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Thursday, March 23, 2017

No Filter

I asked my husband to change the light bulb in our bathroom because it had gone out. He has a fascination with light bulbs, always searching for the most energy efficient one he can find.  When I returned to the bathroom, there was nothing efficient about this one, other than the fact it was scorching my retinas.  I needed sunglasses it was so bright. We live in a house that was built in 1941, and whatever light bulb he screwed in was making a buzzing sound.

There in front of me was a woman who is about to turn 40.   I immediately closed my eyes, one because it was bright, and two because I was nervous.   Do I have the courage to really examine this face under the harsh reality of this light?

What I have noticed lately, especially on social media, is the filters.  I have an iPhone, but a friend told me that the Android phone has an app that can make your skin look flawless and even slim it.   There is a filter for everything.  I'm sure iPhone has it, but beyond Instagram, I'm clueless about these.

I recently had head shots done with a fantastic creative photographer. He used natural light and sent me the proofs the same day.  I wondered how he could edit them so quickly and he told me that he hadn't.   This scared me.

In the past month, I have had two incidents that I'm afraid to look at my own face.  What am I afraid of?  If I can't look at my face just the way it is, how can I be confident for anyone else would want to?

I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror.   I have dark spots on my face, not from sun damage, but from a condition called melasma that sometimes goes away after pregnancy, mine stuck. Since I don't have stretch marks on my face,  I apparently needed a facial reminder of the kids I have carried.  I see a few lines around my eyes. A few hairs that shouldn't be there.  Eyebrows that are unruly.  I see a chicken pox scar that has been in every single one of my school photos since I was seven years old.  I also see the face that my boys see when they look at me.   The same face that my youngest touches constantly, so much so, that sometimes I don't even notice.   Just like when I look at my mom,  I see beauty even when she doesn't.

My oldest son is about to turn 14 and told me that he prefers when I don't wear makeup. Not because he thinks I look beautiful without it, but because he thinks I don't look like myself with it.

What if you could post a picture of yourself the way your children see you?   Sure, I'm not about to stop wearing makeup because truthfully, I prefer the way I look with it.  But I don't want to get to the point that I will stop doing things I love if I don't have access to it.

I love working out, that is not a secret.  The people I work out with are some of my best friends. There is no filter.  There are no flattering lights in the gym. There isn't a slimming mirror.  At times, I have sweat dripping everywhere, my clothes are stuck to me, I probably don't smell great, my hair that was in a tight ponytail is now half loose.  At times I have snot running down my lip and calluses bleeding on my hands.  It may not sound pretty, but it is when I feel the most beautiful.

Life doesn't happen in aesthetically pleasing filters. Beauty is found in reality.  It's found in the middle of the night when I hear one of the boys have a nightmare and my face is what gives them comfort.   I remember talking to a friend who was upset and crying and I thought to myself that she had never looked more raw, real or more beautiful.

Why filter out the good stuff?

So the next time I think I should add a filter to my Instagram post, I'm going to ask myself, what I'm trying to hide?  Is it the things that make me, me? The things that make the people I hold closest to my heart love me?

I had coffee with a friend of mine (who also is my trainer) yesterday and was voicing my concerns about my body. Specifically, the amount of time that I spend in the gym and that I don't think my body reflects that.  He asked me what I was comparing myself to.  I told him I would think about that, but the truth is, I knew, I just wasn't willing to admit it.

I was comparing myself to something that doesn't exist.  A time filtered image of myself, 20 years younger.   A version of myself that was great, but was just getting started.  Just like our house, the imperfections are what make it a home.

And the truth is, I want to look like I have lived because the last 20 years I have.. and then some. Even if I did try and hide that, if someone saw me in real life it would be very obvious.   I saw a woman whom I'm friends with on social media at a meeting, and I couldn't believe how different she looked. Not bad, just different than what I see in her posts.  I don't want that.  I want to look like me.

Today I had one of the most challenging workouts I have ever done.  It was more mentally challenging than physical. And my friend just kept talking to me, telling me not to stop, not to worry about the people around me, or my body that was telling me to quit.  He encouraged me to just keep going because he knew I could do it.  And I did.  And I felt amazing.

I went home and put my phone on the table and returned to mommy mode. While I was making eggs, I casually mentioned that I did 210 burpees to my boys and Jack wanted to give me a hug.  Because I snap photos of everything, Oscar took a picture.   Sure, I could look at it and see the sweat, the rolls, the dark spots, but instead I will choose to look at the arms around my neck.  A hug is a way of telling me "good job."  And his expression shows it.

The best filter you can add is life.  Even if you have been through hell and back, it looks so much better than a life-less air-brushed face.

