Pamper Me Not

I've been assiduously avoiding the mirror all day today.  I didn't bother doing my hair or putting on makeup, and I'm wearing a particularly unflattering pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt emblazoned with a logo created by a 10 year old member of the children's choir I accompanied back in 2002.  I pity my poor husband, who had to look at me all afternoon.  Lucky for him,  he was dozing blissfully unaware each time I walked past him. I felt particularly guilty about my state of personal disrepair when I read the chapter in Tracey Jackson's new book (Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty is Not the New Thirty) about cosmetic surgery.  Granted, Ms. Jackson is a Hollywood screenwriter and moves in the kind of circles where it's important to look your absolute best.  But she pursues looking good with quite a vengeance, one I certainly don't have the fortitude to undertake.  First off, I'm much too paranoid about medical procedures to ever undergo plastic surgery.  And the idea of somebody sticking needles into my face sends me into spasms of dread.

My other problem - and I know I'm in the minority among women here - is that I just don't like the whole "pampering" routine.  I don't enjoy the salon experience, I think massages are kind of creepy, and I have no patience with complicated beauty regimens.

I finally started coloring my hair about five years ago, but after one particularly horrific experience I have to indulge in some dutch courage each time I go in for a repeat performance.  And it's becoming necessary to undergo that ordeal more and more often, as the gray hairs have been sprouting faster than you can say "does she or doesn't she?" (Of course she does.)  About that same time, a stylist convinced me to have my eyebrows waxed.  I was perfectly happy with my eyebrows until I saw how much nicer they looked after they were arched so perfectly.  Now I'm stuck with going in every three weeks.

I think the bottom line is that I don't like people touching me. For instance, the whole massage thing, with the dark room and the fey music and the trickling water fountain that just makes me want to go to the bathroom, and then some stranger rubbing  lotion all over my body - ick.

I do sort of enjoy facials, partly because I love the young woman I go to.  It's unfortunate that she works in Florida, but I make a point of having a facial once or twice a year when I'm down there, and we have a lovely visit.  She's worked in a number of spas, where I have also had manicures and pedicures and massages (sigh),  but she has her own business now, so if you're ever in Ft. Myers and would like a facial, look her up and tell her I sent you.

It's funny, because I like to look good, I really do.  I just don't like all the rigmarole that goes along with it.  If you want to pamper me, set me down in comfy lounge chair by the beach with a stack of books and a bottle of wine.

I'll be downright radiant, I promise you.

How about you?  Do you enjoy a special beauty routine?  Or do you have a different idea about being pampered?

Sadder than SAD

I'm sad.  With a capital S-A-D.  As in Seasonal Affective Disorder. The cynical part of me is sneering right now. "Don't tell me you're buying in to that disease of the day crap," it's saying.

My conscience is scolding me.  "Get off your duff and do something productive.  That'll cure your sadness."

My left brain is advising me.  "If you're really worried about this, investigate ways to get some light into your life."

But my right brain seems to be winning out over all these other voices.  "Go back to bed with a heating pad, blanket, and book.  Take two dogs for company.  Drink hot cocoa and come out in May."

I'm tempted to scoff at SAD, but I think I've fallen victim to it this winter.  It's one of the darkest winters on record, and I haven't seen the sun here in nigh on two weeks.  We've had some amount of snow every day this week.  The other day I cried half the way to work.  Right now, I'm summoning up all my strength to get out of the house and go to the library, a place I usually need no encouragement to go.

Last night I was talking to a friend of mine, one of the most practical, down to earth women I know.  She always amazes me with her vigor and physical strength.  "I haven't been out of my room all week," she told me last night.  "I haven't even washed the dishes since Sunday."

"What's the matter?" I asked, aghast.

"It's SAD," she replied matter of factly.  "This is the worst winter I can remember."

"What can you do about it?" I inquired.

"Wait until spring, I guess."

My left brain doesn't want to accept that answer.  It sends me directly to my favorite on line medical site, who concurs with my own opinion.

Don't brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own — you may have seasonal affective disorder. Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications.

Apparently you can go out and buy ultraviolet light to enjoy in the privacy of your own home.  Imagine that...all it takes is money, and you can have a little sunshine any time of the day or night.

Of course, this is when I start to think about my house in Florida - the Sunshine State, right? - that's sitting there empty and waiting for me.  It's such an obvious solution, but one that eludes me year after year.  Next year, I tell myself every winter, a refrain that echoes the sentiment expressed by Jews the world over - "Next year in Jerusalem."

It seems to be my own version of The Impossible Dream.

And that makes me sadder than anything.

A Little Postaday Mind Trickery

Since it's been four days since I've posted here, I suppose I'm no longer a Wordpress Postaday member in good standing. That's okay.  I'm not beating myself up over it.  I knew I'd never be able to keep up with that kind of blogging schedule.  I had a pretty good run at it for a couple of weeks, but in the last few days somehow lost momentum.

The whole daily posting resolution reminded me a little bit of Mr. Federighe (fed-é-reek-e), my fourth grade violin teacher.  Each time he taught us a new piece, we were supposed to go home and practice it 10 times every day.

Can you imagine?  Suwanee River scratched out on the violin 10 times every day?

I don't think any of us ever did that (except for Margaret M., who ended up as principal violist in the Boston Symphony).   I remember making it to six times through on one very rainy Saturday afternoon, before giving up and going back to reading Harriet the Spy.

