Archive | June 2011

Empowered

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here on this blog before, but I’ve been thinking about getting a bike for the past several months.  I always had a bike growing up, but one fateful day in college (the only day I ever left it unlocked) my bike was stolen.  As a result, I haven’t had a bike for the past 3 years, and I’ve missed riding!

However, as with any decision, it has taken me a good long while to find the motivation to actually go out and shop.  Now, I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m the kind of person who shops in a do-or-die fashion.  For instance, if I need a new dress, I will go to the store and I WILL come home with a dress.  It may have taken weeks for me to get to the store, but it is very unlikely that I will not leave with a purchase that meets my need.  This is, of course, because I don’t particularly enjoy shopping, and I like to limit my pain to necessary trips.

So, two months of thinking and two hours of trying out bikes later, I left home with a brand-new TREK bike.  It’s a WSD, which means that it’s engineered specifically for women.  I like the look and the feel of it, I like that it fits in my tiny car (once I take off the front wheel, which is simple), and I like the lifetime maintenance plan that my local bike shop offers for free.  Plus, I only paid a little bit more for it than I was expecting.  I intend to take very good care of my new bike, and to start riding anywhere close enough to a) improve fitness and b) save on gasoline!

So, after the trip to the bike shop and a few more errands, I had just enough time to grab lunch before meeting Lydia for our running date.  Just to see if I could, I actually biked to the gym!  It’s about two miles from my house, and most of that is through neighborhoods.  I was pleased with how quickly I arrived, and the relative ease of the trip (excepting that one evil hill, which is great fun on the return trip).  Combining my 4 miles round trip and my 2.3 miles running, I’m pretty proud of my 6 mile fitness distance today!

When I arrived home after the gym, I had a real sense of empowerment.  I can get from point A to point B, just by the power of my own body (and the mechanical advantage of wheels and gears).  I’ve run that distance before, and I’ve gone from home to the gym many, many times.  But I felt really accomplished that I biked there and back.

I’ve also been feeling generally empowered to do things myself, or at least get things done FOR myself.  This is in stark contrast to my recent feelings of helplessness, that I was sort of “lost in the woods” of the world.  But now I feel like I’m back on track.  A great example of this is that I’ve started cooking again, but before that I had been making VERY simple meals, or just eating out.

I think that along this journey, I’m bound to have times where I’m “on track” and other times where I’m “stuck in the woods.”  While I hope to spend most of my time “on track” I have to realize that when I’m stuck, I’m not a total failure.  I have to give myself a break, realize all the things I’m NOT doing wrong, and take stock of all the good things.  And mostly, I need to find my purpose.  At the moment, that seems to be a) getting my finances under control b) getting my house clean and c) getting in shape.  I’ve worked toward all of those goals, and once I’ve gotten where I need to be, then I’ll be able to move on to “bigger” things.

Advertisements

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

The history of makeup in my life has been rather inconsistent over the past 12 years or so (I’m almost 24, and I feel like I must have been around 12 when I started wearing makeup … but perhaps it was earlier).

I started out like any normal “Clarie’s” girl.  As a pre-teen, I was looking forward to doing all of the things the big girls got to do, like wearing jewelry (my mom wouldn’t let me get my ears pierced until I turned 13), fancy clothes, and makeup.  Whenever I had some pocket money (or whenever I made puppy dog eyes at the mall), I went to Clarie’s and consumed all they had to offer.  I considered it a real treat to walk home with the most stylish new earrings, glitter, and handbags.

However, real makeup was a bit of a different story.  I don’t remember that my mom was opposed to it, but she wasn’t particularly enthusiastic either.  And her version of makeup for me was a lot different than mine.  I do remember going to those booths in the department stores and getting set up with my first proper foundation and blush.  However, all the adults who gussied me up were always so heavy-handed with the materials, and I felt out-of-place.

I was mostly interested in the accessories from the start, and there was a solid 2 years when I wore body glitter on my eyes every day, usually accompanied by some sort of sticker at the corner of one eye.  I was the coolest of the cool with that style, let me tell you.  That was the same period of time that I spent all of first period writing on the back of my left hand with gel-pens the inscription “I love S.O.S.”  For those who missed out on being a teenage girl in the early 2000s, that means “someone special,” because why would you bother writing the name of your actual crush on your hand?  It’s a secret, besides, the anonymity of the message allowed for it to change on a daily basis (which it did, in many cases).

For my fourteenth birthday party, the adults in my life decided to treat me and a few of my friends to professional makeovers (done at my house, not a salon).  They did everything from eyeshadow to poofy hair, and we all looked transformed!  I believe at least one person commented that I looked like I was a 25-year-old.  I can now say, as I am approaching that age, that I look nothing like I did at 14 with makeup.  This is in part because the makeup artists were inspired by the ’80s, but most because I do not wear makeup anymore.

