Since I last posted, I’ve spent 20 of 30 days in silent Vipassana meditation courses and have traveled to Yangon, Myanmar, but this is not about those things. This is one of those posts that involves neither jaunting nor jauntiness. Be warned.
I have approximately 2.4 million words to write about this, but you’re getting under 800. Be grateful.
Over the past few years, I’ve been looking at things I include (or don’t include) in my life and have been really examining whether they are things I truly still do want (or don’t want) any more, rather than simply continuing to follow a decision made years ago with a different knowledge base and different life experiences (basically, a different brain) driving my decisions.
And I have recently been thinking quite a bit about image. This has come up in light of some recent events (not the least of which has been people’s … ummm… interesting? responses to my khmer-style photos in full hair and make-up…and photoshop; see below for evidence), and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on why I have made some of the choices I’ve made in the past regarding my physical appearance and how those choices play out in my life today.
And, while it doesn’t make any sense for me to buy any new cute dresses in the next month or two before I move back, to replace my clothes here that really have seen better days, I thought it may be kind of fun to go buy some mascara and see how it felt to wear some on a “normal day” after having only worn it a handful of times in the last 15+ years (literally, only to the weddings I’ve attended, and to have those photos taken that I mentioned above). I mean, maybe I’d feel like a million bucks! Maybe I’d have a new spring in my step. Or maybe I’d feel like a five year old playing dress up with mom’s makeup. Maybe I’d feel like a cheap hooker. The thing is, I didn’t even know what it would really feel like in my life. And I kinda wanted to know.
But then tonight, full stop on all self development, specifically regarding physical appearance. I looked at pictures of a woman I don’t even know and thought, “Well, your playing around with some $2.50 mascara sure isn’t going to get you that, Julie. You’d never even look like that with all the goddamn makeup in the world. And all the goddamn makeup artists in the world.” And I felt horrible about the choices I’d felt confident about just moments earlier. Oh, puke. I mean, I get it, this (especially) women comparing themselves to others negatively is a thing, and while this isn’t something that has affected me negatively lately, it hit me like a charging elephant tonight. The texture of the whole feeling changed pretty quickly as I watched what my brain was doing, but it happened. And it made me not want to buy the mascara because I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I thought others think I should be striving to achieve. Double puke.
So, as I move through these decisions about inclusion or exclusion of things in my life, I’m going to have to continue to take extreme caution to make sure that these are my decisions, that they are things that bring me joy. And I would love to say that that will be easy, that I can simply and always say, “Yes, of course, this is what I want, not something based on what I think others want of me, not based on those not-truly-me voices I’ve cultivated so strongly in my mind over the past 4+ decades!” But I know it won’t be easy. I also know I will give it my damndest.
And this applies to so many aspects of my life, not just physical appearance. So, just know that, when you see me in the next few months, I may or may not be wearing makeup. And I may or may not be drinking a beer. And I may or may not be wearing a cute dress. Or pants with a hole in the ass. And I may or may not be dating. And I may or may not be running. And each of those things may be the opposite the next time you see me. Because regardless of what I am specifically including or excluding, I am aware that I lead such a privileged life that I have the opportunity to both choose and to refuse in virtually every area of said privileged life.
And I absolutely choose to absolutely refuse to let that privilege go to waste.