Tag Archives: beauty

Lessons on Aging & the Juicy Stuff Beauty is Really Made Of.

“The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there—it’s within. I hate that, I resent that more than I can say. But, it’s true.” ~ Anne Lamott

I fired a part of me the other day that has been demanding I look a certain way, weigh a certain number, and be a certain size in order to be “enough.”

It happened in my closet as I was trying to put on yet another pair of tight pants and felt a twinge of embarrassment that they didn’t fit anymore.

I heard that voice say, “See, you’ve gained weight. How could you? Hurry up and cleanse so you can drop 10 pounds fast.” For the first time in my almost 49 years of life, I finally heard myself respond differently. “No more of this madness,” I said out loud as I grabbed a different pair of pants that were a size larger.

I picked up the journal where I had written my health and weight goals for the month. With fresh eyes, I read what I wrote. The goals sounded great on paper. However, I had been so busy trying to fix what’s on the outside that I was missing the entire point.

It’s an inside job.

Sometimes the longest road we can travel is the one we make from our head to our heart. Suddenly, what I had known in my head for years finally made a direct heart landing. My goals had become barriers rather than stepping stones toward what I truly desired from the inside out.

Our bodies are not problems to be solved.

Anne Lamott once said, “One of the blessings of age is you surrender to the truth of time and life that things droop and sag and it’s fine, and if you worry about it longer it starts to argue a wasted life. You can spend your life burnishing the surface, but in the meantime, you could be on the floor playing Legos with your kids and grandkid.”

I opened a blank page in my journal, took my pen to paper, and set out to write a vision regarding my health and weight aligned with my spirit. I prayed for a bit and meditated for a while, asking God to show me what I needed to know. My hope is that what landed will be of benefit in some way to others who grapple with accepting their bodies and this thing called aging.

The Juicy Beauty Manifesto

I am not the size of my pants or the number on a scale. I am not the comparisons I make or the body I had 20 years ago. I’m not my triceps or once-upon-a-time firm ass or the before-kids flat stomach.

I’m not how I look in my jeans or whether my stomach has a roll or if my hair is turning gray. This confining version of myself that determines whether I am pretty enough or strong enough or thin enough or sexy enough or busty enough…whatever the enough is for that day, is officially fired.

From now on…

I will sincerely apologize to myself any time I want to criticize how my body looks. I will stand still and wholeheartedly soak in the apology so I can continue to really see myself and love all of who I am. The truth is I do not have the body I had in my 30s because I am not 30 anymore. I’m almost 50. I will look at my curves and rounded edges with loving eyes rather than through a critical lens.

It is a privilege to age, one that I no longer want to take for granted.

And, when I look in the mirror at my naked body, I will stop focusing on what I see as lacking, and, instead, I will be grateful for this version of me. This older me, the one who is now filled with deeper wisdom and a more relaxed spirit. I have earned the lines under my eyes and around my smile. I have lived and loved. I have fallen and risen. As a result, I am softening, easing into a gentle way of living and allowing for more grace to move through me. It’s quieter here, simpler, and far more pleasurable.

I will embrace the beauty that is staring back at me and allow it to be enough. Whispering to myself, “There is nothing here that needs to be fixed. Nothing is broken.”

When I begin to find my mind wandering, I will ground it in appreciation for my health. I will give thanks that my legs can walk, my fingers can move, my mind is still sharp, my breath is deep, my eyes see, and my heart pumps. I will mindfully and lovingly nourish my body with foods that breathe life into it. I will choose to live from a place of health and wellness. Eating will be about nourishment, rather than trying to obtain some endgame result of a certain weight or size.

If I make food choices out of love rather than fear or deprivation, the results will organically happen. I will allow my body to find its natural place at this time in my life.

I will no longer scare myself with black-and-white food beliefs or messages.

I will stop telling myself:
“I will never eat that again.”
“Once I start, I can’t stop.”
“I can’t trust myself with food.”

I will replace those messages with:
“Relax, dear one, and enjoy. You can trust yourself.”

