Health · meditation

Meditation for Dumbasses

We’ve all heard the mantras: Live in the present. Let things go. Stop inhaling those damned Doritos. But how, when we’ve got so much to worry about? So much to get caught up in! Bills to pay and jobs to dread and social media to hate! We can’t even turn our minds off long enough to sleep at night. We are a prisoner of those relentless thought loops that rattle around our minds. That’s why it’s important to learn how to occasionally break free. But how do we actually turn off our chattering squirrel brains?

Perhaps you’ve heard of meditation? Maybe you only think of it as “sitting like a pretzel at the top of Mount Everest until you levitate and/or lotus flowers shoot out of your ass”? Well, being the self-appointed lead authority of dumbasses everywhere, I can tell you three things I know for sure: It works. It’s easy. We all can do it.

Teeny tiny Buddha says, “Hellz yeah, you can!”

Before I let you in on all my secrets of meditating. I’ll give you a little background. I started my meditation practice back in high school. I was sitting cross-legged outside on the grass, gazing at the trees and feeling the warm sun, when I gradually started to go into a trance. More like a comforting, peaceful state. I wasn’t asleep, I was hyper conscious and aware (and I had only smoked one hit off my brother’s bong that day, so trust me, it was genuine.)

I noticed something odd, my thoughts — up until that point a jumbled hot mess of things like “Is that bumblebee going to sting me?” and “Why does it look like Sting wearing a yellow and black striped sweater?” and “Holy shit, what was IN that bong?” — my thoughts started to quiet down. Oh, they were still there, incessantly blabbing into the corners of my mind, but they were slowly disappearing and melting away. Until finally all that I was experiencing was my breathing and my presence. Not even thinking about my breathing, just breathing. Imagine!

Having suffered from anxiety and depression for years, this brief feeling of freedom and peace truly changed my life. I spent years taking meditation classes, reading all the books (yes, all of them!) and practicing, practicing, practicing meditation.

Do I now have all the answers? Am I able to levitate? Did I kick my Doritos habit? Hell no! I still struggle each and every time I sit and try to just “be”. But I am able to just “be”… eventually. Oh yes, I be, baby! And it’s a gift, one I cherish and try to tap into whenever possible. It’s difficult sometimes, what with all the things I have to be offended about on Facebook. So I have some advice for all those beginners out there, or people who might think it’s too hard or not worth it. This is what I’ve learned:

  • Sit how you want. I’ve been in classes where the teacher insists you sit a certain way, or hold your hands in prayer or to the side with your finger touching your thumb. Do what feels most comfortable to you. The key is to not get too comfortable or you’ll fall asleep. I sit on my couch with my hands relaxed at my sides. That’s it. There is no magic position you need to be in. What matters is you find a position that enables you to free your mind from your body.
  • Chant or don’t. Some people chant meaningful sayings and this repetition helps one focus. Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has one I like in which you say to yourself “smile ” and “release” with each breath in and out. Some like to have music playing or a guided meditation. Some chant silently, “I will not eat those Doritos, I will not eat those Doritos.” Hey, whatever gets you to relax and focus on unfocusing, do it. I don’t do anything fancy. I like it quiet and I simply close my eyes and breathe. (I told you I was a dumbass.)
Ommmmmmmm…..cooooool….raaaanch…Dooooritooooossss….
  • You can do it anywhere anytime. I don’t know about you, but it’s rare that I’m sitting in the cool grass gazing out at snowy mountain peaks while wearing the perfect yoga outfit. I meditate in my bathrobe. I meditate in my car while waiting to pick up my kids. I meditate during work meetings. Especially at work meetings.
  • We’ve all meditated before. In the shower, while listening to music, while listening to the boss drone on and on at meetings about how I showed up yet again in my bathrobe. It’s not some crazy woo-woo thing. It’s just being. Releasing and getting those stupid inane thoughts to shut the hell up for TWO FREAKING SECONDS, GAWD!
  • It can reduce anxiety, depression, sleep issues and more. Think of it as exercise for your soul. Meditation is incredibly healing.
  • There is no right or wrong way to do it. What works for you might not work for me. For me, the key is to let go of all of those preconceived notions, let go of all the words, all the terms, all those confining and annoying things like thoughts. You will have them when you sit to meditate. You are not failing meditation because you’re thinking, “Oh shit! I’m still thinking. Now I’m thinking about thinking! I suck at this!” Our entire lives consist of getting mired down in this nonstop loop of thoughts. You are so much more that that. You are a divine being. Let thoughts drift on by your consciousness and let them continue on the path out of your mind. This is how you tap into your true essence, the presence, the one observing these thoughts. Trust me, this is attainable. It does take practice. Once I was in such a deep state of meditating, I barely heard my boss yelling at me to wake up or I’m fired.
  • Practice never makes perfect. Here’s a conundrum: practicing meditation is crucial but you will never be 100% successful at it. There’s no endgame. There’s no winning. There is no point at which you sigh and say, “Welp, I’m done!” It’s a constant learning experience in which you are always evolving. Some days while meditating I can’t stop thinking about Trump’s hair flap or my mother or whether I took the chicken out of the freezer. Other days, I easily go to that sacred space of No Thoughts. But if I can sit and be still most days for even five or ten minutes, I’m grounded and ready to face the Big Issues and even all those petty little annoyances in my daily life.