As I approach my 40th trip around the sun, I'm going to try and see myself as I am, not as I was, not as someone else. No filter. Just me.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

Making a Choice to Jump

When I was ten years old, I waited until the very last day of summer camp to jump off of the high dive.  The camp was in Michigan on a beautiful lake.  I can't tell you exactly how high the high dive was, but to me, it seems like it must have reached the clouds.
I remember everything about the moment right before I jumped.  Climbing the stairs, the wind, the lifeguards, my cabin mates cheering me on, my worn out swimsuit that had pilling all over the butt and was giving me a massive wedgie, I remember it all. 

I lunged forward at least three times before I actually made the jump.  I didn't look down.  Finally, the whistle blew, and I had to do it.  I just made the choice that I was going to do it, and I might die in the process, but I had mustered up the courage all week. This was the craziest thing I had done in my decade of life. When I stepped off, I regretted the decision immediately.  The 2-second drop felt like it took an hour and when I finally hit the water with my feet, it stung like a mofo.
This was the 80's, and John Mellencamp's song Hurt So Good was popular, and I thought that this is what this song was about.  It hurt, but at the same time, it felt so good.   I was on a high dive high for at least a day, possibly the next decade.

Last Sunday I was in the grocery store picking up stuff I had forgotten to get the other four times I was there that weekend when a woman standing behind me asked if I worked at Notre Dame.  I looked down to make sure I wasn't still wearing my name tag and said yes, I do.  "You're the marcher".  And she laughed. I had no idea what she meant, I mean I work in music, but I don't march.   We chatted, and she told me that she works in housekeeping in the business school, and every day she sees me at the same time, with headphones one "marching" through her building.  She said it's funny because she knows it's me by my heels, and I look like I'm having fun.

This is not the first time someone has told me I am heavy on my heels.  When my dad was in the hospital, he said he knew I was coming because he could hear me walking down the hall. 

What the housekeeper must be referring to is the fact that I always have ear buds in my ears. I felt bad for not noticing her when clearly she was noticing me.   It isn't that I'm trying to avoid the reality around me by drowning everyone out. It is that I'm making a choice.

I have mentioned this before, but I have a playlist for almost every occasion.  Before I step out of my car in the parking lot at work, I select my playlist.  It helps motivate me to start my work day, and it makes the 15-minute walk more fun.  What is on my playlist may surprise some people. I know it mortified Parker when he learned that  his mom could recite every word of Caroline by Amine.  More urgently, why the hell does he know that song?  The nastier the gangster rap, the better. No joke.

This is a choice I make.  Yes, there are days when I don't want to do things.  Like, go to work.  But I make a choice to make it enjoyable, like blasting inappropriate raunchy ass music as I pass a campus chapel. It makes me feel rebellious and wild, even though I just dropped off my boys at school, gave them all a kiss and said something like, "Mommy loves you and knows you are going to have a great day!" while giving them lunches in bento boxes with the crusts cut off, and baby carrots for a snack.

There are also times where my husband and I have been having the same argument for the past month and I finally just make a choice to wave the white flag because it doesn't matter who is right or wrong. I'm choosing to live the rest of my life with this person; I might as well make it enjoyable. That is an adult example of hurting so good.  Thanks, John Mellencamp.

By shifting my thought process, I can make a choice to love rather than dislike.  And trust me, there have been several times this year that hate or self-doubt has crept in and I have to hit it like a wack a mole and send it back down. And it will keep popping up, trust me.  But I have the power because I have the mallet.

As I'm walking into work listening to music that I should have a hard time relating too, but somehow can manage to make it about my life,  I see my reflection in a window.  I see a professional-ish woman in heels, with her hair tied back in a bun because she didn't have time to dry it.  Whose make up is the best she could do with drug store concealer and lip gloss. Who is carrying the same Kate Spade messenger bag her parents bought her for college.  Who looks pretty damn good for what she has been through already this morning.   But when I look closely, I still see that little blond girl on the highdive.  Eager to jump, but scared. In retrospect, I love that little tomboy.   I don't want to ever lose sight of her when I see my reflection.

Some days I do, and those are the hardest days. I have to make a choice to reconnect with who I am.  At the very core of myself, I choose not to let that little version of me slip away. Some days it is harder to see her,  buried under all the adulting I have to do, or have chosen to do. But beneath the mortgage, bills, marriage, parenthood,  she is the one who holds the key to what truly makes me happy.   And today, what makes me happy is gangsta rap.

That ten year old version of myself  is the one who will remind me to take a leap of faith into the unknown every single time.

I gaze a bit longer at my reflection- not long enough to find faults in my hips but long enough to find the beauty that every child has, and every adult has if they allow themselves to see it.

Our kid spirit and drive never leave us, they are still there.  We just have to make a choice to see them.