Friday, April 17, 2009

"Never catch yourself in untrained mirrors"

It's been almost a year since I started blogging, and it's curious how the process changes. When I started, this was my hidden territory, a place where I could comb through the random thoughts and emotions operating in the background of my day, all that turbulence that no one ever really fathoms, because I have been socialized to function, no matter what. Now my husband and children have access to this blog, and so do other people who know me in my other life. I find I have to fight to be honest about what I am feeling these days. I don't want to blow up anyone's privacy.

Spring is always a hard season for me. We shed our winter coats, we head outside, and I always feel newly exposed, overweight and unacceptable. I've been waking up these days with a pervasive sorrow in my chest that makes me want to clutch my pillow, pull the comforter over my head and go back to sleep. The curious thing is, I can't quite pinpoint the root of the ache, which makes me think it has many roots, reaching down into my unconscious and stirring up this darkness that engulfs me in the brightness of morning.

I thought I would try to set down what haunts me, because that what it feels like, a haunting, a theft of light, a deception.

1) I'm still as fat as ever. My friend Debbie once advised, never catch yourself in untrained mirrors, and I do my best to heed that. But yesterday, while walking to my company's annual awards ceremony through a mirrored hallway, I could not help but notice my reflection, and it was a gargantuan effort after that to smile and make small talk with all the thin beautiful magazine and TV people gliding through the pre-dinner cocktail reception. I won an award for one of my stories, by the way, the only one our magazine received, and all I could think was please let our editor in chief go up to receive it so I don't have to parade myself in front of all these people. Thankfully, she did. Some of the people in the room knew me when I was in my twenties and a normal size, even though back then I thought I was hideous too. I look back at pictures now and realize I was cute in those days, and why didn't I ever know and appreciate it?

2) My son is leaving for college. He's away on a trip this week, which gives a preview of what that will be like. In a word, lonely. Even when he's sleeping on the couch in the evenings, my daughter still feels like she has company as she does her homework, on the floor, in front of the TV, her books and papers spread out around her. This week, she's alone out there, and even if she doesn't feel it, I feel lonely for her. His crazy funny energy is missing, and I am lost without it, even though when he's here, I sometimes have this nervous need to try and contain it, as if it is just on the brink of getting out of hand. It's boy energy, my husband tells me. Let it be. I miss him already.

3) My mother and my aunt are so frail, they can't be the strong, dominant, self-propelled women they used to be, and it pains them, which pains me. Also, to be selfish, I'm seeing daily where I'm headed myself, and how quickly I'm traveling there, and it scares me, depresses me, makes me sad. I won't dwell here.

4) After two decades of raising our kids, will my husband I be able to get back to ourselves? This thought has been pressing on me lately, especially on nights when both kids are out with their friends and my husband and I are in separate rooms, doing separate things. I remember when we were first married, we used to follow each other from room to room, we just couldn't get enough of each other. Will we be able to recapture that?

5) I've reached the stage of life when the only people who see me on the street are men seventy or above. I am invisible. Which is sometimes okay.

6) My family and friends are scattered and consumed with their lives, as I am with mine. The bonds of community we had when we were first married, and when our children were in elementary school, have come undone. I am at a loose end so much of the time now. My kids are out in the world and I don't know what to do with myself. I feel alone.

All of this, I realize, is a cliche. Maybe it's just hormones and chemistry, the body evolving, doing it's thing. Maybe this is what happens when you turn 50, and you grasp that there are more years behind you than ahead of you. Knowing this doesn't stop the ache.


  1. First of all, congrats on the award! Would you tell me what issue it's in, or where to find it online so I can read it?

    I'm sad that you're feeling so down. Your son leaving for college is such a huge change in your life - you've had him around forever and then suddenly he's gone. I think it would be natural for all kinds of buried thoughts and feelings to surface at this time. Plus his leaving just emphasizes his growing up and all the years that have gone by. I think that sharing all this the way you do is very positive - brave too!

    I must agree with you that life is much more pleasant when mirrors can be avoided! My issue is - why didn't God make me pretty like my mother? Instead I look like my less-than-appealing father. Anyway for whatever it's worth, I've never considered you anything but beautiful...

    All of this too, shall pass

  2. Deborah, thank you for the warmth and kinship in this. I love that we have reconnected in blog world! Yes, it passes...We just have to hunker down sometimes and let such feelings move right on through. Much love.

  3. This post touched me in so many ways. Thank you for your honesty.

    The whole thing about appearance, age and weight: One day I realized that in 10 years I will look back at myself now and think - why didn't I appreciate my . . . lack of wrinkles? skinniness? youth? hair? legs? whatever? the way I do now about my 30's. So, when I hear that critical voice in my head - I switch into my older self mentality and think, "damn, you look good!"

    Okay, that sounds crazy now that I actually wrote it out : )

  4. lilaphase, not so crazy at all. I tried your strategy this morning and it did short circuit the mental wallowing. thanks!

  5. I just wanted to let you know that this post touched me, too. And you are such a beautiful writer, thank you for the peek inside your soul. :)

    This has got to be a hard time in your life, don't minimize it and put pressure on yourself to be happy about everything. Having a son go away to college, having elderly relatives, your changing relationship with your daughter and husband, is all very stressful.

    I feel like I never know what to say in comments, especially after such a beautifully worded blog entry. Here's the bottom line: I like your blog and I like you, Angella, and I wish you peace and happiness!

  6. ellen, I so appreciate this. Thank you. My blogworld frienships are so nourishing. Who knew?