On Being a Junkie

It is said by many that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I am an addict.  A beauty product addict, to be precise.  That’s right, I am a product junkie.  And this is my year to get the monkey off my back, to ignore the insatiable urges, to fight the irresistible force that forces me to buy all manner of beauty products: makeup, hair, face treatments, appliances, treatments…you name it; I’ve either bought it, tried it, or quite possibly, still have it stashed under my sink or in my linen closet.

The state of my under sink bathroom cabinet that tipped me over the edge:


Notice the plethora of hair products, a particular weakness of mine. I have naturally curly hair, but neither curly like Bernadette Peters nor classically waved like Sarah Jessica Parker; no, my hair is somewhere in between, and accordingly frustrating as I try to force it to commit to one camp or another.  Unsuccessfully.  Thirty plus years of trying ended with me choosing chemical straightening over everyday rounds with the blow dryer and either a flat iron or curling iron. Since I would allow a professional wrestler to break my arm rather than let my hair go naturally curly, I felt quite safe in throwing out all the products targeted to making curls more prominent.

Notice also all the skin lotions.  I have exceptionally dry skin.  Like the old alligator in the Lubriderm ad campaign.  In preparation for the culling, I pulled out all the bottles and consolidated all the part-used bottles and tubs into other mostly empty bottles and tubs.  There are still a lot of them, but instead of twenty-five bottles and tubs, I’ve now only got about twelve.  Seriously, I don’t have to buy body lotion for about two years.  That’s if I use the stuff every day.  Which I’m trying to do since I hate the tight, itchy sensation of super dry skin.

The state of my bathroom counter that further contributed to sending me over the edge (not even taking into account Ernie Hemingway’s side of the two sink vanity):


Again, notice all the hair products.  Is anyone sensing a theme?

And last, but certainly not least, the pile of old makeup that I finally threw out:


I have resisted throwing out the stuff for years, mostly because every time I consider it, I see all the labels and cringe to think of all the money it represents:  Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder, as well as the occasional Cover Girl, L’Oreal Paris  and mongrel brand tossed in for good measure.  With it  all in the trash, that seems like a silly rationalization, especially when I consider that ninety percent of it predates the birth of my child, some of it ringing up the decade mark.

At age 44, it’s time for me to give up the fantasy that I will one day be one of those chic, lipstick wearing sophisticates portrayed in the advertisements of the aforementioned companies.  If I looked like Kiera Knightly, Jennifer Lopez, January Jones, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, or any of the various ethereally beautiful models who peddle the products on their airbrushed and photoshopped faces, perhaps I’d feel differently.

However, my reality is that if I have a tube of lipstick in my pocket, it’s more liable to fall out and roll under my car seat, melting into a waxy puddle that can never be removed from my car mat than be whipped out at a moment’s notice when I have an impending business encounter. If I have a tube of lipstick in the inside pocket of my purse, it’s likely to be used as a pen or a crayon, not swiped across my lips to give my pale complexion a bit of color before I meet my husband for an unplanned assignation.

Lip gloss with a hint of color – I’m all about that. Those lovely little tubes that smell delightful but hold no interest for my child and are easy to put on without a mirror as I’m dashing around during the day?  Yeah, baby!  Stock me up.  But true color that could bleed or will make me look like a clown if not applied properly?  No way.

At least for the foreseeable future, those days are behind me.  Perhaps someday in the future, but even if I get there, my lipstick tubes will likely be ready for dissection by an archeologist by then.  Better to give up the fight now and simply admit defeat.  I can always buy new ones … when I don’t have mortgages and car payments to make, a rapidly growing child needing clothes every few months as he shoots up and out of them.

I wish I could say that I bought all these various products over the years because I’m a reformed shopaholic, and although that it a tiny piece, that’s not all of it.  The sad truth is that I purchased all the products because of an inability to accept myself for who and what I was.  I wanted curlier hair, straighter hair, glossier hair, tighter skin, brighter skin, less cellulite, longer and stronger fingernails, silky smooth feet, tanner skin without going out in the sun (although that’s actually a good thing).  I wanted to be the glamorous woman behind the products, the fantasy offered by those advertising geniuses.  I wanted to be noticed, to be envied, to be cherished as all of those women appeared to be.  I wanted to be a better me, a different me.