Like my empty Doritos bag. Sigh.

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Health · Humor

On Pins and Needles

One morning I was half asleep and slurping coffee when I thought, Hey! You know what would be good right now? Needles! Lots of tiny needles shoved into various body parts! 

I’ve suffered from chronic low back pain ever since 1997 when I hit a moose going 55 mph. The car, not the moose. Actually, the moose too. Those buggers can run like hell on their spindly legs when they have a good mind to.

Anyway, all moose-killing* stories aside, I figure a little acupuncture couldn’t hurt. Much.

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Looks like fun!

My acupuncturist is a lovely doctor from California who recently opened her practice here. She said it’s hard to find new open-minded patients like me. I informed her this is because most Mainers believe nothing cures ills better than a cold wash cloth and a full bottle of Allen’s coffee brandy. Then she told me to put down my coffee brandy bottle and get on the table.

You think I was nervous getting my first treatment? Try doing it semi-sober. The room was tranquil enough: gentle New Age music, soft massage table, comfy face hole pillow to drool into so I can wake up an hour later and pay the receptionist with pillow creases plastered across my face like a moron.

“Okay, let’s get started, just relax,” the doc suggested. So I relaxed as much as anyone would before a good needle-jabbing. She gently inserted the first needle into my neck. Interesting, I thought. This feels… just like having a needle shoved in your neck! Yes, it was a tiny pinch, nothing major. Still, a needle! In my fracking neck! Am I drooling because stainless steel accidentally pierced my occipital lobe? Is this how I die? A paralyzed pin cushion listening to Enya while trapped on a massage table?

Then she slid about 20 more needles into my neck, spine, legs, and for good measure, about a half-dozen more in my sacral region (aka upper ass-crackage). Like they always say, the more needles in your ass, the better.

“How do you feel?” she asked. Um, like there’s 30 goddamn needles sticking out of my body! I wanted to yell. How long am I supposed to do this? 

“Good. I feel good.” I murmured. “It’s all good. Yeah.” Yeah, this entire situation is normal. I do it all the time. Pffft.

I tried to calm myself down by listening to the soothing music. “…who can say…where the road goes…where the day flows… only time…” Enya sang.
Such an asshole.

Then I heard the door close and the doc was gone. Probably off to the little room where she’ll eat popcorn and laugh at me through a two-way mirror. This was when my brain went into overdrive.

