Indulging my diving fascination.

The snow from Diego (since when did they start naming winter storms?) is coming down hard, and I’ve spent much of the day watching diving videos, and being reminded of summer.

I’ve been fascinated by diving (both Scuba and freediving) for the past couple of months.   The underwater world is in its own dimension.  It’s like being on another planet.    I can understand why so many divers think of the sport as an almost spiritual experience.  At the same time, the many dangers — and the great depths — associated with diving make it terrifying, but I think that’s part of its allure to me.  I’m also fascinated by the kind of people who have the guts to take such risks — and get to experience such beauty as a reward.  (I’ve also been watching cave diving videos — yikes!)

I’m not sure I ever want to try diving in real life.   But modern technology lets me experience it vicariously, with none of the dangers.

I fell  in love with this video.   Be sure to enlarge it so it fills your computer screen to experience the full effect.

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How I stopped worrying and learned to love my hair.

 

blonde

I rarely — or maybe never? — write posts about beauty and fashion.    There are plenty of bloggers — most of them much more glamorous and fashionable than I — who write about those things much better than I do, so I leave the stuff about hair, clothing, dieting, and makeup to people who are really into that sort of thing.

I’ve always been a geek and an introvert, and I like being comfortable more than being fashionable.  I have never owned a pair of high heels, for example.  Kitten or low heels, yes, but spike heels? Hell, no.  I hate them.  They’re torture.   I can’t wear them because of my wobbly, easily-sprained ankles (the result of a figure skating accident when I was 15 — yes, I used to figure skate, and I wasn’t half bad either.  I’ll write about that sometime soon, I promise, even though I have no photos of me skating).

I dress like I walked off a time machine from 1994 — worn old jeans, cargo pants (yes, I still love them because I like lots of pockets), sandals or slouchy ankle boots, plaid flannel men’s shirts (I have about 4), T-shirts (though as I get older, it’s getting harder finding T-shirts that are flattering).   If I wear a dress (rarely), they are almost always loose and high waisted floral numbers (flattering to my “comfortable” figure), worn over leggings, black tights, jeans, or black pants.   (I don’t do pantyhose — I hate them).   It’s all very ’90s, though “being ’90s” was never my intention.   You can still get away with looking ’90s, but looking ’70s/’80s will get you some weird looks (and ’70s/80s clothes are NOT comfy).

Unlike about 99.9% of other women, I have never owned a little black dress.   And I don’t care.  I will probably die without ever having owned one.  Is that sad?

Truth be told —  and I hope I don’t sound too snobby — but minds fascinate me more than bodies. That said, I’m still a girl and sometimes I like to indulge in…the pretty externals.   So here is a post about my hair.

Whew, this is going to be a lengthy hair story.   I have a complicated relationship with my hair.   It’s mostly been a hate relationship, but I think I might finally have found peace with my hair and am learning to love it, or at least like it.

hairage5

Towheaded at age 5 (1964).

I was born nearly bald, but the hair that grew in during my first year was white platinum blonde — and it stayed that way for a long time, probably until I was at least 8 or 9.  My hair was also terribly fine and tangled easily.   It had no weight to it at all, and as it was never stick straight, it was prone to frizzing from the slightest bit of humidity.  People used to compliment me all the time on my “angel hair,” but I hated it.   I hated being the blondest person in my class, and I hated the fact I couldn’t grow my hair long like my friends — because it was so fine it would break off at the ends and become a stringy, knotted mess.  I remember crying when my mother impatiently tried to comb it out, and then she’d yell at me for allowing it to get so tangled and knotty, but I couldn’t help it!

As a result, my mother kept my hair cut in a pixie or other short style, or if it was allowed to grow out, it was worn in two thin ponytails on each side tied with yarn, but it never got beyond just below my shoulders.

hairage7

Age 7.

I remember envying the girls in my class who had long, thick hair that fell like a curtain down their backs.   I envied their Clairol Long and Silky conditioner (or was it cream rinse?)   At about age 14, I demanded my mother buy me some Long and Silky, even though my hair only just touched my shoulders.  Using it made me feel more normal (and the stuff smelled good), but it did nothing for my thin, pale, easily broken hair.