I will move my body in ways that bring me joy. I want to do the stuff that makes my heart beat faster and eyes grow wider. I want to do those things as often as I can, creating happy, pleasure-filled moments.

The illusion that if I reach this weight then I’ll be happy or stronger or prettier is just the lie I keep telling myself. As I get consumed with that message, I start to miss all the juicy stuff that beauty is really made of. That’s a price I’m no longer willing to pay. Are you?

Starting today, let’s:

Give away the pants that no longer fit and go on a date with ourselves to find clothes we love and that no longer pinch. Life is hard enough than to be wrestling with tight pants.

Put the scale away and start to focus on what we are feeling rather than what we weigh. It’s flat-out mean to be stepping on that thing day in and day out.

Shut down the critical voice in our heads and replace it with kindness, love, and praise, offering ourselves the same messages we would a child or a dear friend.

Stop dieting, cleansing, restricting, and beating ourselves over the head with a stick that we will never be enough unless we look a certain way. Diets don’t work anyway.

Uncover how to unapologetically love ourselves and celebrate growing older and embracing the perfectly imperfect bodies we all have a right to age in.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who recognizes her own worth from the inside out. From that place she is able to get out of her own way and focus on love and service, living a life from her highest self.

Now that’s juicy beauty.

Who’s in?

AUTHOR: ANNMARIE DEVLIN

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Listen To Me Woman

If you grow up the type of woman men want to look at,
You can let them look at you.
But do not mistake eyes for hands,
Or windows for mirrors.
Let them see what a woman looks like.
They may not have ever seen one before.
If you grow up the type of woman men want to touch,
You can let them touch you.
Sometimes it is not you they are reaching for.
Sometimes it is a bottle, a door, a sandwich, a Pulitzer, another woman –
But their hands found you first.
Do not mistake yourself for a guardian, or a muse, or a promise, or a victim or a snack.
You are a woman –
Skin and bones, veins and nerves, hair and sweat
You are not made of metaphors,
Not apologies, not excuses.
If you grow up the type of woman men want to hold,
You can let them hold you.
All day they practice keeping their bodies upright.
Even after all this evolving it still feels unnatural,
Still strains the muscles, holds firm the arms and spine.
Only some men will want to learn what it feels like to curl themselves into a question mark around you,
Admit they don’t have the answers they thought they would by now.
Some men will want to hold you like the answer.
You are not the answer.
You are not the problem.
You are not the poem, or the punchline, or the riddle, or the joke.
Woman, if you grow up the type of woman men want to love,
You can let them love you.
Being loved is not the same thing as loving.
When you fall in love,
It is discovering the ocean after years of puddle jumping.
It is realizing you have hands.
It is reaching for the tightrope after the crowds have all gone home.
Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman men will hurt.
If he leaves you with a car alarm heart.
You learn to sing along.
It is hard to stop loving the ocean,
Even after it’s left you gasping, salty.
So forgive yourself for the decisions you’ve made,
The ones you still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night,
And know this.
Know you are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours.
Let the statues crumble.
You have always been the place.
You are a woman who can build it yourself.
You are born to build.

– Sarah Kay

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Mr. Right

If someone would ask me which part in a movie I would like to play, that would be of Bathsheba Everdene, the heroine in Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. And like Carey Mulligan, who insisted and got what she wanted, I would love Matthias Schoenaerts to play Gabriel Oak. Heck, I would play any part opposite him. Physically, the guy has everything I don’t fancy in a man but there is something about him that makes him so irresistible and he is a Belgian which makes him more accessible to me. Dream big right?

On the other hand, the storyline isn’t new to me. Move over Bathsheba, if you got three suitors vying for your attention, I once had five if not an entire basketball team.

But that was once upon a time.

Dreaming of Matthias Schoenaerts is what’s now left of my once technicolor life.

Still, dream big right?

And keep dreaming…

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Low Maintenance

My father once told me that I need to marry a rich man.

When he said this, I didn’t quite grasp what he meant or what he was trying to imply. It took me five decades to understand where he was coming from but it doesn’t mean I agree with his implication.