What am I supposed to do now? Just lie here? Oh my god! I can feel the needles! It doesn’t hurt, but I know they’re there! And the ones near my ass are really starting to tingle. Huh. You know what? It’s kinda nice. But what if she hit my sciatic nerve? What if I get a sudden urge to jump off the table? Would the needles fall out? Holy shit, shut up Enya! Die Enya die! Make this music stop! How long am I supposed to lie here? With needles sticking out of me! NEEDLES! THERE ARE NEEDLES IN ME! CALM DOWN, DARLA. CALM DOWN. It’s okay. You can do this. Just breathe in and breath out. Ah, nope, when I breathe I can feel the needles moving. What if one punctures my carotid artery? Just hold your breath, Darla. Just hold your breath until you pass out. This will only take 30 minutes, tops. Whatever you do, don’t move a muscle. It doesn’t hurt. The needles are fine. The Chinese have been doing this for thousands of years! But what if I have to get up to go to the bathroom? I think I have to go to the bathroom. Would the other patients mind if they saw a half-naked dude from Hellraiser creeping through the waiting room? How would I sit down on the toilet? Could I go standing up?  I think I tried it once on a dare back when I was seven, but there were no needles sticking out of me at the time…

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Holy needlenuts, I really have to pee now.

Maybe if I shift my lower body, I won’t have to go anymore…Oh god! I think one of the needles is moving in deeper! It’s–

The door creaked opened. “How you doing, Darla?”

“Wow! Is it over already? Those 30 minutes just FLEW by!” I sputtered into the drool-soaked face hole.

She plucked off the needles and gave me a hug.  I made an appointment for next week and left. But not before she suggested I try a bottle of herbal supplements to help with blood circulation. Among the long list of exotic ingredients: red peony root, licorice root, citrus peel, and eye of newt gingrich.

Even though I’m completely open to alternative medicine, I’m not convinced the pills will work. Red peony root is fine, I guess, and of course licorice root, duh. But what, no elderly Buddhist monk scrotum sweat?! For the amount of money I paid, it should contain at the very least the scrotum sweat of Newt Gingrich.

But I suppose I’ll try anything once. I’ll let you know if I survive next week’s treatment.

_______________________________________________________

*I would never intentionally harm or kill a moose. Believe me, I was pretty upset when I hit one because I love all animals. Except spiders. Yeah, they can live inside my vacuum for the rest of their days, I don’t care.

 

 

 

Health

The Inside Story

Warning: This isn’t my typical lame humor post. In this one things get real. And graphic. I’m talking about (gasp) female reproductive health issues! Feel free to close your eyes and run away screaming. I won’t take it personally.  

Okay…are they gone? What? You guys are still here? Look, I’m not kidding. This isn’t the good fun reproductive stuff, it’s the uglier side about pain and disease. Fine, stay if you want but I tried to warn you…

Once upon a time I was a young girl who suffered agonizing pain during periods. I ate Advil like candy and spent several days every month writhing in bed with a heating pad on my belly. It was difficult to get up and walk around, much less go to school. People told me this was “normal” and that I was being a baby. I believed them and sucked it up.

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Funny, this is exactly how I looked when I had bad cramps.

In my late 20s I met my husband. We got married, and not soon after we decided to try to get pregnant. I felt becoming a mom was my destiny, a lifelong yearning rooted deep in my bones. We tried for over a year with no luck. Around this time I started to have strange vague symptoms: bloating, pelvic pain, urinary, digestive issues. I saw many doctors over several years. One said I was “depressed”. One told me I had IBS. Another said it was stress-related.

Well, I thought, if they think it’s all in my head, I must be crazy. I trudged on, trying to live my life while ignoring that nagging feeling something was very wrong. Finally, feeling humiliated and defeated, I gave it one last shot and saw a Nurse Practitioner. She patiently listened to me and gave me a pelvic exam. The next words she said changed my life: “You have a large mass. I’m sending you for an ultrasound immediately.”