Growing up in northern New Jersey and later New York, I felt odd with my blonde hair.   It had darkened only a shade or two since I was a baby — the color was no longer the platinum of my early childhood — by my early teens had developed a slight streakiness, with the underlayer being a slightly darker medium blonde.   If you had to give my color a name, you would probably call it champagne blonde or beige blonde with medium blonde lowlights, but I still hated it.   Most people thought my hair was beautiful, and they couldn’t understand why I hated it.    How could I explain at the tender age of 15 that I felt…too white?    Most of my friends in my New Jersey and New York neighborhoods and at my schools were of Italian, Jewish, Hispanic, or some other darker-haired, darker-skinned heritage,  and so I felt self conscious and so conspicuously white — and that was not cool!

1970slongandsilky

Long and Silky ad from the 1970s.  I wanted hair like these girls!

Another problem I had with my blonde hair were the inevitable dumb blonde jokes that were always directed my way.   I was book smart and usually made high grades, but I was also very sensitive and the jokes hurt my weak sense of self-esteem and began to make me feel like maybe I really was dumb after all.   I felt like I had to make a big show of being smart all the time, in order to prove that I could be blonde and also be smart.  It was very stressful always having to prove myself.   I felt like, because of my hair color, people just didn’t take me seriously, and treated me like I was stupid, even though I wasn’t.  I hated feeling like I had to be on all the time, and couldn’t just be myself, because the real me might come off stupid and make those dumb blonde jokes true.

To this day, I don’t understand why blonde jokes aren’t considered racist or at least politically incorrect.  But people still tell them, and seem to like them;  even other blondes like them.  In fact, some blondies seem almost proud of being seen as “dumb blondes” but that was never me.   Maybe you have to have a healthier sense of self to be able to appreciate such jokes if you’re a blonde, but in my teens, I had dismally low self esteem and could not laugh at myself.    I cringed when I heard those jokes, and felt like running away in shame.

A third factor contributed to my hair-hatred.  I felt very rebellious toward my narcissistic parents, who seemed to love my hair color more than my talents, my intelligence, or my personality.   They always bragged about how “Lauren was the only blonde baby in the nursery” or “Lauren is the only blonde in her 5th grade class.”  God, how I hated those “compliments.”  They made me cringe.   I just wanted to be like the other kids, dammit.  Why couldn’t they understand this?

hair_rowan

This isn’t a picture of me, but of my daughter at about age 9.  The color of her hair here is what my color was from mid- childhood up until my mid-teens, when I decided to start dying it.  (My daughter’s hair is dark blonde now, and she actually lightens hers).

When I turned 16, I found the solution to my problem.   I decided to dye my hair.  I had a sort of crush/obsession on a girl, Denise, who I thought was gorgeous — mostly for her long, shiny, silky curtain of light-chestnut brown hair with its gorgeous reddish-gold highlights.  It swung when she moved her head!  Mine never swung like that!   Compared to her hair, my hair looked so washed out and boring — it was mostly all one color: pale beige blonde on top with ashy medium blonde undertones.   I also didn’t like the way there was hardly any contrast with my pale skin.   I thought darker hair would make me look more dramatic and bring out my attractive facial features more.

So I decided Denise’s light chestnut brown hair was the color I wanted, and to my shock and delight, my mother reluctantly allowed me to dye my hair that color, although she insisted I use a temporary dye that would wash out in 6 shampoos.   She moaned pitifully and literally cried during the whole process.  “You’re going to ruin your hair!”  “It will never be the same again!”  “People would kill for hair the color yours is, what is wrong with you?” and “Why on God’s green earth would you want to have mousy brown hair?”

