Painted On

I splashed water on my face and pressed the towel to my skin as I exhaled. This was the part of the evening where I stripped off the layers of makeup that I had walked around with all day, the part of the evening where I was sure no one else would see me.

I was never certain how I felt when I looked in the mirror. Everyone has aspects of themselves they love and hate, but ever since I was a teenager, my face without makeup was something I sooner kept to myself; it was reserved for nights in and only to be seen by family members that had been around long enough to know what I looked like before I began painting the foundation on in the first place.

And painting is what it really was. My morning routine slowly became longer and longer, with new products being added in to deal with the mess I was creating by layering all sorts of concoctions on my skin. After slathering on moisturizer and primer, I took a brush and swiped the same liquid foundation on my skin I had been using for the past ten years. Now I looked like a pale canvas, and it took blush to add back the rosiness to my cheeks that was hiding underneath everything. Eyebrow powder and mascara were added, of course, because without it, I simply didn’t feel pretty. It was rarely over the top, but just enough to make my eyes a little darker.

“Funny,” I thought, “that I’m using all this makeup to try to make it look like I’m not wearing any at all.”

The thought of leaving the house without makeup was horrifying. I had even been known to run away screaming “not it” when the pizza guy rang the doorbell, leaving a previous partner to answer the door so the delivery man wouldn’t have to bear witness to the horrors of seeing my face in a natural state.

After years of this, I was starting to grow tired of it. Maybe it was the dry, flaky skin that was revealed after washing off the chemicals with more chemicals. Instead of simply letting my skin breathe and come back down to a state of equilibrium where it produced the right amount of oils, my solution was to keep painting on the hordes of products and hope that adding in some more moisturizer would magically help.

I was done now. A couple of weeks ago, I began talking to a friend about all of this, and she recommended I try some natural oils. The thought of it was both intriguing and scary at the same time. Yes, I wanted to stop putting unnecessary chemicals on my body, but the concept of leaving the house without first producing a mask to hide behind was still a foreign concept to me. As I brought the natural products home, I placed the four items in the same spot where twenty had previously sat, and made a note of the outrageous amount of money I could save if this actually worked.

The next morning I woke up, splashed water on my face, and…..didn’t do anything else that I normally do. I threw on a tiny amount of eyebrow powder, if only to make them visible so that people would be able to see my expressions. I grabbed my keys and left for school, wildly aware that I looked a little different in public than I had in the last fifteen years or so. And with that, something amazing happened….

Nothing. Nothing happened at all. The sky didn’t fall in. No one looked at me like I had two heads. A “please make Diane put her makeup back on” petition wasn’t being passed around. I even told a friend about the whole thing and her response was “huh, I honestly didn’t really notice.”

And there you have it. This may seem silly. In fact, it felt quite silly writing it. But the message of needing to slather on a bunch of makeup to leave the house, or even to feel human, is thrown at us from every direction at much too young an age. It was one that stuck with me through the years, only allowing me to feel attractive if I first turned myself into someone I wasn’t.

So, although this is all very new to me, I will take these warm feelings and continue to fly with them. Sometimes I leave the house and still feel a little off, but I only need to remind myself that it’s my thinking I need to change, and not what I put on my skin.

A few days after I started my new routine of having less of a routine, as the first morning light poured into the bedroom on my bare face, I opened my eyes and looked at my partner.

“You’re beautiful.”

I smiled, closed my eyes, and slipped back into dreamland.

 

Have a wonderful weekend,

Diane

The Good Kind of Stress

I sat in the lobby, relaxed, waiting to be called for an interview. I was dressed in the one professional outfit I still owned, and I was seriously hoping it would help me nab a job I very much wanted.

“Diane?”

After engaging in conversation for forty-five minutes, I skipped out of the office building and stepped into fresh air. The sun was shining brightly, and I stopped for a moment to close my eyes and inhale deeply as the warmth flooded over me.

Life had been nonstop lately. My classes, extracurricular actives, trying to exercise more than just running up the stairs at school, and working on my writing was starting to consume most of my time. Whenever I began to feel the stress of juggling time, however, I quickly remind myself that this is the best stress to have. It’s the good stress.

Last year around this time I was settling into my classes, but I was still very shaken up. I had made a huge life change, moved over a couple of provinces, and threw myself into university full-time. The stress I felt back then, perhaps added with the air of uncertainty, would keep me up at night. It was one that gnawed at me when my mind was occupied with other things, and I remember not being able to escape it.

But this is different. This I welcome. Even with the crazy schedule, the exams and papers,  running to interviews, and trying to remember to eat during the day, I am happy. This kind of stress reminds me that a good life takes work, and I would rather forever be working towards the good life, laughing along the way, than feeling stuck in a life I was unsure of.

I know I’ll never figure everything out. I know that I will never be one hundred percent sure if the decisions I’ve made are the right ones. But as I walk the path that I’m on, with school, work, and date nights laughing on the couch, I know that even though there is nothing certain in this life, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying everything.

