Stopped to take a breath, and WHOOSH, February was almost half-way gone and I had not done the things I needed to do. Things I should have done a long, long time ago. Fear and worry paralyzing me, of course over-thinking it all, of which you too were a victim, had entangled me for much too long.
I really needed to take a break, relax, restore, a bit of a time out to look around, to celebrate how far I had come, all the hard fought victories, and to say adieu and move on.
The job I’d had for 4 1/2 years ending, and what happens now? What to do? I don’t know yet, but I have some time, I’m ok, I’ve been here before.
First though I have this thang that has haunted me, I have to face it.
I haven’t written for while, but nothing new in that, eh? I remember those long messages on the answer machine… always starting with… “Paula, just your mom, you remember her…” the monthly check-in.
I wish you were here, could hear your voice just one more time, calm my nerves, hold my hand. But, that is not to be, and this will have to do.
I miss you. I always miss you, but this kind of stuff, I miss you more.
I think of you, of what you went through, of how sad you were, how depressed, how much it changed you, how you took it so personally, so ashamed.
You would understand this stupid sense of failure, whether its genetics or not, still. I know you would understand this feeling somehow you were less, ugly even.
I know you would understand all that. Pretty being that warm blanket we could once upon a time wrap around ourselves, hide that true self from the eyes of the world. Pretty being this great disguise, something to mask the truths you hide, all the things, like wrinkles, grey hair, droopy boobs, saggy bum, and hair where it’s not supposed to be…and whoosh… gone with some product, or a knife. Beauty, defined by a consensus of strangers far away, that age slowly steals from us all; or, so we are told.
Without it though, who are you? That’s where I am. Or was.
That was the sticking point, for a long time.
So, here I am again writing to my dead mother. It has been 19 years since that fall evening as the light was fading, and the cancer took you from us… and I want my mom, as what I’m about to embark on, and where I have been, you know this journey.
I’m not going to let this wound me as it did you. I’m not going to let it take away my spirit, or blame the whims of fate, or rage against the unfairness of it all, and lose my way. Not now, I’ve come to far, and I have miles to go yet, and I don’t see the world as you did.
Since the last time I wrote to you, I have let go of the chains that attached my self-worth to some outer beauty – contrived, fake, and expensive. Stopped dying my hair, stopped wearing makeup, stopped all the artificial crap I used to waste my money on. Over the years I have embraced solitude, explored the dark corners of my introverted self, discovered what she needs, and found this beauty within.
Since I last wrote to you, I have focused on what matters, what I want from life, not just what I need. I know what I want, have what I need, and am comfortable with who I am without the pretty girl mask to hide behind.
Over the years, standing in the way has always been something, born of too much booze, or a guy, a fear, or something, usually someone. But I’m 53 this year, and over 3 years ago something changed. I changed it, stripped away the masks, the makeup, the dye job, the worry about what other people thought of me… I just let go.
Not anymore… no one is getting in my way.
Age does have its mercies, as my libido has gone the way of the dodo anyway, so am free of giving a rats bum what anyone may think. As well, another caveat is that shitty ass teeth, you know mom, they have a way of pushing the laddies away.
Hey, ya have to use your “assets” (or lack thereof).
Anyway, I am NOT dragging around some tired old nonsense about beauty like an anvil attached to my leg, basing my own self-worth on some youthful ideals, artificial, common, ordinary, run-of-the-mill. Botoxed, lifted, pumped up, or rare, beauty lies not just in the eye of the beholder, but also the mind. MY mind.
Common? Me? Adhering to some mambi-pambi ground rules, age brackets, style, hair coiffed just so, bog-standard accoutrements, fitting the square pegs into triangles, circles into squares? For what? For who?
Don’t roll your eyes… seriously… I can almost hear the snert noise.
I forced myself to stop worrying about all that external crap, stop relying on it, stopped thinking that external beauty was some eternal harvest. Stopped falling into that trap, that beauty could be this great and noble thing, that somehow it was the ONLY thing that really mattered.
Believing that somehow maintaining that, achieving that ideal would make me happy. Clinging to who I was, and betraying who I could be.
That being attractive to some mysterious stranger I’d not met was more important. You know, keeping up appearances.
But, beauty can mask our darkness. Being pretty can mask our pain, for a while. We can use it, abuse it, hold it up as a shield, define our self-worth at the whims of time, and falling in line, believing the mass media that bombards us with whom we should be, how we should look, what we should wear, think, believe, how we should see ourselves. Eventually holding so tightly to this once ideal pretty that we are oblivious to who we are becoming, grasping on to some notion that does not define us any longer, no longer imprisons us, but we are caught in time.
Yes, that word I’m sure you hate… THE CRONE.
I saw you do it, saw how you lost that sense of who you were, all wrapped up in being the “prettiest girl in town“. You know mom, being pretty should not be a crown of thorns.
I’m more than that. YOU were more than that.