When I was a teenager, makeup was like this great discovery, because it could cover your blemishes, make your eyes sparkle, and make you feel like a very important older person.  However, I never fancied the time it took to put it on … and even less the action of taking it off.  My skin always felt so raw after taking off the day’s foundation and eyeshadow (which was always baby blue until I turned 16).  Many days I didn’t even bother to properly take it off, which was terrible for my skin, I know.

I think the number one reason I don’t wear makeup is because of several innocent comments from friends over the years – about themselves, not about me.  They would say things like, “I know I look terrible today, but it’s only because I’m not wearing makeup” or “I never let anybody see me without my makeup on – I apply it first thing and only take it off when I’m about to go to sleep.”  This implies to me that while makeup makes them feel better about how they look, it’s a crutch without which they feel vulnerable.

In my view, makeup is an illusion.  It’s making your cheeks always look rosy, making your skin always look perfect, making your eyelashes look longer.  But what happens when that illusion is shattered?  There are many ways this could occur.  You can’t keep up the illusion when you’re playing sports, swimming, bathing, or crying.  You shouldn’t have to wear makeup around the house or when you’re sleeping.  So anyone who has ever seen you in these situations or when you happen to not have time to apply it that day has seen the REAL YOU, and then the illusion is shattered.  So why keep up the facade?

You might make the argument … ‘Well, what about wearing fancy clothes?  Isn’t that just an illusion you’re maintaining?  Why should we bother wearing clothes at all, when we’re just covering up our true selves?’  And to that question, I would respond that wearing clothes in most cases is legally required (think “No shirt, no shoes, no service” and “public indecency” charges).  But what about the other extreme?  To me, the next logical step after a lifetime of wearing makeup is cosmetic surgery.  Why not look young and beautiful forever?  Why not stuff your face with botox and dye your hair blonde into your 70s and make everyone think you’re still a young woman?  Why aren’t women proud to be who they are, show off what they really look like, and show pride at attaining a great age and high level of wisdom?

Makeup is a huge double standard.  Men aren’t expected to cover up their blemishes or accent their lips with color.  I know men have their own insecurities like unsightly body hair, balding, and body odor.  But women have those, too.  It’s one thing to apply deodorant; it’s another to completely mask your face with paint and powder.  Men don’t do it, so why should women?

When I put on makeup, I feel like I’m wearing a mask.  I feel like I’m hiding behind something because I should be ashamed of what I really look like.  As a friend of mine pointed out, “I don’t really know why I wear makeup.  I guess it’s so deeply engrained in our culture.”  Well, I don’t know how I missed the cultural meme, but I’m glad I did.  My mom wore makeup almost every day of her life, as did the rest of the women in my family.  But I always pitied them because of all the effort they put into it, when I thought they looked just as good bare-faced.

I don’t wear makeup because I like the extra sleep.  I just can’t be bothered to get up earlier to paint my face.

I hate sitting in front of a mirror and scrutinizing every bump and blemish on my skin. I don’t like the way it feels on my face- like my skin can’t breathe.  I don’t like the way it rubs off on clothes and cell phones.  I don’t like the way it dries out my skin and make it feel raw after removal.

I hate feeling inferior without the mask.  So, I don’t.  It’s that easy.

I don’t wear makeup because I don’t need to wear makeup; nobody does!  If someone dislikes you or judges you just because of the lack of perfection of your face, they’re not worthwhile.  Instead, I think the women of this modern world should focus on smiling more, avoiding sun damage, getting healthy, and enjoying life.  We should all get more sleep, spend less time worrying about our appearance, and more time working on our positive relationships.

Afterall, nobody on their death bed says, “I wish I had spent more time putting on makeup,” or even “I wish I looked more beautiful right now.”  I can say from experience when it all boils down, the most important things in your life are the people you love.

I’ve been gradually wearing less makeup over the past five years.  In the year since I graduated from college, I wore makeup less than once a month.  I’m never going back to the daily struggle of facial perfection and giving in to societal insecurities.  I’m proud of who I am as well as how I look, and I hope you all are, too.

Sidenote: People are often telling me I have a “beautiful complexion” and no matter how much I argue with them, they always insist it’s true.  I think it’s simply because I don’t clog up my skin every day with makeup!  I don’t think my skin is extraordinary, but I do think it’s rare that someone my age has discovered the “secret” that makeup is pointless.  And apparently it has paid off!  Thank goodness for small favors.