During the ultrasound I wasn’t scared. I felt pure relief. That may be hard to understand, but when you’ve basically been patted on the head by doctors for so many years, when one finally believes you, and there’s proof something IS wrong, it’s like a godsend.

The ultrasound tech was very quiet for a long time. Not a good sign. Then she kept asking me if I had to use the bathroom. Finally, she left the room to get a doctor. Yikes. After several minutes, they returned. She finally turned the ultrasound monitor toward me and pointed. “See that?” she asked.

“What? I don’t see anything.” It looked all black to me with no discernible shapes that resembled organs.

“That is a mass. It is so large it’s covering all your organs. Your bladder is flattened. I’m surprised you can hold urine at all at this point.” She put her hand on my shoulder.  “Are you all right?” I was surprised at the technician’s warmth and kindness. It was probably the most compassionate interaction with medical staff I had had in decades, aside from the NP.

It turned out I had a large ovarian cyst, about 15 cm in diameter, or six inches, roughly the size of a soccer ball. I know, crazy. Why couldn’t it have been a baseball? Why not fruit of some kind? Pomegranates are nice. And how in the hell did I not know it was there? I suppose I thought I was just gaining weight or very bloated. Not to mention the rest of my abdominal organs were all squished to make room for this… thing. As much as I was happy to know what was wrong with me, I felt like a total freak. Like I should be on the cover of one of those old Ripley’s Believe it or Not! books: “Woman lives with giant tumor for months and doesn’t know it!”

Soon I met with a wonderful  OB/GYN (who went on to deliver both of my babies) and he said I had to have major surgery as well as a biopsy of the cyst to rule out cancer.  I was 31. My gut reaction? (pun totally intended) Get it out now. What in hell are you waiting for?

It was during this surgery that my doctor made another startling discovery. I had endometriosis. Everywhere. To put it simply, it’s when the uterus lining for some reason spreads and grows in other places it shouldn’t. Then every month it bleeds and becomes inflamed as if it were inside the uterus. And it was all over my bowel and my bladder and my ovaries and my fallopian tubes and oh, let’s just say it was all over the goddamned place.

Huh.

So I had one obliterated ovary, one disintegrated fallopian tube, and the stupid giant cyst thing removed. It was benign. “But doc,” I cried. “Can I still get pregnant with only one pathetic, diseased, lonely ovary?”

“Yes,” he said. And I believed him.

After several miscarriages, (and along the way another diagnosis of a blood clotting disorder to boot, called the MTHFR gene or as I like to call it, the Motherf—er Mutation ), I eventually had my two babies. I’d even go so far as to call them miracles.

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Unfortunately, the endometriosis didn’t go away entirely. (Maybe you’ve seen on the news this week that actress Lena Dunham knows what that’s like.  I wish I knew who in the hell she is.) For years I tried several IUDs and drug therapies to keep it at bay. For some reason, the endo didn’t get the memo. To say I was in constant pain is an understatement.

After much deliberation, I had a partial hysterectomy at 39. Worst surgery of my life.  And that was my fifth one. When my surgeon, in her words, “got in there to look around” (a phrase that makes me think of someone opening a suitcase and rummaging around for some socks) she discovered a horror show of Stage 4 endo. It was just a mess of adhesions and nodules and lesions, oh my. My organs — my bladder, uterus and bowel — were stuck together, some of them frozen in place, most of them crunched and flattened. What was supposed to be a quick 45 minutes turned into nearly 3 hours. She had to call in another surgeon to help her excise everything. I think there may have been a chainsaw or a weed wacker involved at one point. And to top it off, I was bleeding somewhere after the five incisions and they couldn’t stop it. Apparently, a nurse came out and told my husband it was “touch and go” at one point.

“It was a pretty hairy situation,” was how my surgeon put it later on when she sat by my hospital bed. “You really had us worried. You gave me a run for my money.”

Well. It’s how I do.

But I lived through it. I’m sure you guessed that part already. I even came home after a few days and managed to take care of my two year old not long after the surgery, a point I like to bring up to my husband whenever he has a cold. So, all in all I had a few good healthy years and felt like a new woman again. Until I felt like crap again.

