining myself to the now produces a much more positive paradigm, especially when I look at the big picture.

It’s like the moment in the mirror. When I can’t see all the pesky little details, the overall picture looks pretty perfect. Yes, there are imperfections, some of which can be changed/improved/eliminated and some of which cannot. But if I focus only on the minutia, I lose the beauty of the whole.

So I choose a vision of myself, of my life, and of the world that fills my heart, my soul AND my eyes with joy and self-acceptance. I vow to look at myself – and my life – without glasses more often.

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The Appointment

The Appointment*

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a 
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

— Mark Nepo  (from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen)

I’m surprised at  how many people think the life of a full-time artist is purely idyllic. In their minds, we do nothing but sit around all day, paintbrush, camera or keyboard in hand, allowing the sweet breeze of creative inspiration to carry us along as money pours in the door. (Though they do think, privately, that we charge a bit *too* much for our painting, print or poem.)

An acquaintance once said, “It’s like being retired, isn’t it? You only work when you want to.” Well, yes. As long as I want to work long hours. LONG hours. I’m a one-woman shop, the cash flow is variable, and it’s hard! I’ll admit, we artists sometimes spend sleepless nights worrying about the basics of life – housing, health insurance, food. Things my acquaintance, with her government job, doesn’t experience or understand.

The solution is obvious, right? Go get a *real* job. Practically speaking, no one should choose art as a profession. And that’s why most talented people do take other paths, consigning their artistic expressions to hobby status. I applaud them. I often envy them. In fact, I used to BE them.

For years, I worked in corporate America. Lucrative professional positions. Job security and great benefits. But then my husband died. I was torn from my comfortable world, torn from myself. When I finally found my way back and stuffed myself into the hole that was me, I must have crawled in backwards, because things looked very different. I tried to go back to what I’d been, but the path – and the person – was gone.

So here I am.

I’m an artist because I can’t not be. It’s the only song in my ears. I’ve kept the appointment I was meant to keep, and my life is filled with love and beauty.  

But it’s NOT like being retired.

* My thanks to  fellow artist, Cher Odum, for sharing the poem. It explains we few – we eccentric few – we eccentric, inspired weird few.

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My kombucha is happy. Very happy. My starter has been busily making babies, and today I realized that almost half my jar was filled with SCOBY*! That’s a little too much of a good thing, so I lifted it out and separated each layer, leaving only one in the jar.

Despite repeated offers, I haven’t gotten any takers for free starter. I hate to waste a perfectly good organism (O-R-G-A-N-I-S-M). What should I do with this bowl of rubbery rounds? (It’s not getting any better, is it? You guys have gutter minds. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, then I didn’t mention anything. At all.)

In earlier research, I’d read that SCOBY makes a reasonable calamari substitute. So I took a little experimental bite. Yeah, no. But another purported use was as a face masque. That sounded more promising, so I tried it.

kombucha facial

Not bad, huh?

Here’s my recipe:

  1. Take the SCOBY.
  2. Put it on your face. (Yep. Just slap it on. I had a lot, so I covered my face AND my neck.)
  3. Wait 15-30 minutes. (I rinsed mine before using it, to lower the residual acidity.)
  4. Remove.

That’s it. I didn’t look in the mirror while wearing it, because I’m sure I would have screamed. Instead, I laid back on my bed and enjoyed a TED talk. Then I removed the SCOBY, and ran to the mirror.

Holy cow! My skin looked GREAT! Plump, peachy, plus my ever-present pores were almost invisible. That’s a win.  It turns out, SCOBY increases circulation on the surface of the skin, which rejuvenates the cells. Because it’s acidic, it also works as a mild peel, sloughing dead cells. FYI, I followed this up with a 15 minute honey mask to soothe my skin.

I also noticed it had a marked tightening effect. Women *of a certain age* start to suffer from slight skin sag. This treatment tightened my face and neck right up! Now if I could only apply it to my memory…

PS: I experimented with my kombucha recipe today. I used Earl Grey tea, then added a little coconut and fresh strawberry to the boiling mixture. I strained it all out when I put the cooled concoction into the jar. I’ll be eager to see how it tastes next week. I hope it’s good. Fingers crossed!

* SCOBY – an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. AKA ‘culture’, ‘mother’, ‘starter’

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