True, when I was young they had to coat me with baby oil before I could walk the six kilometers wasteland between our house and the only primary school in the neighborhood. I was or rather my skin was and still is allergic to grasses of any kind among so many other things. Even to these days, my naked skin cannot have direct contact with any surfaces that meant for public use like park benches, restaurants tables and chairs, buses seats and so on. I get itchy bubbles on my skin the very minute I come in contact with I think full of germs surfaces even though at first glance they look spotless. I bruise easily as well.

Oh…yeah
My skin is like a map, where my heart has been
And I can’t hide the marks, but it’s not a negative thing
So I lay down my guard, drop my defenses, down by my clothes
I’m learning to fall, with no safety net, to cushion the blow
I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There’s a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can’t scratch the surface without moving me
Underneath I bruise easily.
No, just kidding.

Prolonged contact with hard surfaces always resulted in bruises that never fade but turn into leathery skin like an elephant hide.

And I don’t know why.

I could not help our mother to wash our clothes either for I was allergic to any laundry detergent, liquid or powder. They made my hands look like raw meat. Which reminds me of the time I was on a cruise and tried Yves Saint Laurent products from the ship’s cosmetic sections. That was a big mistake. My eyes looked like someone had punched me and my lips will pass for a Botox treatment that had gone horribly wrong.

Another thing is I cannot sleep with someone next to me. Not then, not now. I always get the only bedroom in the house when we were growing up. That or I stayed awake whole night fiddling with the priceless possession of my father, the radio. Two husbands and I never managed to share a bed/room with any of them. I can’t stand the smell of another person on the pillows and bedsheets. I can’t stand them breathing next to me. I can’t stand their presence in the room. In short, I want to sleep alone.

Someone once remarked that I remind her of the story about the Princess and the Pea because I can feel every single tiny grain of whatever on the bed whether it is particles of dust or one single crumb.

How much I love working in the garden I could not do it without surgical gloves under ordinary garden mittens. I can’t stand the feel of soil between my fingers but not as much as I hate dust under my feet. Anywhere but not under my feet and between my toes.

Again, I don’t know why.

You might say my father is right. I have to marry a wealthy man, but let me tell you the other side of the story.

I am low maintenance.

Lower you cannot get.

First of all, I don’t like bling-bling or branded items. Don’t get me wrong I have them for sure but I hardly or don’t use them at all. They are given to me as gifts, from people who thought like most women, I wanted to own few if not all. I don’t go to the hair salon. I cut my own hair using ordinary household scissors that meant to be for papers. I do it in just three moves. I bend down, cut my hair straight, then trim both sides to frame my face. That’s all. I don’t wear make-up and just discovered lipstick when I was forty-eight. I don’t polish my nails, either. Heck, I don’t even shave my legs.

I don’t even need sex.

I don’t go out, rarely drink alcohol, I hate restaurants and dislike parties. I don’t even have to tan my hide, literally. I know… I know… I am already tanned by nature, so…

I don’t gamble or smoke, no expensive hobbies because my hobbies are reading, walking, writing and gardening. The last one is probably the only thing I splurge money on. When it comes to plants… I will gladly skip dinner.

So, how can my father say I have to marry a millionaire? I refuse to believe that was the (only) reason why he sold me to the highest bidder. That bidder once told me that simple things make me happy, and that is the most difficult thing to achieve because simple things are hard to come by. For him at least. When another bidder who outbid him confirmed this, I begin to consider the possibility that probably there is some truth in that claim. I am not convinced so far.

And I don’t know what to write anymore because it is a full moon and I can’t sleep and my thoughts are muddled and I want to take a bath but it’s midnight and my hair will not dry properly and I’m against using a hair dryer because it dries my hair and if I lie down with semi-wet hair I will wake up with semi-dry flat hair that is so brittle I have to take a bath again.

That’s all for now and till the next full moon.

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November

The wild November comes at last
      Beneath a veil of rain,
      The night wind blows its folds aside—
      Her face is full of pain.

The latest of her race, she takes
      The Autumn’s vacant throne;
      She has but one short moon to live,
      And she must live alone.

