I Just Saw a Face

(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)

I, me, mine…. 

This is the one!

Recently my mother-in-law gave me a photograph she’d come across that had been taken at a wedding we both attended 20+ years ago. When I saw myself in the photo, I was astonished. Not because it was like a time capsule that transported me a couple decades back in time, but because of how I thought I looked…Great!

Now that’s saying a lot because I’ve always been highly critical of my appearance, especially in photographs. A photo freezes a person in a single moment where, as someone who has been dissatisfied by her looks since virtually day one, every perceived flaw can be pointed out and obsessed upon. There are only a handful of photos of me that I deem acceptable since I hit puberty.

I received the message early on that there was something different about the way I looked. I developed “nursing bottle mouth” (from drinking from a bottle too long) which decayed my front baby teeth, making me self-conscious about smiling. A close friend of one of my sisters told me my nose was big when I was six. My hair was problematic – never conforming to popular styles. My older sisters provided conflicting intel about my appearance: I should keep myself tidy, but that it was vain to “primp.” Then came the braces! And Mom’s non-affirming advice for school picture day to “smile with my eyes.” As a uniform-wearing Catholic school-attending girl, my at-home wardrobe was severely lacking. I never felt at home in my own skin, or with what I had to work with.

At the age of 13, I started public school. No more uniforms! My teeth were looking good! I could wear makeup! Yet the damage to my psyche was done. To my mind, there was always something wrong, unconventional, different… about my appearance. Pretty girls got attention and praise for being so and, since I didn’t, I concluded, I must be inherently flawed or less worthy. I felt inferior and invisible by default. No one ever told me that the way I looked was fine, not abhorrent, within the realm of normal… I really needed to hear that – but it never came. In its absence, I filled in the blanks with self-critical assessment and judgement.

My first husband was quite forthcoming when it came to pointing out the flaws he perceived in my appearance – and of course I took his opinion to heart as well. And why wouldn’t I? They just reflected and reinforced my own terrible self image.

It’s not surprising then, that every photo I saw throughout my life reminded me of what I didn’t like about my appearance. I winced every time I saw a photo of myself as it provided physical proof of my ugliness. As an adult, I suppose I try to make myself as attractive as possible and hope for the best, thinking, I may not be pretty, but it’s not for lack of trying. Maybe I get some credit for that… Yet when I see a photo of myself, I’m horrified as to how there could be such a discrepancy between what I see in the mirror and what the camera lens invariably captures.

Until this one. This one was different. At last, a photo that showed what I thought I looked like, and it was – shockingly – ok.

Scott and Gina

There I was, looking, if not gorgeous, EXACTLY as I’d hoped I did that day. Polished, put-together, maybe a little glamorous (not to mention happy and relaxed). Interestingly, I have another photo with Scott from this same event, taken by someone else with a different camera. I didn’t (and still don’t) see a particularly attractive – or accurate – image of me in that one. But this other shot…this one does match what I’d seen in the mirror while dolling myself up for this wedding. This one doesn’t reinforce my belief that, at best, I’m a troll, no matter how much I conceal, highlight, style or gloss. 

Why is this photo different from so many other photos I’ve hated of myself? I have no idea. But here it is, evidence that flies in the face of a fact I’ve believed to be true my whole life: That I’m an non-photogenic freak. A photo that shows me a new truth. It’s as if I’ve seen my own face for the first time. Or maybe with new eyes. It’s a powerful revelation knowing that this is possible.

How many other “facts” about myself am I seeing through old eyes, or a distorted lens? Maybe I’ve taken those things for granted about myself, with an outdated perspective. What else could I accept – even love – about myself by revisiting existing notions? Or by looking at them from another angle or viewpoint? 

All it takes is the shift to happen, for whatever reason, to convince me that I don’t have to be stuck in a place where self-hatred defines and dominates me. Through these new eyes, I see the real me. And I’m free of that burden I’ve dragged along with me my whole life.

