Funny enough, it was finding a chin hair in the mirror the other morning
that finally had me in tears.
You know how, sometimes, you find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of items on your To-Do List, and you wonder how you’ll find the time to get it all done and not let any of the balls drop and all you can do is cry while your husband stares at you like you grew a third head?
You know how, sometimes, you have those dreams where that To-Do List creeps in and manifests itself as a giant cheese grater, chasing you down a never ending hallway and you look down and see that you’re clutching your favorite pair of jeans from 12th grade?
You know how, sometimes, you stare, blankly, at one of your four children and wonder which one they are and if they need their diaper changed/still wear diapers?
Just me, then?
Cool. That’s cool.
Suffice it to say that this year has been full of more stress than any year before, and my poor little brain is starting to show some serious signs of wear and tear. An unexpected pregnancy, two job changes, a layoff, moving (for the fourth time in two years), getting married, having a baby, medical concerns, combining families, husband’s job changes, a death in the close family, activism, creating a calendar of female Real Life Super Heroes, serving on a nonprofit board, raising funds for my Kickstarter by designing a tank top campaign on Represent, having to re-home our three cats, seeing the increasing violence (+ homophobia, + Islamophobia, + racism, +…) and, well, yeah. You get the point.
Funny enough, it was finding a chin hair in the mirror the other morning that finally had me in tears.
Let’s dive in.
I HAVEN’T READ A BOOK SINCE 2015.
As tends to happen when life gets hectic, my self-care rituals have taken a backseat to the demands of family, work, volunteering, etc. They’ve taken such a backseat, in fact, that they’re actually being drug behind the car careening down the highway at 110 mph, but who’s picky? Not me. I don’t have time to be picky… remember that To-Do List?
Like all problems that seem to have snuck up on us, it started off small:
- I bought a bottle of clear nail polish, intending to save myself the $20 and 45 minutes of a manicure… but then got too busy to do my nails.
- I made, cancelled, and re-scheduled so many hair appointments at my favorite salon that they will no longer see me… and that was six months ago.
- I would get halfway through a shopping trip for basics (panties, bra, work shirt to replace the one the baby spit pesto on), be reminded of the baby and how quickly she’s growing (10 months old, 24-month clothes), and put all of my stuff back in order to spend that money on new outfits for her.
- My trip to Target would include a stop at the Plus Size Clearance section, but then I’d look up and see a sale on Boys’ Underwear a few aisles over and leave my items behind.
- I bought tuna to take to work for some healthy, quick protein… but then the cats ran out of wet cat food, so I gave them what I had.
- Food became an afterthought, let alone anything I really enjoyed anymore… as most everything I got – from the store or in a restaurant – I got with the knowledge that I’d be sharing it with the baby, so I’d really just get things I knew she’d like.
- I hadn’t been to the dentist since well, well, WELL before the baby was born. Or conceived. Or I knew her father.
- I would acquiesce to my husband running me a bath, only to remember that the kids were due for their baths and would send them off, instead.
- I would get home from working three jobs simultaneously (I truly hope my bosses aren’t reading this…), intending to ask my sweet, enabling, supportive husband for some Me-Time (because “OMG A NEW SEANAN MCGUIRE BOOK” and “I HAVEN’T READ A BOOK SINCE 2015” collided), and the kids all wanted different things for dinner… and I was already next to the dishwasher, so why not unload/reload?… and there was the pile of laundry… and my eldest son needed help with his homework… and the baby is teething and is, therefor, clingily Mommy-centric… and my sweet, enabling, supportive husband got bad news of the ‘job’ variety… and the cats escaped out the back door… and why is someone repossessing our van / turning off our electricity / shutting off our water?… and…
Before I knew it, I was pushing off what I wanted in lieu of being productive and meeting the needs of those around me, so that things just didn’t get worse.
At some point, ‘saving face’ becomes ‘making faces’.
A freaking chin hair…black…and angrily flipping me off.
All of those things kept adding up and adding up, one colossal-yet-perfectly-balanced weight on the scale of my life. I was doing a good job at pushing back my sadness over not having the time or money to attend to those self-care items, and would self-talk my way out of feeling resentful of my husband (when he would spend 10 minutes on giving himself a haircut and walk out looking amazing)…
That was, until the other morning.
After dropping the boys off at summer camp, the baby off at daycare, and preparing to head in to the office for an hour before my doctor’s appointment, I was stopped at a red light. I reached in to my bag to find a lip gloss, and my fingers found this gorgeous compact mirror my brother-in-law had brought back for me from Iran.
This light was notorious for taking f o r e v e r to turn, so I flipped the compact open and checked to see if I had wiped off all of the apple sauce the baby had smudged on my cheek (I had – success!) when, just as I’m looking away and about to close it, I notice it.
A chin hair.
A freaking chin hair, the length of my arm (or maybe only 1/2″), black (or maybe clear), and angrily flipping me off (or maybe only, you know, being a normal, everyday inanimate chin hair).
I started crying, pulled over, and emailed my boss to let her know that I would come in after my appointment.
I’ve never really believed I was ugly. Fat, yes… but never ‘ugly’.
I headed home, and drew myself a bath… but not until after I picked up the trash in our yard that the crows had somehow gotten into… and folded the pile of clean laundry on the couch.
My hands were shaking so bad that I had to use both of them to turn on the hot water.
I stood, naked, in front of the bathroom mirror, taking in everything from the bags under my eyes, to my frizzy, greasy hair, to the small scab (next to the offending chin hair) that I didn’t even know I had because, I realized then and there, I hadn’t looked in the mirror for days (weeks?) and had apparently been trying to pull the little hair out with my nails.
… and I sobbed.
For the first time that I could remember, I believed I was ugly.
I’ve never really believed I was ugly.
Fat, yes (and with varying degrees of acceptance/enjoyment/hatred of that)… but never ‘ugly’, not until that very moment. Sure, there are times when I didn’t like how my ____ looked, or how ___ jiggled when I wished it would just be firm, but I seem to remember always realizing that it was a passing feeling and that I could do X or Y to change how I looked (still not the best mentality, but you get the picture).
Not this time.
This time, it felt like the most concrete, center-of-my-being belief.
… and for some reason, that is what finally triggered the alarm in my head that I could no longer take any more, could no longer ‘push through’, and needed to stop neglecting my needs in effort to take care of everyone else’s. My poor, overworked brain knew that I would dismiss feelings, just as I had dismissed feeling hungry, tired, stressed, etc. to focus on getting _____ done, so it got me where I was sure to pay attention.
I’m not sure I like why it worked (do I secretly value my appearance more than anything else?), but I am content, for now, that it did.
If I could encourage you to do anything at all for yourself this week, it would be to make time for you. I know very, very well how that can be so much easier said than done, but when the alternative is a mental breakdown, making yourself a priority means the world.