Well, as things turned out, I loved the results.  I liked them so much I decided I was never going back to being a blonde.   To my delight, the chestnut color had come out a little more reddish than it showed on the package, probably because it was several shades darker than my own hair (you’re not supposed to darken your hair more than one or two shades, but I had darkened it by about 3 or 4!)   It looked very natural, it actually fell better (because the dye thickened the hair shaft), I could actually grow it long for the first time in my life (due the the added weight), and my friends actually liked it!  They were puzzled about why I didn’t want to be a blonde (because just about everyone in those days was going lighter, not darker), but they had to admit the light auburn color flattered me and went well with my very light skin.   I only had to wear a bit more makeup than usual.  My self esteem improved, and I no longer felt like I had to prove to everyone that I was smart.  No one would ever again call me a dumb blonde!

hairage18

Proud of my new long chestnut hair at age 18 (1977)

Over the years, I continued to dye my hair.   Eventually the permanent dyes were drying it out and making it frizzy, so I switched to safer temporary dyes.  An added bonus of the extra color in my hair was that it actually thickened the hair shaft, and made my hair heavier and fall in a more flattering way.    One reason I continued to use dye was for exactly this reason.   I needed the extra weight the dye added to my hair shaft, which made it look so much thicker and fuller.    I did not want to return to the flyaway, hard to manage fine hair of my youth. The leave-in conditioners that are supposed to add body to your hair had never worked for me, they just left my hair feeling greasy.

Eventually, I began to experiment with other colors: bright red, strawberry, auburn, dark brown, black!  The black looked horrific — I looked exactly like Morticia.   I hated it so much the next day,  I went to the hairdresser and begged them to fix it.  They had to spend 3 hours bleaching my hair, but it never got lighter than a medium reddish brown.   My hairdresser decided to enhance the color I wound up with — a color called Red Setter.   It was actually a dark auburn and looked quite pretty.  Although it was still too dark for my complexion, the stylist had done a good job making it look natural.  It wasn’t perfect, but I could live with it for awhile.

hair_wedding

My hair in 1996 — way too dark here, but not as bad as the BLACK.  Sorry about the poor quality of the photo.

Once, in my thirties, I even decided to dye my hair platinum blonde just to see what it would look like.  I hated it, and ran back out to the store, my head covered with a bandanna, and selected a dark blonde color to fix it.   After that escapade, my delicate hair was a straw-like frizzy wreck from having been so damaged from all the bleaching and dying.   I went back to the hairdresser and got a short cut to get rid of all the split ends and dry frizz.   The result actually looked cute.

I went back to my tried and true light chestnut brown.   For a time during the early 2000s, I got the idea to dye the underlayer of my hair dark brown and leave the top layer lighter.  I rather enjoyed the two toned effect, but keeping up with it required a lot of maintenance, which requires patience which I don’t have.   A few years ago, I had a haircut and on a whim, told the hairdresser I wanted the strands framing my face to be blonde and a few other blonde highlights.  This decision surprised even me.  The hairdresser fingered through my roots and asked me why I was dying my hair darker since she thought the original color at my roots was much prettier.  “What’s the point of having blonde highlights when you already have a lovely blonde color and are covering it up?” I felt judged.  I decided not to go back to that hairdresser.  I didn’t like her attitude.  She didn’t understand.

I continued to experiment with different colors, even with pink streaks at one point.  But never once did I consider returning to my natural color.  It occurred to me I no longer even knew what my natural color was anymore.  When I reached my late 40s, I realized that I had been dying my hair for so long I really didn’t know what color it was, and not only that, I could have gone gray and didn’t even know it!

selfie1

A selfie I took three years ago during my adventurous/experimental phase.  Dark brown underlayer, lighter on top, a few pink streaks.  I like this photo of me!

By my 50s, I stopped dying my whole head, because I had noticed that after awhile it always became way too dark at the bottom and lighter at the top, and acquired a muddy, uneven look, so I started dying only the roots.   Eventually the bottom and outer parts of my hair faded back to a sort of golden blonde, not all that different from my original color, just more yellowish.