“By God, when you see your beauty you will be the idol of yourself.” ~Rumi

Posted in The personal development of Gina, Women on the Verge | 2 Comments

Looking At My Future From Today

(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)

The last hour of this year that finds me contemplating my future self… 

 

In 2020, Gina will be a woman who:

  • practices a proactive daily routine
  • frequently steps outside her comfort zone with grace and confidence 
  • makes daily strides (however small) toward goals that matter to her
  • moves her body to encourage flexibility and strength
  • doesn’t hesitate to ask for help
  • believes that kindness is the most attractive accessory
  • makes sure her ego takes a back seat to her instinct
  • says “no” to things that don’t serve the best interests of her life
  • turns toward that which calls to her spirit
  • recognizes when she’s worrying and turns her mind to more productive pursuits
  • reads something mentally nourishing daily
  • can withstand feeling that she’s “falling apart,” secure in the knowledge that it’s part of growth
  • courageously tackles something intimidating
  • is grateful for everything, good and bad, for the gifts that can be gleaned
  • learns a new skill
  • honestly believes that she’s awesome
  • believes her past beliefs and identity do not define her present or future
  • unconditionally loves and appreciates her body and mind – for what they were, are and will be
  • speaks her mind because her opinion matters
  • writes from her heart and soul regularly
  • firmly believes (despite all evidence to the contrary) the fairy tale with all her heart: 
    • love will triumph over hate
    • people are inherently good
    • the betterment of the many outweigh the enrichment of the few
    • that humans working together toward a common goal is the strongest force that exists
    • compassion is the cure for the world’s ills

When I look in my 2020 mirror, THIS is who I’ll see. I will step into this Gina because she is already here, waiting for me to embody her.

Posted in The personal development of Gina, Women on the Verge | 1 Comment

That’s My Bag, Baby

Something I’ve learned about myself through the years is that I’m a one purse at a time girl. Many years ago, I was the sort who had a purse for every color palette I might wear, every season, every type of occasion, every amount of ‘cargo’ I might be carrying but as I’ve matured, I’ve decided, “Screw that!” What a unnecessary thing to transfer my stuff from one bag to another before going anywhere. All I need is one good bag. Not a fancy, pricy, status-screaming bag – but a nice bag will last long enough for me to develop a relationship with it. Just one bag to rule them all…It was damn nearly a revelation, to be honest.

Firmly entrenched in this mindset, I began shopping online for ‘my’ ideal bag. Thank goodness for search filters that helped me cut down the myriad of choices by style, size, price range, material… It was not an easy search and I must admit to a couple misfires along the way but last April, I finally came across an amazing purse that checked all my ‘must have’ boxes:

  • crossbody style (because when I am out with my bag, I wear it)
  • size appropriate to carry what I carry (or are likely to want/need to carry
  • light colored interior (so I can more easily find what I’m looking for)
  • completely closes with a zipper or such (for security’s sake)
  • some separate compartments but let’s not get crazy with ’em
  • style and color appeal to me (I’ve pleasantly surprised myself with my choices in the past)

The bag of my dreams was from a manufacturer I’d not heard of – Old Trend – but I immediately identified with their tag line, “Modern Vintage.” The bag was being sold on Overstock.com, sharply discounted from retail price. Before allowing myself to go head over heals for it, I, of course did diligent research and discovered that not only was the company and their products well regarded but their mission aligned with my values – just read their About page to see what I mean. It was a match made in heaven – all that at a price I could justify paying. So I ordered it.

Upon its arrival, I was thrilled! Well packaged and it included a storage bag (which I will never use because it will always be in use) but a very professional touch nonetheless. I packed it full of my stuff and I was a happy, stylish lady about town.

Then, four months later, IT HAPPENED. We were furniture shopping and the strap hook worked its way out of the body of the bag resulting in the loss of the crossbody strap! I was devastated. But I wasn’t going to give up on this bag or the company I’d come to admire; not yet. I don’t go down without a fight!

