I swore to myself that I would write and post something last weekend and the weekend before that…but it didn’t happen. I have begun so many posts that fizzled or languished away in my drafts folder because either my brain freezes up or I am totally focused on the myriad responsibilities, deadlines, performances, and whatever else is holding my focus hostage. Good ol’ anxiety and stress strike again. I need to write, though, so even if I freeze on this one, I am going to persevere until I have something worth posting. Writing has never failed to detangle my chaotic thoughts, worries, and fears. I’m so hoping that is the case now.
So much has happened since my last ‘update’ post; I battled through pandemic-induced performance anxiety to perform my first in-person unmasked solo recital since the pandemic began. I’ve gotten back to playing chamber music and orchestral music, feeling more and more normal with each return to life the way it was before Covid changed the world. Teaching is much more enjoyable now that I can see my students’ beautiful faces. There are almost minutes when it feels like the nightmare of the past two years never happened…almost.
I also made a big change; my brave BFF Diane lost her hair to chemotherapy for breast cancer and it grew back a gorgeous silvery color and has turned into an adorable and sassy new ‘do (perfect for my adorable and sassy BFF!). I had told her that I was thinking of joining her as a Silver Sister, wanting to support her, and surprised her in a video after I’d done the deed. From here on out it will grow out to whatever my 59-year-old hair is meant to be. It just feels authentically me and I’m surprised at how much I like it. The older I become, the more authentic I yearn to be.
It is quite freeing to think of never coloring my hair again and just being okay with myself in every stage of life. Not only is it a good lesson for me; I also hope that my students see that there is nothing to fear about aging. Society makes us believe that women are undesirable once wrinkles and gray make their appearance. I’m doing my best to see the whole of what makes me me, and it’s not just physical. There is so much more to us than what people see; it’s what is inside, our heart, our soul.
Once you take the focus away from worrying over wrinkles and coloring grays, you start to see how superficial it all is to worry about those things. Especially after what I’ve seen Diane go through; it really makes you rethink your priorities. Youth doesn’t last, so why spend the vast majority of your life pining to look like something you can never be again? Instead, my goal is to take better care of this vessel that has gotten me through this wonderful life, even when I abused it. I’m trying so hard to quit obsessing over what the scale says or trying to fit into some old pair of jeans. Seriously- why do we do this to ourselves?
I remember Mom telling me that she thought she was ugly the whole time she was young. We both looked at her photos and she could finally recognize that she was gorgeous. But you know what? She was even more gorgeous at 92 with her blue eyes sparkling with the wisdom and power she’d earned over her long life. My sweet and gentle Southern Momma had a backbone of steel- and my sister Linda and I carry that strength within us, too. We all want to look good and feel good; I’m just going to do my best to be good from the inside first and then let that good stuff shine in my eyes.
I feel beautiful when I am healthy, when I work hard toward my goals, when I am teaching and performing, when I am kind to people, when Dan looks at me…so much more real beauty than worrying about hair color, what size you wear, how fancy your makeup is or how stylish your clothes are. Easy to say and difficult to do, I realize (boy, do I realize), but hey- we’re here to learn and do better, right? I’ll keep at it; life is nothing if not imperfect, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Dan and I are huge Marvel movie fans, and one of my favorite quotes happens in Dr.Strange when his mentor put her hand on his chest and shared the most important lesson we can learn, “It’s not about you,” That is the mission; leaving our mark on peoples’ lives and on their hearts- wrinkles, gray hair, and insecurities be damned.
Here’s to this summer being a new beginning of sorts, one where we see and accept our real beauty; the inner beauty that only time and real, raw life can cultivate. Like my mother, I also used to think I was ugly but looking from the vantage point of so many years away, I instead see fragile youth. Youth with its unlined face and bright-eyed enthusiasm. Ephemeral Youth that holds so much promise as it races by. I loved my youth, but I would never want to go back to all of the ridiculous insecurities, the growing pains, the never feeling comfortable in my own skin, the constant worry about what others thought of me, the never feeling worthy of the good things that came my way.
Give me the wrinkles, the gray, the increasing aches and pains; I’ll take the courage that required so many years to nurture, and the wonderful friendships that have graced my life. No more feeling like I have to pretend to be what I think others want me to be. Instead, here I am, roots, wrinkles, quirks. Here I am with my goofiness, klutziness, and awkwardness. Here I am with my big heart, my quiet strength, my huge capacity to love, my talents. I feel deeply, I make mistakes, I care too much sometimes. In other words, I’m a fairly normal woman. A woman eight months away from turning sixty. Where in the world does time go? Here’s to embracing our authentic selves with our heads held high without fear. That is my goal. I’ll fail sometimes; those insecurities are still there, locked away. I’ve learned over the years that those failures are simply opportunities to grow. The more I ponder that idea, the more free I feel, the more empowered I am. I like it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers of both two and four-legged children!