Over the past year, something strange began to happen to my hair.  Although I was using the same temporary light golden brown color I had been for years, my hair began to take on a purplish cast that I’d never had a problem with before.   Was it the product?  Did they change the formula?  Was it because I was older and the composition of my hair had changed, making the dye take less well than it used to?   Had I gone…gray?

topofheadwet    topofhead1

Top of my head today after shampoo and lemon juice rinse (slightly damp, and dry).

I decided to find out, but the only way to do that was to let my hair grow out and see what my actual natural color was.  After more than 40 years of covering my natural color, I no longer knew what my hair color really was!   So as it began to grow out, I used a dark blonde rinse (Roux makes an excellent wash-out rinse in subtle colors) at first just to try to even out the color, cover any gray,  and make the roots less obvious.

But I needn’t have bothered.   I’ve been growing my hair out now for about 2 months, and using a lemon rinse to reduce the purple tinge of the dyed parts of my hair (which is itself fading).  The color that is coming in is a bit darker than it was when I first began dying my hair in my teens — it’s a medium honey blonde now with the underlayer a darker ashier blonde.   It’s a beautiful color, and I have decided to grow it out.   But the best part of all?  At age 59, I don’t have one gray hair!   I never would have known that unless I finally decided to let my natural color come out of hiding.

hairfallingforward

This is my hair combed forward over my face, and it’s very close to my actual natural color.  Where’s the gray? There isn’t any!

I feel like as we get older, we have less leeway in experimenting with various colors and probably shouldn’t do it.   Young women can get away with trying all sorts of crazy colors — lighter, darker, or even colors like pink, blue and green — and still look good or at least intriguing.  But I feel like for an older woman, straying too much darker than your natural color, especially if you’re naturally fair haired, ages you.

No longer will I worry about dumb blonde jokes.  Dumb blonde jokes are pretty much limited to the young anyway, and I have enough self confidence in my intelligence today that those jokes won’t bother me if someone does tell one.

Who am I…where am I going?

keats

This afternoon I laid down and meditated for awhile on God’s purpose for my life, and where he is leading me.

God has a purpose for everyone.  We’re at our happiest when we submit to his will and not to our own.   I’ve learned this truth the hard way, after many years of insisting on having my own way and always failing miserably, or finding out that what I thought I wanted  wasn’t what I wanted at all.

I’m still not living the life I want to live, because I’m still grappling with the bad choices I made (and the bad choices that were made for me).  I also never took risks before.  I lived inside my comfort zone, which wasn’t very comfortable, but it was all I knew.

Last week, I did a few things that were outside my comfort zone.    I took a week off of work for something I really wanted and needed to do, in spite of not having any vacation time or money to pay for it.   I asked for financial help online and got it.   I submitted myself to an emotional and spiritual process that was painful for me at least once.  I spend almost a week sharing a room with someone who I would normally regard as much too “good” for me and avoid that person out of envy or feelings of not being able to measure up (those are just the “tapes” that were installed in my mind by my judgmental, snobbish, “keeping up with the Joneses” narc parents).  But as it turned out, once we got to know each other, I realized this woman wasn’t judging me on those terms and even seemed to genuinely like me, which I was sure she would not.  So I could let down that particular guard.    In fact, under normal circumstances, I would have felt inferior or “less than” everyone else on this retreat too.  And yet I did not.   Other than a little social discomfort and shyness at first, assuming I’d be negatively judged, soon I felt welcomed.

You can tell you’re not living as God meant for you to live if you’re unhappy with what you’re doing or your circumstances.    I’m still not fulfilled or happy, but I’m getting closer, and God is showing me the way.   He was always there though, always trying to show me something better, but I wasn’t ready.    That wasn’t my fault; it just was.  Now it’s changing.

The first step of this journey was that I had to leave my abuser(s).   As long as I remained, I would stay stuck, and worse than that, eventually die both emotionally and spiritually.  Possibly physically too.

But even after freeing myself, I still wasn’t able to start looking inside myself and realize that I not only needed God but also needed to submit my will to his, until after I was able to forgive my abusers.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning the awful things they did to us, nor does it mean apologizing or submitting to them.   Not even one little bit!   They were wrong in what they did, horribly wrong…but that shouldn’t become a life sentence for us.  We need to move on with ourselves in order to find peace and happiness.   But moving on isn’t possible until we can forgive the people who tried to trip us up at every turn.   It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary.