Which brings me to today. It’s been over 6 years since my last surgery and you guessed it, another one is coming. I didn’t make this decision lightly. My doctor is open to alternative medicine and last year put me on a strict diet to curb the endo. I tried herbs, vitamins. I’ve seen chiropractors to help with my lower back pain.  I even tried Lupron last summer. (A horrible, terrible, no-good chemo drug used for men with prostate cancer. Too bad I’m neither a man nor do I have a prostate.)  I’m going to start seeing an acupuncturist this month. I’m not sure what’s left to try. Maybe a full body transplant? Give me Sofia Vergara’s.

So, another surgery it is. Will it finally cure the endo? I’ve read good things and bad. Mostly, the answer is maybe. Honestly, I have run out of options at this point. And chronic pain tends to wear you down enough to make you actually want to have major surgery. I admit I’m a little scared shitless this time. I suppose this is why I’m writing about it because it helps me gain some distance from that fear brewing in the back of my mind.

Last week, my doctor said it’s time to take out my remaining sad ovary and clean out the endo again, except this time I’ll be plunged into instant menopause. I don’t know about you, but just the sound of that gives me a hot flash. And to top it off, because of the extensive bowel endo I had last time, there’s a possibility of a bowel resection. (Oh, my god! I swore if there were anything I would never write about on this blog it would be a bowel resection!) She’s going to have a general surgeon on standby just in case they decide to yank part of it out. If they don’t, well, there’s a good chance I’ll end up with another surgery just for that in the near future.

“Oh, hell,” I told her. “Just take it all out! I don’t need no stinkin’ bowel! Could you give me a good tummy tuck while you’re at it? Maybe inject all that excess fat into my boobs? I swear I have a punch card somewhere that says Buy 6 Surgeries, Get One Free.”

The best part was when my surgeon, someone who’s been doing this for decades, said to me, “I’m not gonna lie, I am dreading your surgery. Dreading. It.”

When I told her, “that makes two of us” she responded with, “Yeah, but you’re the lucky one! You’ll be asleep! I’ll be awake!”

Good point. Let’s hope so anyway.

Thanks for reading this long, long, graphic TMI reproductive history of mine. I just had to get this out and let you all know I’ll be taking a very long break and won’t be around much. At least I get to lie in bed for a few weeks and read, right? But before I go, let’s review a few key points to ponder:

  • Always trust your gut instinct.
  • Always get a second, third, and in my case, seventh opinion.
  • Always make sure your surgeon is fully awake during your surgery.
  • Take care of yourself because it’s all you got, ya dig?
  • Tell me again, who in the bloody hell is Lena Dunham? I’m stumped.

After it’s all over and I’m fully recovered, maybe I’ll come back here and start blogging about silly stuff again. And if you care to send some positive vibes, say a little prayer, or just say to yourself, “Damn, girl! See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!” I’d appreciate it.

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Endometriosis, Women’s Health

Endometriosis Awareness Month, What Are The Symptoms Of This Commonly Misdiagnosed Disease

The Personal, Painful Ordeal of Women with Endometriosis

Endometriosis.org, global forum for news and information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health

Catch Me If You Can, Buddy

Like probably most of you, I’ve had a love-hate (fine, all-hate) relationship with exercise. Throughout the years I’ve tried aerobics classes, swimming, running, jogging, slogging, creeping, tripping, limping, stumbling. I’ve biked, hiked, rollerbladed, rollerskated, break danced, ‘Sweated to the Oldies’…walked slowly while texting and/or guzzling iced capps topped with whipped cream.

No matter what program I try, I’ve never been able to stick with it for very long. Maybe because after 10 minutes of sweating, huffing and puffing I think to myself, “Dear God, why?! Why am I doing this? It’s pure torture! Oh god! I’m dying here! It hurts! Oh, how it hurts! My legs burn, my lungs are on fire, my heart’s gonna explode!…is this any way to spend my time when I could be sitting on a couch eating nachos? Oh, gawd, make it stop! Please make it stop!”