A barren realm of withered fields,
      Bleak woods, and falling leaves,
      The palest morns that ever dawned;
      The dreariest of eves.

It is no wonder that she comes,
      Poor month! with tears of pain;
      For what can one so hopeless do
      But weep, and weep again.

~R.H. Stoddard (1825–1903)

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Garden Enigma -Part Two

In order to understand what I’m talking about, you need to read this post of mine. Not only it will give you an extensive view of the place, but it will save me also from the trouble of rewriting everything again. 

They say you will only realize the value of something when it is no longer there. In this case, it is true. In someway it is. Garden wise, it truly is. Financial wise, it’s not. But to us, especially to D., The place is still the benchmark. We still miss it. We often talk about the time we were drinking wine and eating tapas in the huge gazebo, sleeping on the loveseat when he came home from work amidst the singing of the birds and buzzing of insects, lighting the firepit during the colder months, taking a nap on the hammock and enjoying the great outdoors in our property right outside our doorsteps. I even wrote some of my articles in the garden. Now, the place is nothing but a distant memory.

How many times we drove there and park just outside the gate nursing the pain in our hearts upon seeing the people who bought it altered the property beyond belief, ripping the period features we cared for and loved replacing them with modern ones that do nothing to enhance the beauty of our once beloved house it looks like a butchered example of those renovations when people failed to successfully marry the old and the new. I saw that the yellow climbing rose I planted next to the front door is still alive and thriving. That baby has grown enormous it almost reached the third-floor window and covered with big blooms. I wonder if they will rip it out too in given time.

They say be careful what you wish for and often times this cliché happened to be true. At least in our case it certainly is. If I could do things all over again you will be surprised when I say I will not alter a single decision I had made that lead us to our current house with the beautiful garden we never use. I have no choice. It was then “take the plunge and swim” or “stay put and drown.”

What would you choose? 

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A Garden Enigma

I have a landscaped beautiful garden in my suburban home. Though it is done by a professional, I can’t help adding my personal touch to it, making it the cottage garden I adore and love but on a minimalistic side. There are still lots of blooms, but they are contained in specific spaces. The landscaper planted few key elements in clumps like Hydrangea Macrophylia, Spiraea Japonica ‘golden princess’ Some Buxus clouds by the front door, Choysia Ternata on the side gate and pachysandra terminalis as a ground cover. Oh, there is a lone  Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ at the front. There are also few trees suited for small-ish gardens like Cornus Kousa, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and a couple of Acers and three others I can’t recognize. I added a lot more since then.

There is a Hydrangea Petiolaris climbing on three poles by the right side of the house and a huge pergola at the very back of the garden covered with Wisteria. Directly by the kitchen door, there is a kitchen garden with three small pear trees and five different sizes of wooden vat planted with Mediterranean herbs. There are Lavander in some corner front and back, hardy Geraniums I can’t kill no matter what, a border of roses and one Hydrangea Quercifolia. Ah, I remember there is a large clump of Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’ also, and that was it.

The first thing I did when we moved to the place is to rip out the expensive real looking pseudo turf by the bay window at the front of the house and put a mixed border. You know… Delphinium, Asters; Monarda, Liatris, Phlox, Japanese anemone, ligularia dentata Desdemona and Othelo, Heucheras, Astrantia and such. I planted around the box clouds on the right side the same mix, they are under a small(?) grafted tree I don’t recognize. I think it is some Cherry Laurel on a stick, has white flowers with a subtle smell. The Buxus clouds suffered the heatwave this year so I dug them up and put them under the three towering Acers by the gate to recuperate and replaced them with a mixed border to mirror the left side under the bay window. This time I added Verbena, sedum (I doted them throughout the borders around the house too) Agapanthus, Rudbeckias, and Echinaceas. I added also some Valerian which seeded everywhere since then and bay leaves trees in the kitchen garden.