I reached a point where I was tired of hating them.   The hatred had served its purpose–I got away!  What now?  All that hatred was just turning me bitter and angry, and making me feel helpless and living in fear that abuse would just keep happening again…and again….and again.

Forgiving them wasn’t for their benefit; it was for mine!   After letting go of my hatred and rage, I was finally able to look inside myself and see what I could do differently to avoid being a victim again in the future.   In doing so, I found that I had quite a few unpleasant, even narcissistic, traits of my own.    Not that I’d ever asked for the abuse, or been horrible enough to deserve it, no way!  It just meant I’d probably picked up quite a few negative traits and defense mechanisms from my abusers, in order to survive.

I no longer needed those traits now that I was free.   In fact, I had no choice but to send them packing if I wanted to move forward.

Letting that anger go and forgiving the people who abused me made me able to look at their brokenness.  By seeing them as victims too (albeit victims so broken they had lost any ability to have insight into themselves or be able to change on their own), that gave them a whole lot less power over me.   If I had never been able to forgive them, I would never have been able to let go of feeling like a powerless victim instead of a survivor with the hope of an actual future.

That doesn’t mean the victimization wasn’t real.   It was.  But at some point you will want to say, “I overcame this!  I’m a survivor!”   A victim is someone who is still in danger, who is unable to get past that danger.

God doesn’t let bad things happen to us (such as having narcissistic parents) to “teach us things” or because he wants us to suffer.  The bad things that happen to us are never his will for us.  He allows them to happen because he has given us all free will.

However, what God can do is take those bad things and turn them into something beautiful and good, IF we keep our hearts and minds open to what his true purpose for us is. God  can use these things as tools that bring us closer to him and at the same time bring us closer to fulfilling what his purpose for our lives is (and that purpose always coincides with what will make us the happiest too). We should never fight his plan for us, but we can ask for guidance.

God can and will find the beauty in our brokenness.

While I was lying on my back meditating, I kept my mind and heart open, just listening.    Since returning from my retreat last week, I feel like my heart is much more open to God and his plans for my life and however he wants to use me.

I asked him to show me a picture of who I could have been if I hadn’t been so broken…and who I still can be when I’m less broken.

At first nothing came to me, but after awhile I realized my mind kept circling back to 3 words:

Words

Truth

Beauty.

 

God wasn’t showing me a picture of the Me he intended for me to be; he was showing me through the modality I understand and resonate with best: words.

Words are the tools God gave me to write about what happened to me.  Words made it possible for me to start this blog and share my story.

Words are the tool by which I’ll fulfill my destiny.

My destiny is to disseminate beauty and truth.

I was the truth teller in my family.

I can’t stand fakeness, phoniness, insincerity.   I’m allergic to those things.  (Not that I’ve always been honest myself or have never told a lie–that would be far from the truth!).

I’ve always sought the truth — whether through a hunger for knowledge, reading science or psychology articles and books, spirituality, religion, nature, art, music, or literature — all right-brained things by which the truth can be discovered.

Truth, as John Keats famously stated, is beauty.

And beauty is truth.

My purpose in this life–God’s purpose for me–is to disseminate truth and beauty, which are the same.

Through truth and beauty may come healing.   Healing for me, and healing for others.

No one who makes an effort to listen to their heart cannot be healed, because it’s through our heart that God speaks to us and can rewire our broken connections.

 

Gals’ night at home.

My daughter and I had a nice time girl-bonding tonight.   I’m not the type that gets into female bonding in general ( most of my platonic friends have always been male), but every once in a blue moon, I can get down with it.

So we shared a bottle of chardonnay and got just a little goofy.   She decided she wanted to give me a makeover and do my hair.    I rarely have my hair done professionally; usually I do it myself, which means either a blunt, easy cut (if I’m ambitious) or a ho-hum parted down the center boring 1970s look.