What if you had known you had so little time? What if you had known fate would take you so young? 54, and you were still beautiful, your pretty face preserved like in amber, dying in the house where you grew up.
No, life is not fair. If there is anything I learned from your death, it is that our time is short, and not to hang all my hopes and happiness on such intangible BS I have little or no control over. Go with the flow, handle the hits and misses as they arrive, enjoy the ride.
Lex talked about all this the other night on the phone, and that’s why I thought I should start writing to you – I know you would understand.
Your beauty defined you your whole life. Your pretty face and blue eyes, the pouty bottom lip dad loved, it was who you were, you were pretty. I was pretty.
Fine and dandy, lucky us, we were blessed with whatever it is, but at some point you have to put that aside, or it will destroy you. I saw that happen to you, and I was not going to let it happen to me.
And, no, it wasn’t fair that all your teeth were shite and had to come out, that some of that stuff you had leaned on was fading, falling out, betraying you.
Was that it? Was that why you started to drink so much? Fall into a bottle of wine, ease the hurt, the betrayal, with inebriation?
I can see that, I felt that, at the thought of what I’m about to do, have to do, at what it means, of all the fear and anxiety wrapped up in having false teeth. I worried about it for years.
And, here we are.
So that’s why I’m writing. I’m here, just as we always knew I probably would, genetics being what they are. And try as I did, as I know you did, our teeth are crap, and so, dentures it is.
Right now it is all tufting along on air, scheduling, appointments here, appointments there. I’m not sure, but I think its happening this Friday. I’m on a time limit, as certain benefits are only good for so long, after they expire it will cost more, and I don’t have more.
Now, Lex is going to pitch in, best she can, but still. Ugh… I got a lot of balls in the air. I mean, you have no idea.
Warning from the universe, I guess, but when I went to the Dentists to get this all started, she did my blood pressure and, holy poop, it was high, like REALLY high, and so she had me go to the doctor.
So, off I march to the doctor the next day, nervous as hell, cause my Health Card had expired. Yeah, like a long time ago expired and I should have updated it YEARS ago, but I’m an idiot, and most clinics don’t even notice, and when they do I just pay a fee, $25 or $50 bucks, but still. I’m an idiot. Introverted idiot that likes to make everything friggen more difficult, but anywho.
I’m a lot like you. Scared of stuff we can not change, avoiding it until, well, sometimes until it’s too late.
But, so the doc gave me some pills, low dose, for 30 days.
My life did a 180 when I got this job, from office job to slogging and lifting all day at work for almost 5 years, biking like 60 minutes a day in the spring and summer, into fall, and 2 hour rides on my days off, and of course, long dog walks. I watch my salt, usually. I eat ok, not strictly avoiding anything, but knowing one day I would have to watch all that more carefully – well DADA – tis that day.
So off downtown to update my Health Card – CHECK. And then on to the clinic for the blood work and EKG the doc ordered – CHECK. That in itself is a massive milestone.
Anvil round the neck, that stupid card.
And, now I wait, cause the Dentist won’t remove anything until she knows I won’t have a heart attack on her.
I’m kinda against that myself.
Oh, I know, I know, mom. Don’t worry. I’m good. Another inheritance from the ol’familia. Checked my blood pressure at the local drugstore yesterday and I’m back to normal, the pills are doing their thing.
But, gessush, Mary and Joseph, bing, bang, boom, all at once.
Lots on the plate. I always had, what they said was “a little high” blood pressure… but this was more than just a little high. Maybe all this has saved my life, cause I had no signs that anything was amiss.
Overwhelming, or would have been not that long ago, but I’m tougher, stronger, in a better head space, and ready for what will be.
As they say, the future is not ours to see. Shadows line the path ahead, but I’m not just a pretty face, I’m made of tougher stuff now.
I’ve also been training for this for like almost 3 years, like a runner trains for a marathon, working on my mindset, as my teeth slowly fell out in the back, one after the other.
I endured the pain, faced my fears, the shame, the whole enchilada. I began to change my diet, my habits, I was more and more careful what I ate, how I ate, month after month, and slowly I’ve prepared myself for this thing that used to give me nightmares, used to wake me up in the morning in a panic with the idea of my teeth coming out like Chiclets.
Having a job slogging in the back and seeing no customers made this all so much easier. I have been really actually very lucky. I’m sad the job ended, still worried, but overall I’m confident, and it was a good run, a good bunch of people, and an amazing experience. Still do not have a clue how I would have done this otherwise, without having this time, to mend, and nestle away in my temenos, hide my toothless grin till I can get the dentures fitted. Doing the tops first, bottoms next year. Or that’s the plan… that is all I can afford right now.
So, today, here and now, after all this, I’m not that person who had those nightmares, not anymore. Not just a pretty face, but I would like to smile again without scaring the crap outa people. I might be anxious, binge-watching Midsomer Murders from season one, but I got this. I’m not going to let it hold me back, not anymore.
I’ll write soon, maybe on the weekend, or after. I’ll keep you in the loop.