Now I'm a Believer

A fairly unbelievable thing happened to me this morning.  I was lying in bed, within that last hour of sleep before I really need to get up, when I was existing in a half-dream state, I had a very odd dream.  As I am sitting here trying to describe it, the images and details are slipping from my head.  However, the subject of the dream was very clear; I was dreaming about renewing a website that is very important to the company my mom left me.  I think in the dream, I had lost the website, which resulted in my losing the income it provides.  Probably a number of other bad things happened, too.

Right away, that doesn’t seem like much of an oddity.  One would assume that I would occasionally dream about the company, because I do manage it now, and it’s important to me.  However, I will be the first to admit that I haven’t been paying as much attention to it as I should be.  That’s not good, of course, but I have had so much else on my mind.  And fear has been limiting me in some ways.  I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that websites are the last thing I usually dream about.

So, I woke up from this dream a bit concerned, so I thought I should check.  That was literally the first thing I did after taking the dog out and feeding her.  And when I checked, lo and behold, the website expired yesterday.  Now, my immediate reaction was to freak out.  But then I did a little more research, and discovered that I have a grace period.  In fact, if domains expire at midnight in the owner’s timezone, I had only been delinquent for about 9 hours.  So, I renewed that site (for FIVE YEARS this time), in addition to about 30 others my mom had recommended for renewal, and all was well.

But the odd thing is that I DREAMED ABOUT IT on the very morning it expired.  I refuse to believe that’s just coincidence.

In general, I’m an unbeliever.  I’m not scared of the supernatural, not giving it up for any sort of god, not suckered in by the concepts of luck or fate.  And when people say that their deceased loved ones are watching over them or communicating with them, I don’t give their claims any sort of weight.

However, after tonight, I’ve actually had a change of heart.  I can just see my mom, wherever she is in the afterlife, screaming at me NOT to let my financial security fall apart.  Up until now, any mistakes I’ve made have been small.  However, this mistake would have been absolutely crippling.  I can just imagine…if she is anywhere in the universe or afterlife, she would want to reach out to me on this occasion.  I know, it sounds absolutely impossible.  But it happened, as impossible things sometimes do.

And I think … I think that she could really be there, available to me in my subconscious, when I really need her.  She cared about me so much that there’s no way she would stop trying to take care of me, even after she left this world.  I’m not saying with this realization that I intend to rely on my deceased mother’s dream communication to run my life.  I’m just saying that based on what happened to me today, I believe in the impossible.  And I would be lying if I said it didn’t comfort me, just a little bit.

My mom and all the things she taught me and the wonderful person she was will always be a part of my life.  And for that, I am so grateful.

Cleaning Up My Act

So many things have started to get back into full swing for me…

I’m back into running.  I ran every other day this week with no noticeable pain, which tells me that my injury was minor (probably caused by overdoing it before the race), and that some time off was all I needed to recover.  I’ve run 7 miles over 3 days this week, and I feel great!  It’s so wonderful to get back into that routine, because I did miss it.  A lot.

I’m into CLEANING MODE!  I’ve been tackling my closets, because the rest of my house is fine.  My situation is basically that everything looks great on the surface, but I’ve buried everything behind closed doors.  It’s kind of like a metaphor for my life, but only if I mean to exaggerate a bit.  So, as with any “organizing” project, it gets worse before it gets better.  I spent two days this week on my downstairs bedroom closet, and am ending with it about half as full as before, but with a messy upstairs.  I need to make some DEEP CUTS with regard to what I’m keeping, because I just don’t have room to save it all.  Sometime in the next month (ish) I plan to take a lot of my unwanted possessions to a local flea market, and then donate what I don’t sell.  Fingers crossed, I will be completely done with my closets and the upstairs office by the end of July!

I’ve been taking care of a lot of “business” as well.  I had a problem with a hacker on my server, and so I had to make some calls to get to the bottom of it.  Long story short, it’s safe now, and I will shortly be in a lot more control of my account.  I’ve been able to close about half of the accounts of my mom’s over the past four months…  I still have a long road ahead, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.  Financial knots will very soon be untangled!

Other than that, I just flat-out had a busy day today.  I cleaned all day, then went to the gym with Lydia.  I came home and almost immediately joined Carlie, David, and Henry at the pool.  And it was their lovely idea to make dinner for me as well (I contributed cider and dessert)!

So I did all of that, and then proceeded to watch three and a half hours of So You Think You Can Dance (both of this week’s episodes).  It’s a phenomenal show, and I’m so excited for this summer in particular.  In its Eighth season, they still manage to make things fresh and new, with another new format (Top 20 PLUS All-Stars at the Top 10 level).