So I set out to put their reputation for quality and customer service chops to the test. In a respectfully-worded email, I politely asked if, even though I’d purchased my bag from Overstock.com and not directly from Old Trend, they might stand behind their product (especially since it was only lightly used for four months). To my delight, I received an equally respectful response requesting that I send the bag in to their headquarters so it could be inspected and evaluated by their quality assurance team. They would get back to me regarding their determination – free repair or replacement. So I shipped the bag off to California. After a few weeks, I heard that they had determined that they would replace my bag; but that this particular bag in my chosen Chestnut color would not be available until the last week of November. They offered me the option of receiving the same bag in a different color or a similar bag which actually retailed for considerably more. I looked into the latter option but determined that I was still in love with my original bag and would be willing to wait for it to once again be available. When I didn’t hear from them by the beginning of December, I emailed them again. They informed me there had been a delay with the shipment of the bags but that they’d be sending mine out the week of December 15. They provided me with a UPS tracking number and, lo and behold, I received my replacement bag on Christmas Eve!

She’s come home!

Although it took a relatively long time, Old Trend really did come through for me. They stood behind their product, took my request for recompense seriously and acted with integrity throughout the process. Was I disappointed with the issue with the original bag? Certainly. But I’m willing to give them another chance because of the way they treated me as a disappointed customer who still wanted to believe what they stated in their mission statement. I see several subtle changes in the new bag – some leather reinforcement in the area where the hardware had wiggled loose. So maybe I helped them to improve this bag with my feedback. In any event, I’m gratified to have my all time favorite back to use and enjoy.

Unboxed at last!

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you REALLY love something, believe in its character and quality, and reach out with respect, good things can happen. Sometimes, you just have to take a chance, even in this cynical world fraught with shoddy merchandise empty promises. You could reap great benefits and have an uplifting, quality experience.  At least its worth the effort to try. Thank you, Old Trend, for being a responsible company and for renewing my faith that reaching out matters.

 

So yes, this IS my bag, baby!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Magical Mystery of Musical Memory

Listening to Sirius Radio is a special treat for us nowadays. Once Scott and I became work-at-homers, it was an expense we couldn’t justify so we cancelled our subscription. On Monday, Scott and I took a 40-mile-each-way road trip with his mom. The long ride to and from afforded us some serious time with her Sirius radio and Scott, riding shotgun, was in his glory, in charge of music selection. Deep Cuts, carefully curated classic rock and, of course, the Beatles station, were in rotation.

On the way home, we heard a version of this song on the Beatles station. Obviously it was performed by the Beatles but, although the arrangement was similar, I recognized it as a song sung by another voice whose identity I couldn’t immediately put my finger on. I also didn’t know the name of the song. Just a vague but certain memory that I’d heard that song before. When I mentioned it to Scott, he said he wasn’t aware of it on any original Beatles release – maybe from the BBC sessions? he mused.

Once back in front of my laptop, I embarked on Internet expedition to find what recording of the song I remembered, based upon just a few words I could string together and “Beatles recording.” (What would my “satiable curiosity” do without Google?) I found the Beatles’ version right away (sure enough, they’d recorded it in a BBC session) and then, the answer to the mystery: The Honeymoon Song, on Mary Hopkin’s album Postcard, produced by Paul McCartney. Alas, I had solved the mystery of why I know a version of a song associated with the Beatles – but not recorded by the Beatles – that Scott (the ultimate Beatles fan/encyclopedic Beatles expert) didn’t. 

Here’s the backstory: In ~1974, my brother gave me his copy of Postcard. I listened to that album night and day! After each listen, I’d place the LP back in its sleeve and carefully stash it in my bottom dresser drawer for safe keeping. Then came the black, black day when, as I shut the drawer, the album became jammed and, as I pushed it closed, was crushed. And so was I. I cried for hours and had a lump of sadness in the pit of my stomach for days. Mourning. It was as if I’d lost a friend. My Mary. My first music.

Many of the songs on that album have stuck with me and come bubbling up to the surface of my awareness from time to time: The Puppy Song, Inchworm, Happiness Runs, No Business Like Show Business, Young Love, Someone to Watch Over Me, Those Were the Days. Upon listening today to the rest of the songs, they’ve washed over me like an auditory time capsule. I remembered bits and pieces of some and the rest simply transported me back to the soundtrack of an 11 or 12 year old Gina. Imprinted on my brain, etched in my soul, a part of my being that I’d nearly – but not actually – forgotten. I feel reconnected to that youthful version of myself through the magical mystery of music. It’s wonderful to be able to access a little bit of that time when I was coming into my self through these songs.