Did I mention there is an ornamental bubbling pond next to the circular terrace directly outside the bay french window in the living room? When we bought the place (which is a model/show house of excellent quality) there was only one kind of flower around it, Rudbeckia. I planted Echinacea, Verbena, some grasses, creeping sedum, and Crocosmia. D. Had his choice of water plants. No fish. I don’t do annuals unless they self-seed like Digitalis (by far my most favorite flower) forget-me-nots, Marigolds, Cosmos, and this year Hollyhocks because D. Not gardening not interested D. Decided he wants Hollyhocks. 

For all the beauty of the garden and all the hours I put beautifying and tending it we never use it.

I don’t know why.

We have a romantic bistro/Mediterranean inspired powder pink garden set directly next to the kitchen door by the kitchen garden in the view of the pond. There is a complete three-piece lounge set by the pond shaded by a huge umbrella, there is a big wooden bench under the pergola, and there are lounge beds around the garden but like my spare rooms in the house, they are museum pieces. Nobody uses them. I don’t go out in the garden unless to work, nothing else. Our front garden inside the first gate has a place for at least five cars but it is another lost space. Somewhere to traverse from the gate to the front door, that’s it.

I often wonder and ask myself why we don’t go out in the garden to relax. The only thing I could come with is the noise of the busy traffic outside the gate. Something we never anticipated when we bought the place. We heard the noise day and night and we don’t like it. Although there is a lot of space between our house and the actual road and there are double privacy hedges and trees still it’s not relaxing. If I can uproot the house and put it somewhere quiet I already did by now. I am willing to move one last time if I find a place that will make our current residence a second best but seven years of searching brings me nowhere and the longer it takes, the prospect of moving again doesn’t hold the same allure anymore for me. And my condition doesn’t make it easy either. 

I don’t know what we gonna do but in the meantime, I will enjoy (looking at) my garden from behind closed windows.

Next time I will tell you about a garden we do use. 

Intermission

My Wife the Gardener

She dug the plot on Monday –
the soil was rich and fine,
She forgot to thaw out dinner –
so we went out to dine…
She planted roses Tuesday –
she says they are a must,
They really are quite lovely
but she quite forgot to dust.
On Wednesday it was daisies –
they opened up with the sun,
All whites and pinks and yellows –
but the laundry wasn’t done…
The poppies came on Thursday –
a bright and cherry red,
I guess she really was engrossed –
she never made the bed…
It was violets on Friday –
in colours she adores,
It never bothered her at all –
all crumbs upon the floors
I hired a maid on Saturday –
my week is now complete,
My wife can garden all she wants –
the house will still be neat!
It’s nearly lunchtime Sunday –
and I cannot find the maid,
Oh no! I don’t believe it!
She’s out there WITH THE SPADE!

~ Peter (poem in an old magazine via Facebook)

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Invisible League

Like Alice plunging down the rabbit hole, I was suddenly not the fun girl at the party but the dotty auntie figure we humor for a moment before moving on. As older women we are no longer desirable, no longer perceived as anything but taking up space a younger person could put to better use in the job, in the relationship, in life. Age, I now realize, doesn’t creep up, it fells you with changes you didn’t see coming. And it happens at 50. You vanish, replaced by an old and forgettable woman.

This is an excerpt from an article written by Tracy Nesdoly for The Star (see the full article here) about At what age do some women begin to feel invisible? I came across this while looking for random things about age on the internet. One click and I was suddenly bombarded with page after page of written stories about women of a certain age who are invisible and no longer seen as important part of society. The titles are demeaning. Not only for us middle age women but for any woman young or old because whether we like it or not we will be in that position sooner or later. What do you think of: Dating: I’m the Invisible woman,  where the writer calling herself a mere plankton in the food chain of sexuality and the marketplace for relationships. A flimflam, a nuisance, an embarrassment of landfill. It hurts, doesn’t it?

In this post, ‘Invisible’ middle-aged women are fighting back English writer Helen Walmsley-Johnson talks about menopause, sexual, currency, dressing up for your age and hormones replacement. She recounted her personal experience with a group of young boys while walking through the park one day.

They made fun of her brisk walk, then began to crudely share their views on which of a group of passing schoolgirls they wanted to have sex with, clearly intending for her to hear. Tired of listening, Walmsley-Johnson asked them to move on — and to consider keeping their sexist remarks to themselves. They reacted with hissing, noxious anger, calling her a “dried up old c***” and suggesting that if a “real woman” were to talk to them about sexism, they might listen.