Once you start hitting midlife though, you notice a few things. Big things. People die.  Friends, relatives, that guy in the obituaries that was the same age as you. When you hit forty this death thing starts to get real, in your face and up in your grill. An unsettling feeling begins to dawn on you as you look nervously around the room.  You scratch your head and think, Hey, wait just a minute…. What on earth is happening here?! That won’t happen to me though. Death. Ha! Right? Right, God? Huh? Death? Fffft. Not me! Never me! Right?

….oh shit…

So I’ve been exercising pretty religiously since New Year’s Day when I made the resolution to not die. I went out and bought a brand new elliptical. Since January, I’ve made sure to get on that torture device every other day and work out until either 45 minutes have passed or I’ve passed out.

On my days off, I do yoga, go for walks and lift weights. I know. Crazy. My mom doesn’t get it. She calls me up and leaves messages on the phone: “Darla? Darla! Are you there?! Are you working out again?! Jeezum Crow! What is it with you and the working out all the time! It’s like you’re obsessed with it or something! Always with the working out and the thing! GAWD! Jeez!” [click]

Back when I was younger, I used to workout for some pretty shallow reasons: either to lose weight so I’d look good or to lose weight so I’d look good. Now? Please! I’m afraid that saggy, wrinkled ship has sailed off across the cellulite ocean. But is my heart going to give out in 10 years? Will I have a stroke?  Will I live a long life and be around for my kids and grandkids? That’s what concerns me.

Death is a great motivator.

My dad died of a massive heart attack brought on by atherosclerosis (he was a smoker) at the age of 53. Fifty-three.  Whenever I think maybe I shouldn’t bother with exercise, that pesky voice in the back of my mind whispers, psst..hey you! Yeah, you with the donut. Just a friendly reminder…you only have 11 more years to live if you die at the same age as your dad. Just something to think about. Carry on.

My mother had congestive heart failure,  quintuple bypass surgery and a mitral valve prolapse at the age of 69. Both my parents had severe heart disease. Yeah, the odds for this chick ain’t lookin’ too good. Reminds me of the scene in Big Bang Theory where Leonard asks Howard,  “Does your family have a history of heart disease?” Howard: “My family is the history of heart disease. There’s a cave painting in France of one of my ancestors doing this:” (mimes a heart attack)

You add all of this up and what does it equal? Me– running from death.

It’s working so far.

Let’s hope he isn’t wearing Sauconys.

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If you exercise, what motivates you?  What exercise program works for you? Let me know because I’ve only been at this for eight months and I don’t want to quit now.

(image theblackdeathrun)

Health · inspiration · Uncategorized

The Beauty in the Real You

People Magazine 2012

In People magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful article, they recently unveiled more photos showing celebrities without a drop of makeup. When someone sees a celebrity with no makeup, the tendency is to be a little shocked.  Apparently, we love to see them show off their true beauty, we think it’s ‘refreshing’ and ‘real’. For a moment, we realize these people are actually human, just like us!

I’m all for going au naturel, if that’s what a woman wants to do.  I normally don’t wear a ton of makeup. Not because I’m not vain at all (ha! good one!) but because I am allergic to almost everything. Also, my hand shakes when anything with a sharp point or resembling a clamp gets too close to my eyeballs.  Put an eyelash curler in the hands of a colossal clutz like me and you’re flirting with disaster. Besides, I live in Maine, where we’re not obligated to look halfway decent out in public. The more worn around the edges you look, the more you fit in around these parts.

When I do slap on some concealor or lipstick, my husband notices right away. “WOW, honey! You look good!” After he recovers from a few rapid-fire jabs to his arm, he desperately tries to backpedal. “I mean, you always look good. Even with no makeup. Ow! Stop hitting me! Ow! Actually, you don’t need makeup at all, it just looks good on you sometimes! Ow! What I am trying to say is, you are gorgeous just being you, I swear!”