The miracle of a girl falling in love with an album produced by Paul McCartney growing up to fall in love with a guy who fell in love with the Beatles is not lost on me, either. In fact, it gives me shivers.

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…And I Am an Analytical Girl

(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)

“Analytical.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means you think about things deeply and try to figure things out,” Mom replied.

Her reply was the answer to my question, “What is one word that describes me?” It was posed as part of a ninth grade Home Economics class assignment to ask someone who knew me well to describe me in one word. Who knew me better than dear old Mom, I thought.

Photo by Tookapic

Being such a sensitive girl, insecure and with exceedingly low self-esteem, I was initially horrified at the mere prospect of asking the question, not knowing what kind of answer to expect. Would it be complementary? Insulting? Revelatory?

I didn’t expect my reaction would be stymied. “I’m what?” And even after she explained the word, I was confused. I supposed that it was accurate, but I’d never thought of myself in that way. Was analytical a good thing to be? Kind-hearted, creative, loving, patient, intelligent, sweet, quick-witted, hard-working, curious, tenacious, honest, funny, interesting, cooperative, introverted…hell, even awkward would have been apt descriptors and something I could have immediately recognized about myself. Wouldn’t you know – just like the quirky kid I was, I couldn’t be described, even by my mom,  in simple, straightforward terminology. 

Of course, being the analytical person I was/am, I ran to the nearest dictionary and looked up ‘analytical’ to gain some further insight into the one word that Mom thought described me. I’m sure I read something like what Vocabulary.com says today: “If you are analytical, you are good at taking a problem or task and breaking it down into smaller elements in order to solve the problem or complete the task.” So, b-o-r-i-n-g… even my mom thinks so.” That was how my 15 year old self interpreted the word. I was all up in my head. It was my mind that ruled my being.

I never questioned the accuracy of Mom’s assessment of me. Indeed, I believed that she had recognized something that she herself admired in me. Because she wasn’t the type who frequently offered feedback in such a direct, verbal way, it made a deep impression on my psyche. In fact, I embraced it as a badge of honor. I incorporated it into my self-concept: “Analytical Girl” whose superpower was figuring things out. Able to leap tall problems in a single (or several) thought(s)! She’s Analytical Girl!

In my teen years as hormonal-induced emotionality surged, feelings of “out of controllness” frightened me. Another lesson learned from Mom, less directly but no less potently, is that sensitivity is the enemy. Crying is a sign of weakness. When emotions crop up, stomp them down and carry on. Wisdom is thought, not felt. And so I went on for years, ignoring, kicking away my emotional being, as if it were a pesky child, clawing at my heels, impeding my progress through life. I became quite adept at squashing any emotional component that may have had the audacity to try to poke its nose into my modus operandi. I could think myself into or out of most anything. 

Photo by Alexas Fotos

Until I couldn’t. 

An interesting thing about having taken an analytical approach to life is that it has served me well…up to a point. Then came the reckoning. Decades of emotions unwelcome, unacknowledged, unheeded. Their wisdom untapped; their intuition ignored. The realization that I’d been missing some crucial input was gradual at first; little nudges of awareness that feelings and the emotions they illicit are another side of me. In recent years, emotions have done more than nudge – they’ve taken me by the shoulders and shook me vigorously. Longing to be heard, they assure me of their validity and value. 

I found it amazing that the Vocabulary.com definition of analytical continued with the following: “The opposite type of problem-solving is called the intuitive approach in which a person senses the correct action to take without proof or reasoning.” Nowhere in that description does it say that an intuitive approach is invalid or ineffective. It’s simply another way of looking at things that deserves my attention. My non-analytical self has been here all along, waiting for me to notice and appreciate the treasure it contains. As I learn its language and its many manifestations, I trust that it is differently wise and I am more fully me when she is incorporated into my psyche.

Photo by ElisaRiva

I am doing a better job of listening to my emotions, my intuition, lately – figuring them into the equation of my life. It’s becoming more of a habit with every passing day – to tune in to the emotional channel to see what’s playing. Usually it’s something I want to hear – often some golden oldies I haven’t heard in a very long time.

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