I have yet to experience this sort of things. Do I have to consider myself lucky?

I have always been younger looking than my real age (thanks to my ethnicity and good genes- the only good I inherited from my ancestors) not only by few years but by more than a decade, let’s say at least fifteen. When I’ve met my current husband I was thirty-seven but he thought I was twenty-two and so were his family and friends. When I was twenty-five they don’t allow me in the discos because the guards thought my ID was fake. I was once banned from accompanying my daughter to sexual orientation class because they thought I was her sister and only parents were allowed. And so the years go on like that, me being used to getting attention (lots of it actually) I don’t care for and wishing I’m invisible.

No, I don’t wear sexy or provocative clothes, figure-hugging attires will not find a home in my closet, I don’t wear makeup, high heels and go to the hair salon only once a year. In short, I am a low maintenance girl. Attracting attention to myself (any kind of attention) was and will never be my purpose in life and it irritates me enormously getting more than I think I deserved. And I thought it will go on like that till the end. Never cross in my naive brain that it will change someday.

The first sign happened when I turned forty- three. I was in the pharmacy and the guy behind the counter referred to me as ‘Madame’ instead of ‘Mademoiselle.’  I was taken aback. Shocked in fact. It hurts. I was always been ‘Mademoiselle’ instead of ‘Madame’ and suddenly it’s the other way around. I thought then that ‘now the process had begun.’

When almost a decade had passed with nothing or little changes to my status as a desirable woman I again thought it will never happen, until this year.

I am still looking at least fifteen years younger than my real age but I’m fifty-one, and forty isn’t twenty. And gradually I noticed subtle changes. The guys who are looking at me now are not the sixteen years old anymore. The twenty-something still glance my way but soon averted their eyes when they realized in which age category I truly belonged. Their gaze never lingers anymore or check more than once, they bestow me an interested glance which quickly fades and then move on without looking back. I can walk now into a restaurant without commanding attention. There was a time that wherever I walk men (women too but with hostility) stop whatever they were doing and look, and keep looking till I was out of sight. I have out of this world experience related to my sensuality and it’s strong effect on men you wouldn’t believe if I tell so I would spare you the details. I was by no means a ‘beauty’ or ‘femme fatale,’ the truth is I never know why I had this such effect on men, my ex once described me as magic but whatever it is, it is soon disappearing.

And with it comes the realization that I don’t want to be invisible. Not only as a woman but as a human being. I’m getting old yes, I’m losing my magic, probably so, but I still have feelings. Feelings never change. Who wants to be irrelevant?

Deborra-Lee-Furness, in her interview with Australian Women’s Weekly magazine, talked about jaw-droppingly insulting titles of stories written about her (and others who are in the same situation) being married to uber hunk Mr. Hugh Jackman who happened to be thirteen years her junior. She said: “People think a 58-year-old woman doesn’t deserve a big-shot, funny, handsome, movie star husband at all. It’s still acceptable for there to be a million internet articles about being a supposedly unattractive middle-aged man and be able to “punch above your weight” and bag yourself a younger, stunning partner.”

What could I say? I am married to someone 11 years my junior. Do I have to be scared? He’s getting old too I know but everyone is aware that getting old is not the same for men and women. I don’t have to list the differences because it is a common knowledge. Damn the double standard.

Marina Benjamin, author of The Middlepause found an essay from a 1903 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine in which a woman of 50′ used to be perceived as a person of achievement and grace and was “characterized as having ‘distinctive charm and beauty, ripe views, disciplined intellect, and cultivated manifold gifts’.” That is so clearly not the case nowadays, and for the woman approaching this milestone age, there is a good reason to feel anxious, or sad, or pissed off. She said:

“Fifty feels tarnished as an old coin, and worn — worn down and worn out,” she says. “There is nothing glamorous about 50 that I can see, not even in some retro way.” 

How about you? Do you have Invisible Woman Syndrome?

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