Since 2013 is my year to discover and embrace my bliss, it is about time to get rid of all the evidence and baggage I’ve accumulated over the years that allows me to put off facing the reality in the mirror.  I am … me. Just me.  No better than that, no worse than that.  I’ve got my strengths, my weaknesses, my admirable qualities and my traits that make me and others cringe.  I can try to change, but the only real change can come from within.  I can’t change my cynicism by wearing red lipstick, but I can change it by stopping myself from imagining that having those perfect pillow red lips will make me less of a doubter.

I can be happy with myself and find my happiness in the wonders of life all around me.  Trying.  Now THAT makes me happy.


March to Aim Higher

March is the month to Aim Higher. Here is the checklist Gretchen Rubin’s book suggests I follow.

a) Launch a blog. Check. Make time for regular posting, figure out what posting schedule works best for me, find time to edit the thousands of words I’ve put down on paper so that they are understandable and pithy. Well, I can’t say I’m exactly hot on the trail of those items just yet. I’m working on the schedule, thinking that maybe once a week is good, but I know I’m far off from consistency at this point. Right now my most regular appointment is with the little notebook I carry around in my purse for moments when inspiration hits.

b) Enjoy the fun of failure. Is this kind of like laughing at yourself when learning to ice skate or ski and you fall hard on your butt? In the right mood, I’m quite good at that. Of course, the next day when I wake up with giant bruises and achy muscles, I’m not so happy, but I can laugh at the time. I think I’m going to have to work super hard on this goal. I’m going to take this task slowly and hope I can build up to it over time.

I’m really good at laughing at myself when I fail physically; I would never call myself an athlete, even though I do try to incorporate regular yoga practice into my life. But baseball, softball, foot ball, basketball and other team sports? I’m a miserable failure, and I have no choice but to laugh when I get out on the field or court or rink with friends or my son because otherwise I would simply cry. I’m okay with that, however. I’ve made it this far in life without being an athlete, and I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to decide to run a marathon just because I think it sounds cool. I have no illusions about what training to run 26.2 miles and then actually doing it in one fell swoop will do to my beat up knees with one damaged ACL; I like walking much better.

So I laugh at myself regularly when engaging in sports or sports like conduct. I am aiming to do this in all areas of my life.

c) Ask for help. In this area I am a subscriber to the maxim, “do as I say, not as I do.” I am the first person to tell those around me to ask for help, yet I am the last to ask for help. For me, asking for help is like admitting defeat, admitting failure. It’s hard to do. I dislike it immensely. I get angry at myself; I get defensive and angry at the people around me who tell me they want to do the helping.

I’m not entirely sure why I have such difficulty asking for help, but I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to reveal weakness, not wanting to show that I am vulnerable. I’m sure a therapist would have something to say about it. Perhaps I’ll start asking for help by finding a good therapist and asking her. Or perhaps I’ll just remind myself regularly that my husband, my sister, my parents, and my friends love me and would help me as readily as I would help them.

d) Work smart. I know I need to do this. I need to set up a dedicated work space and set regular hours in which I occupy that space. I definitely need to stop work from invading all areas of my life at all hours. Ernie Hemingway and I discuss this regularly as we are both truly slaves to our “to do” lists. We allow our electronic devices to take away our attention and to interrupt our family time. As a result, we end up “working” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Recently, I made a suggestion that Ernie agreed to try. We both agreed to dump our mobile phones and our Blackberry devices at the door at 5pm (or whenever we get home), and not check them or answer them until the next morning. Of course, because Ernie’s older child hates me, she only calls on his mobile, so that throws a little monkey wrench into the plan, but overall, we’ve been doing okay with it. I don’t want to try to force Ernie into following my rules, but perhaps if I’m better about “working smarter,” Ernie will be also.

e) Enjoy now. This is another hard one for me. My entire life I was planning for the future: I’ve got to get good grades in high school so I can get into a good college; I’ve got to get good grades in college so I can get into a good graduate school; I’ve got to get good grades in law school so I can get a good job in a good firm and make good money; once I have the good job and the good income, I can focus on my life, then I can live my life. I’ve always looked forward, planning for the future – the next vacation, the next milestone, the next season.

Having a child has helped me live in the moment much more than I ever have, but I’ve still got that big list bouncing around in my head, the list that includes things like cleaning the garage and finishing up my latest knitting project when school starts up again in September, organizing my writing notebooks and assignments when summer camp starts, and other such sundry items.

March will be a tough month for me, challenging in its simplicity and pull. I hope I’m up to the challenge.