I did have my hair done by a real hairdresser back in March (you might remember that post), but it’s expensive, and my hair was getting boring and lifeless again (and worse, frizzes in the high humidity, so I told her to be my guest and have at it.

She used a color called Soft Black Violet in the deepest layer of hair(near the scalp) and and after letting that sit about 20 minutes (rather than 40 like the box said–I didn’t want it  BLACK because I remember about 20 years ago when I dyed my hair jet black and I looked exactly like Morticia from The Addams Family, with my pale, almost redhead type of skin crashing into the blue-black of my hair like a cargo of black and white linoleum floor tiles after a truck explosion.

I asked her how much gray hair she could see (I have no gray where I can see it in the mirror).  She told me just a little in the deep layer near my neckline in the back.

“That’s it?” I marveled.  One thing my family did right with me was give me good genes. I hate sounding narcissistic, but I always thought I looked pretty good.  Most other people did too.  Hardly anyone on either my mother’s or my father’s side looked anywhere near their real age (until age finally caught up with them, usually around 70 or 80).

“Yup,” my girl confirmed.   Then, “Mom, you’re done.  Wow, you look great!”

The result is a color a little deeper than strawberry blonde, but not really red either, sort of a dark mauve (the mauve must be from the “violet” in the haircolors’ name). My medium blonde hair on the top layer remained intact, and the effect makes my hair look thicker and with more 3-D depth.

The choice of color might seem a little eccentric for a woman my age, but I never pretended to be anything but a bit off the beaten path.  Besides, my daughter picked it for me.  It’s true,  I’m not much of a risk taker in much of anything, but when it comes to doing weird stuff to my hair, well…

“Bring it on!”

It will always grow out if you hate it.

Here are the final results, after the blow dry and the hair straightening my daughter did.   I think I just saved about $80.00.

makeover1 makeover2

One last thing that made everything perfect.  Here’s the song we cranked up and sang at full volume so it reverberated against the white ceramic tiles that cover most of the bathroom walls.  It’s one of her favorite songs ever and it’s grown on me too.

The subway musician.

joshua_bell

The following story intrigued me and I think there’s a lesson here about appreciation that gets lost as we grow older. Small children are fascinated by everything, but that fascination soon becomes indifference or even boredom as the cares of the world begin to bear down and the daily grind of survival and “keeping up with the Joneses” seems to take priority over the really important things in life, which are usually the little things we take for granted.

Here’s the story.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

This is a true story. No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written,with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

The above scenario was an experiment organized by the Washington Post as part of a sociology study about human perception, taste and priorities. The central question was this: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, can we perceive beauty?

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen when one of the greatest musicians in the world is playing one of the best music pieces ever written, how many other things are we missing in our daily lives? It’s as if most of us are walking around half asleep. I found it interesting that only the little children actually stopped to listen to the man for any length of time. In some ways, it would benefit us all to be more like a small child.

To make use of the old cliche (because it’s a good one), take time to stop and smell the roses. They fade and wither fast.

“The Survival of the Fittest”

The Survival Of The Fittest
By Audrey Michelle, Spoken Word Artist.

sad_angel
“Sad Angel” — Photo by Nimiko Nara

Stranded in the ends of time
A mind that needs to unwind
Living too much within a past
That pain consumed and it still lasts

A view that still sees purity
Though only shown pure cruelty

Each and every person met
Is loved and proven a regret
They hurt a sore and beaten heart
While smiling as it’s torn apart

All shreds of hope and fantasy
Are sliced for crimes
Though not guilty

There is an image to pursue
Beauty viewed by any view
Beauty though has disappeared
Wept out and fallen with each tear

Assumptions made while viewing cover
Assumes there’s no more to discover

Forced each time by will inside
To try to force a truth denied
The goodness is seen, but then ignored
Beauty does not come with such reward

Others survive by turning bitter
While true of heart shall only wither

Though always just misunderstood
When saw the world as full of good
The sweetened mind can’t realize
A truth that offers its demise

Life would end with such resolve
So to bitterness, truth can’t evolve