So, I’m cleaning up, getting organized, getting things under control.  I have a lot more responsibilities than most of my friends in a sense.  But in another very real sense, I am only responsible for myself; I don’t have any dependents or a significant other.  It’s refreshing to only be responsible for me right now, and honestly I don’t think I could handle it any other way.  I’m lucky in that I have so many amazing friends who look out for ME these days.  I really am … so lucky.

Managing to Manage

That sounds less “proud of myself” than I mean for it to.  I’ve been feeling really on-top-of-things for the past few days.  I think that’s partly because I’ve been so busy.  And I need to remember that “busy hands are definitely happy hands” for me.

Saturday was pretty full, because the first part of the day was spent cleaning my house for company, followed immediately by the arrival of Ali (to watch Doctor Who) and Teddy (to crash the night).  We all left around three, because Teddy had to get to a wedding and I had to get to a rehearsal.  After a two hour rehearsal, dinner with the Eltons, a two hour concert, and a reception, the day quickly got quite long.  But the concert was absolutely amazing, representative of the kind and talented people I work with at WPC.

The next day was church and Teddy, for the most part.  I got up early and went to rehearsal despite the torrential rain!  As one choir member said upon entering the room, “It’s damp out there.”  The same amazing soprano soloist from the concert sang at both services this morning, and it was a pleasure to hear her at every occasion!  I went to my last new member class before the formal joining next week.  I should probably call them this week to ensure that my membership has properly transferred from my old church…  Then Teddy and I went out to lunch, fro-yo, and stopped at a few favorite local shops.

In the afternoon, I met Lydia for my first real running in almost two weeks!  I made it 2.3 miles!  It felt good, and my leg is almost better.  I would say it’s about 90% back to where it was.  We’ll see how it handles my getting back to the routine of 3-days-a-week running!  So in the evening, I went to the dog park and the grocery store, and then called it an early night because today was equally as busy…

In the early morning, I dropped miss Bonnie at the vet for a teeth cleaning – the kind where they put the animal under with anesthesia and do it properly.  Now that I have her back, I can say that her teeth look amazing, her breath is 100% better, and the price was incredibly reasonable!  While she was busy at the vet, I went to a water park with Cathy!  We had so much fun in the PERFECT weather, and several of the attractions are competing for my favorites.  I’ll definitely go back soon.  We’re talking about going back same time next week, while the kiddies are (mostly) still in school!

I got back from there, and after retrieving Bonnie, had one of my most productive afternoons ever!  I gave Bonnie a bath, did the dishes, took a shower, baked brownies, and made a real dinner for myself (twice baked potatoes and breaded chicken).  And THEN I went to the dog park again, bought shoes with Carlie, went for ice cream (including a doggie sundae), and acquired a watermelon.  Haha.

Tomorrow and Wednesday should be less busy than the past three days, but I’m hoping that I’m on a role with accomplishing projects!  In an ideal world, I will get the laundry cupboard, the upstairs closet, and part of the downstairs closet completed!  Oh, and the plumber is finally coming to fix my leaky faucet (after a month of collecting plant-watering-water in a bowl in the sink).

But for now, I’m plum worn out.  So I shall head to sleep.

Slowing Down, Heating Up

This has been a rather slow week.  I had planned for a visit from a friend, so when she was unable to make the trip, my week sort of came to a halt.  I had cleared my schedule to do all sort of touristy things with her, but in the vacuum of her presence, I have had almost no social obligations.  I have taken advantage of this in a number of ways.  First, I’ve been sort of lazy, which isn’t great.  Second, I have accomplished a few cleaning/organizing projects.  Third, I’ve used that time to catch up with some friends, which has involved three phone calls that were over two hours each.  Oh, and I’ve been obsessing over Doctor Who this week, as the mid-series finale is Saturday.  I can not WAIT to see what happens in this episode!

I’ve also been a little bit wimpy as a result of the heat.  I never would have predicted that the oppressive heat of summer would descend so quickly.  I think I mentioned just the other day how nice the weather was?  Well, that has not been the case.  It’s been sort of dreadful, and I need to do something about my negative reaction to it, as my ideal job does involve a great deal of outdoor activity.  I suppose I’ll probably feel different about it when I have a purpose.

I’ve let a lot of time go by without running, and that’s been mostly due to my fear of injuring my leg more seriously, but I’m going to go to the gym either today (if the heating/cooling guys come in a timely manner) or tomorrow morning (if not today).  I will also be taking fuller advantage of my pool as soon as I make the trip over to pick up my key.  I’m the queen of putting off simple, little tasks.  It’s even taken me most of the day to write this entry.  But tomorrow I will be productive, because I am busy.