And right now, I’m enjoying every minute of it.

 

Have a wonderful week,

Diane

 

 

 

The Yearly Interview

I sat in the doctor’s office, changed into one of those paper gowns that couldn’t clean up an entire glass of orange juice if it spilled.

It was my yearly physical, and I loathed this day. Perhaps it is my general disdain for any buildings that have needles in them (except tattoo needles – obviously, those are fun), or maybe it’s because every time I have a physical, it feels more rushed than a McDonald’s drive through.

My heart sped up as people walked by the barely shut door, anxiously waiting for my doctor to come in so I could get this over with. I hadn’t had the foresight to eat breakfast before my morning appointment, and my stomach was politely letting me know.

“Hello! How are you this year?”

I smiled back at the middle-aged doctor, who clearly used her gym pass instead of placing it on top of her dresser to look at every time she put on socks, as I did.

She went through the motions, asking me how I was feeling and if there was anything new since she had seen me a year ago. Finally, we got to the fire question round of deeply personal questions, and I was reminded just how much of your personal life they need to know.

“Are you seeing anyone? How long have you been seeing this person? I see you turned 30 this year, didn’t you say last year you want kids? Do you still want kids? How many kids do you want? If you were to have a child right now, would that interfere with your school? Did you happen to have a child in the past year you forgot to mention? Did you happen to have two children in the past year you forgot to mention? What would you name them? Where would you send them to school? DO YOU WANT A BABY RIGHT NOW?

I glanced at my watch. “Well, probably not right now, I’ve got class in 45 minutes and I seriously doubt that’d be enough time for the birthing process.”

Clearly my mother had called the office beforehand to spruce up the question period a bit.

I chuckled nervously, now seriously regretting skipping my morning coffee, although this was enough of a wake up call on it’s own.

She proceeded to discuss the apparently limited time I had left for children as she finished up the exam. Soon, I found myself alone in the room again, thrilled to be able to put clothes back on that didn’t resemble something you wrap leftover desserts in.

As I walked through the halls to my class, I thought about all the kid questions. Did I want kids? How many? At 30 years old, I felt like I should know. Most of my friends had children and were already looking forward to having them out of the house.

The past few years have been such a whirlwind that this particular topic wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, and although I’ve never been particularly good with decisions, I’m hoping I’ll just know when the time is right.

I approached a food counter to grab a coffee and donut before I rushed off to class.

“Hi there, what can I get for you? A donut? How many? What kind? Where will you send it to school?”

Peace

I sat on the hotel room bed, somewhere between my old life and my new one. After eighteen hours of driving, I was tired, and I wanted nothing more than the comfort of soft sheets and a quiet room to help me forget my worries.

Unfortunately, I had sprang for a $99 hotel room in Regina, and instead of silence and soft sheets, I was greeted with what sounded like a wrestling match outside my room and the unusual feeling of a bed made from what one can only describe as gently used sandpaper.

I was not having the best weekend. Waking at two in the morning on Friday, I set out on a twelve hour drive to retrieve my car, which had been getting repaired after colliding with a deer on an Alberta highway. Ever since that accident, I had been a little timid on highways, and I wasn’t exactly excited to embark on the start of this journey in the dark.

Working up the nerve to reach the speed limit on the highway was a little tricky, but about an hour outside of Winnipeg I started to feel comfortable. Then, perhaps because I had just reached a point where I wasn’t clenching my jaw, I entered into what can only be described as a deer convention. There were so many of them. I slammed on my breaks, and stopped about an inch short of a doe. She stared at me for a moment, and I quickly looked at my surroundings. It was three a.m. on a Friday, the highway was shrouded in complete darkness, and the only other vehicle I had seen on the road was a semitrailer about fifteen minutes ago. That moment, that very precise moment, is when I allowed myself to have a little pity party. I felt warm tears roll down my cheeks, and the windshield started to fog up in front of me.

I thought back to the past summer. To my desire to go back to the comfort of Alberta. To see my friends, to be in the mountains again, to pretend for even a little while that the last eight years of my life hadn’t been lived in vain. I remember a powerful feeling of safety when I had returned there in August, almost as if the familiar had scooped me up into a cocoon, far away from harm’s reach.

And here I was. I didn’t feel so safe now. Alone, in the dark, on a highway in the middle of the country. Wishing I hadn’t gone to Alberta in the first place, while simultaneously cursing my decision to do so. What I thought would bring me great comfort, had ultimately brought on more stress and anxiety.

Running away can only do so much. It might help you for a while, it may even bring you a sense of peace, but with that peace comes a wakeup call. For me, sitting in that hotel room on my way back to Winnipeg, I realized whatever comforts I thought Alberta could provide to me were gone. They were merely an illusion, one that looked like a warm home, but was cold and empty inside once you opened the door.

I looked out the window at the grey, swirling sky, and took a breath. It was time to stop searching for peace in distant places.

It is time to find it where it has always been.