This is my love/hate relationship with makeup. We all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Still, sometimes I want to look a little better than what the cat dragged in. Is that wrong? The older I get, the less I want to care about my outer looks, but it’s still there.  We have been conditioned to believe this is what matters. I’m not going to start pointing fingers and playing the blame game about media, movies, celebrity because we all eat that stuff up just as much as we condemn it.

I suppose it may be true humans are inclined to prefer things they initially find appealing to the eye–gorgeous sunsets, beautiful flowers…people with long lashes and perfect lips.  But I’ve found that once you get to know a person’s inner personality, their true soul shines through and completely transforms the person’s overall appeal. Once this happens, the superficial looks of a person are not even noticeable anymore. It is a shame that we tend to focus only on the outer attractiveness when we hold someone in high esteem, like celebrities. But it does sell a lot of magazines.

Maybe we’d all feel better about our natural beauty if we could see more of these celebrities in their genuine natural glory. Or better yet, someone like me who wasn’t already blessed with a perfectly symmetrical face and high cheekbones. Would People magazine ever feature everyday women like me? Well they tried with this article showing the “inner and outer beauty” of women. Still, not a asymmetrical face in the bunch; all of them have what we deem as an ‘attractive’ face.

Instead, this is what I wish People magazine would do: get someone who had no sleep the previous night, say someone who slept on the edge of her 5 year old’s twin bed for a total of three hours of jagged sleep; someone who had no time for a shower, and had to pull her hair back into a ratty ponytail in her rush to get the kids off to school; someone who can’t afford fancy soaps and moisturizers made out of rose petals and Dead Sea salt scrubs; someone who worked long hours all day standing on her feet, her face puffed up and bloated; someone who inherited her mother’s dark circles, bad skin, crooked nose and saggy chin. In other words: someone with a regular normal face.

Maybe then I’d believe we are free from our insecurities with our own looks and the innate desire to look more attractive.  I know I still struggle with it, like a lot of men and women. The older I get, the more I want to just be myself, gray hair, wrinkles, dark circles and all. But if I go to Target looking like that, I sometimes feel a little embarrassed, especially if I run into say, an ex-boyfriend from college. Suddenly I’m Quasimodo with my hands covering my face. “Look away! Bah! Nothing to see here!” Other days, I really don’t care what people think of me. Yeah, so what! I’ve got zits and I’m 41! I’ve got crow’s feet and dark circles! This is what I really look like–deal with it!  Feels good. Being yourself and loving it. Imagine! It’s a process. I’m slowly getting there. I suppose not being able to halt the aging process helps me get there faster.

Same goes for my weight. It’s just a number. Why do I care so much? I am the weight I am and I should just go with it. The important thing to me should be: Am I healthy? Am I happy? Am I able to be live and breathe and be with my family and friends? And who really thinks I’m beautiful, even in my natural state?  My kids, husband, family and friends. Of course they do, they love me. These are the ultimate things we should be concerning ourselves with, not whether a person still looks ‘good’ with no makeup or if their bodies aren’t a certain weight.

We are all so much more than our bodies, our faces. Obviously, our true essense has nothing to do with our bodies at all. Instead, our bodies should be cherished and accepted as they are because they are the vehicles that get us around while we’re alive. But ultimately, they’re the shells we shed once we die. Yet we preoccupy ourselves so much with how they look and continually put ourselves down when we try to measure up to what society thinks is attractive. I know I do. Takes a bit of joy out of living.

Deep down we all know this to be a fact: what matters in the end is what we do, who we love and how we treat others while we’re here.  Kindness. Compassion. Respect. Love. If you allow these things to shine through–the real you–the outer physical stuff falls away and in your heart you’ll feel radiant and gorgeous because you are.

I can’t think of anything more beautiful.