Many years later, I ran in to Mr. F. once again - I was actually his accompanist for a while, and we shared a tiny office in the junior high school where he was teaching at the time.  He was still telling the junior high students to practice every piece 10 times a day.  "You don't really think they're going to do that, do you?" I asked him.

"Oh of course not," he answered.  "But maybe they'll at least practice it once or twice before they throw in the towel!"

Pretty crafty thinking.

That's kind of what happened to me with the Postaday program.  It tricks me into writing more often than I might otherwise do - and that's just fine.

How about you? Do you have any little mind tricks you play on yourself?

What's the Word?

I get reflective at this time of year, whether it's the inviting specter of a brand new year, the cold days of winter with plenty of time to think, or the impending anniversary of my birth -  which is definitely enough to give anyone pause. This year I've been thinking a lot about what I want to DO.  I've been writing more, and recalling how much pleasure and satisfaction comes from taking a snippet of thought, puzzling it out, and putting it into words.  I've been thinking about expanding some of those snippets into a longer piece of writing (dare I call it a book?), and have been exploring some options in my head.  But I've also been mourning the lack of music in my life right now.  The other day, a Facebook friend posted that "there was a hole in her musical life big enough to drive a truck through."  I feel the sadness behind the flippancy of those words.

So I've been wishing, and hoping, and daydreaming about new ventures.  As often happens, something I read seemed to speak directly to these thoughts.  In Words to the Wise, life coach and Oprah Magazine columnist Martha Beck wrote about the power of words in shaping our goals.  "Stated goals are magical," she says.  "They dictate our attitudes and behavior and where we put our energy."  However, caution is required in conjuring up these dreams.  Sometimes, what we think we want isn't what we really bargained for.  And sometimes, what we really want has been with us all along.

When it comes to successfully naming our dreams, it all comes down to word choice.

"The difference between a dangerous goal and a safe effective one has everything to do with parts of speech,"  Beck asserts.  "Most goal setter use mainly nouns and verbs ("I want my business to succeed," or "I want to have a baby"). This frequently leads to either outright failure or the kind of success that doesn't make people nearly as happy as they expect."

According to Beck, we need to focus on the "quality of experiences we want to have," rather than on a situation we aim to create, and choose the adjectives which best describe that experience.  Here's the process in a nutshell:

Pick your dream, your most outrageous dream.  Imagine the best case scenario of your life when that dream has been fulfilled.  Go into your soul and imagine how you're feeling...fulfilled, energized, important, delighted, valuable, nourished... choose three of those adjectives which best describe your emotions.  Write them down.

Go ahead.  Go daydream for a while and then come back.  I'll wait.

Okay, got your dream words?

Now look at those words and see how they relate to your life right now.  Are there things already happening in your life that make you feel that way?  How can you expand on those areas, creating more happiness in your present life while perhaps drawing yourself closer to your fantasy goal?

If I look at one of my fantasies -  being part of a small, successful chamber music group - and imagine myself rehearsing and performing with three or four really talented musicians who also become my friends, I would expect to feel creative, and proud, and valued.   If those feelings are my goal, if that's what I want to experience more of in my life, how can I come closer to that state of being right now?

It's an interesting way to look at things, isn't it?  It turns the process of stating goals on its ear.

And makes me think about the power of words in a whole new way.

How about you?  What adjectives did you come up with?  Is that experience manifesting itself in your life right now?

Yearning to Harvest

To grow what we need requires a sanctuary of time and attention, a patch of ground secured by some clear, recognizable boundary that can shield us from the endless demands, choices, and responsibilities eroding our day, so we can listen, uncover what is ultimately important, remember what is quietly sacred.  Setting boundaries around what is most valuable, precious, and necessary for us to thrive actually creates a space of freedom and abundance.  Without these self-imposed restrictions on ourselves and others, we my never be truly free to plant, grow, or harvest what we yearn to harvest from the garden of our lives.

Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

I'm re-posting this beautiful paragraph from One Rich Life (with humble thanks to Joan for sharing it)  because it seemed to me these words should be spread among us like rich, dark soil is spread over the garden.  Spread, and cultivated, and worked into the ground with our fingers.
At the beginning of this month, I wrote that one of my goals for 2011 was to "just be happy."  As I plod through these long, dark, cold days of winter, I feel about as far from happiness as I've ever felt.  Reading Muller's words, I realize what I need to do is "set boundaries around what is most valuable, precious, and necessary" for me to thrive.
But what does that mean in practical terms?  While part of me longs to "drop out" of the rat race of modern, everyday life, and head for a tiny cottage in the hills, I know that's neither realistic nor emotionally sustainable.   I also know that I allow the outside world to impose itself on me far too much and far too deeply.  Part of setting boundaries for me will always mean learning to shake off the traces of the world's demands to the extent that it's practical, and live contentedly within the sanctuary of my own life and the things that are ultimately important to me.
Mostly I feel like I should have this all figured out by now.  That I should know how to create the kind of balance between work and responsibility and life which will allow me to flourish.  That I'll know how and when to let go of the things that bother me, and stop giving them so much prominence in the garden of my life.
I think, though, that we're all seekers - that the world today makes it harder and harder to find just the right spot in which to put down roots and grow.
How about you?  Are you still seeking the perfect balance for the garden of  your life?  Have you been able to create the boundaries you need in order to thrive and grow?  What's the secret?