Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To the Next 40

I'm turning 40 next week.
I've been kind of down about it.
I'm sagging. Everywhere.
There is a copious amount of gray hair on my head.
My knees hurt almost all the time.
I groan when I get up of the floor.
I can no longer sleep on my right side because the muscles in my back seize up after five minutes.
I get up to pee like three times a night because I have the prostate of an 80 year old man.
And after I wake up, I can't go back to sleep.

I'm freaked out about turning 40.
I've been feeling a little down.

Or, at least, I was until this afternoon.

I was finishing up the last of my Christmas shopping this afternoon and a woman stared at me with the strangest look. I caught her eye as she said, "You hair. It's so...gray. Why don't you color it?"

My gray hair elicits very strong reactions in women. Take for instance, my friend Tina who used to do my hair before we moved: Tina wholeheartedly supported my grayness and looked for ways to enhance the thick brillo mane that I was born with.

On the other hand, the woman who now does my hair has a strong disapproval of my hair color. She spends the first ten minutes of every appointment quizzing me on why I chose to go gray. It's not personal, she's just reacting to a lifetime of fiction she's been fed about what a woman is "supposed to" look like. (If you've been under a rock for the last few decades, here's the short version according to the amazing Tina Fey: "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”)

Anyway, for whatever reason, women tend to have very strong reactions to my hair. It's either, "Oh my gosh! I looooooove your hair!" or the opposite--like my "friend" in the store this afternoon.

First of all, let's be honest here: I DO color my hair. All the dark parts on top? Yeah, totally fake. A few years ago I looked over at Mountain Man's thick dark head-o-hair and thought, "He is never going to catch up with me." Every month or so, I get a mohawk of thick blackish pieces painted through my gray. When it grows out I touch up the pieces with mascara until I can get to the salon. Come to think of it, I kind of look like the Bride of Frankenstein but in reverse.

My point of this post is this: I was playing into the idea that 40 signifies my steady decline into old age and infirmity until this afternoon. Instantly, the creaky knees, hurting back and wobbly bits just melted away. Indignation rose up from my toes: I refuse to feel bad about aging.

I refuse to apologize about sagging breasts that fed two HUMAN BEINGS for a year--each.

I refuse to feel bad about my aching back that can lift heavy things, the crows feet that frame my eyes with a perfect record of every laugh, and I REFUSE to apologize for my gray hair, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people feel.

But all I really want to say to that lady in the store this afternoon is this:
Thank you.
Thank you for igniting my fire again. Thank you for helping me see what a waste of time it is to focus on a number.
I am not a number, and neither are you.

Here's to the next 40.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Filling In the Cracks

I totally messed up. It wasn't on purpose, and I didn't wake up yesterday morning and say, "Ya know, today, I think I will forget to put my emergency brake on so my car will roll into someone else's car in a parking garage."


I actually did that.

I was in a hurry.
I forgot.
I feel totally embarrassed and ashamed.
And now I'm telling the whole world about it. 

After feelings of mortification washed over me for being forgetful and in a hurry (and creating a mess for someone I don't even know), I realized (yet again) that being human is just downright hard. Most of the time, we do our best, and sometimes, we epically fail at keeping our ducks in row (or our car in park) and our actions hurt others (and their bumpers).

The universal truth is this:

We are human. Synonyms for the word, "human" include, "vulnerable, fallible, forgivable" To say that we are fallible implies that we are human. Being human means that we are messy and chaotic. We screw up. We forget one another. We forget ourselves and we forget that we are human and when we finally DO realize it, it's too late. We've already forgotten to engage the emergency brake; the car has rolled away and we are left with nothing but shame.

Our humanness sometimes creeps up on us like the sneaky bastard that it is. Our humanness ambushes us in moments that will take our breath away. Our vulnerability surprises us. Our imperfections leap from our mouths like daggers.
And we are surprised.
Every. Single Time.
These moments of imperfection crack our confidence, expose our most hidden shame and damage our souls.

However, the damage can be healed. The Japanese have a tradition that when they find cracks in their pottery, they fill the cracks with gold filled resin. It's called Kintsukuroi. The belief is that the object is more beautiful and valuable with its history revealed for all to see. On an intuitive/spiritual level I think most of us know this--it's our cracks that make us whole.

Society, however, has another story. We are taught to keep our humanness a secret. We guard our shameful moments like a warden. We don't speak of our imperfections. We cover them with addiction, anger, gossip or lies. We lie to ourselves and to others and we try to keep the shame at bay in a vain attempt to deny our vulnerability, the very thing that will deliver us to a path of authenticity and joy.

If we can embrace our vulnerability, give a nod at our shame and honor our experiences and feelings, we will slowly, yet surely, fill in our cracks with gold and reveal our true self. Amidst the brokenness there is a beautiful soul; it is flawless and overflowing with golden light. It is whole and full of grace for all. Filling in our figurative cracks means we extend love, compassion, kindness and understanding to others. Filling in the cracks means we first must break. (Don't worry about this step, living assures it.) Then we must have the courage to pick ourselves up, gather the pieces and gently put ourselves back together. 

Feeling the sharp sting of my inadequacy made me feel extra vulnerable today. I couldn't separate myself from my mistake. I immediately leaped to, "I'm such an idiot!" I was embarrassed and ashamed. Brene Brown says, “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling." The lens could not have been any more zoomed in today. The crack was formed.

But, "[Our] Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together."  We are all in this together. We are all wonderfully, beautifully, divinely human. We are all cracked. Here's to helping each other fill in our cracks and carry bear our burdens together because living is heavy, and my back hurts like hell.