Tuesday, August 6, 2013


There's a song by Labrinth that's been out for a while now, Beneath Your Beautiful. It's a sweet, kind of average pop song (just my opinion - no need for rancor if you disagree). Nothing to despise, nothing to get all excited about - unless maybe you're suffering through teenage angst. Still, I heard it on the radio the other day and the two main lines of lyrics earwormed their way through my weekend until I really paid attention:

Would you let me see beneath your beautiful? 
Would you let me see beneath your perfect?

We tend to put our best face on for others. It's expected. Most of us are taught that from childhood. I can't tell you how many times I heard my mother say, "You can't go out of the house looking like that! People will think you're an orphan!" Whether it was a smudge on my cheek, rumpled clothes, or even a frown, it didn't matter. Presentation was everything, the whole package.

To this day that lingers. Although I don't get "dolled up" by any stretch of the imagination, when I go out in public, I have on clean clothes and my hair is brushed. And, no matter what else I might be feeling, I try to slap a pleasant expression on my face. ("What happens in this house stays in this house. There's no need for the whole world to know our business!") I'm not alone. Most of us do that to one degree or another. It's just part of our social upbringing.

Ironic then, isn't it? That most of our real selves lies beneath the beautiful and far beyond the perfect. Our humanity is anything but beautiful or perfect - which is what makes us so doggone perfectly beautiful to begin with! It's our messiness that makes us amazing. People see a sweet-smelling, sleeping infant and coo, "Oh, what a perfect little baby..." The baby that, hours before, was born in a storm of ooze and blood and shit and screaming and tears where the real beauty and perfection of life took place.

What if we allow people to see beneath our beautiful and our perfect? And, even better, what if we make a concerted effort to see beneath the beautiful of others? The woman who is perfectly put together was once abused by her ex-husband; the child with the perfect teeth and athletic build has a sister who is dying from leukemia; the buff guy at the gym is worried that he's never enough for anyone; the homeless guy was once somebody's baby; the woman with the bags under her eyes and the rumpled shirt is running the cash register, trying to keep her family together until her husband can find work again; the chubby, uncoordinated kid just wants someone, anyone, to like him.

Beneath the beautiful there are a million different things going on. Beneath the perfect is where we really live. So, why do we try so hard?

Why do I try so hard? Beneath my beautiful is constant self-doubt and self-criticism. Beneath my perfect is the litany Am-I-Getting-It-Right? Beneath my beautiful there isn't a fear of failure (been there, done that, ain't no big deal), but a fear of success. Beneath my perfect is a shy, terrified little girl hoping that someone will understand without her having to explain everything.

Who are you beneath your beautiful? I'm listening.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Divorce Decree

I remember very clearly the first social gathering I went to after my ex and I called it quits. Friends called and asked if I'd like to come to dinner with them and their children. I told them I'd be delighted. Then they asked the question I knew was coming and that I was dreading. "And will Kevin be joining us?" I wasn't ready to spill all the beans, so I politely said no, thank you, and made some excuse about him having a prior commitment.

And, it's like that, isn't it? You get to be known as the couple rather than the individual. I was no longer Barb. I was Barb and Kevin. As if we'd been conjoined. I know. People do that out of politeness. I get it. You don't invite one over for dinner without extending the invitation to the other. I'm the same way. Even though I was trying to, shall we say, re-individualize myself, I still thought of myself as Barb and Kevin.

Maybe it would have been easier if I'd detested him. I didn't. Maybe it would have been easier if he'd hurt me somehow. He hadn't. We had simply reached a point where, it was obvious, both of us were miserable and it wasn't doing either of us any favors to stay together. One of us had to be brave enough to call it quits, and that happened to be me. I took no pleasure in it. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'd made a commitment and I was about to stand up and tell the world, "Hey. Sorry. I was wrong."

So, I went to the gathering alone. When I got off the subway near their house, I was caught in a torrential downpour. Guess what? I don't believe in umbrellas. I was sopping wet by the time I got to their door. Soaked and nearly manic with delight. I felt energized and free. The eldest son said, "Y'know. I can't really see auras, but if I could see yours, it would probably be glowing. There's something different about you." I laughed and said, "Well, I'm a soggy mess...?" He smiled and said, "Uh huh, and it's as if there's a light shining through all that water." It was the first time I felt I'd made the right decision.

But I'm not here to talk about my divorce. That was over 15 years ago - ancient history.

Recalling that long ago pre-dinner conversation the other day, I thought, what if we did that to all the things we don't like in our lives or about ourselves. What if we got to a point where we said, "Hey. I'm miserable, you're miserable. How about we just go our separate ways?" What if we said that to our addictions, to the stuff that fills our lives and keeps us from our dreams, to the people who suck the energy from us, to endless hours of TV and internet and... anything really. To whatever keeps us from being our authentic selves. How about we just divorce the unnecessary shit that's cluttering our lives?

How about that? Is it pleasant? No. Is it easy? No. But we owe ourselves that much consideration.

We all deserve to shine like raindrops dancing in the streetlight.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Regrettably Yours

Yes, it's been a month and a half since I've posted. I've pondered a few different posts, but they just wouldn't translate. Plus, I've been kind of busy. Plus... I just didn't feel like getting the muscle workout needed for writing gymnastics. For those of you who don't know, writing is hard work. Even so, I've been thinking a lot about writing and getting back to it... and then along came Effy, a delightful, wacky, take-no-prisoners-or-bullshit, artsy friend who proposed Blog Along With Effy as a way to get a bunch of us back in touch with ourselves and, better yet, our writing selves. I'm in. So, I'm going from zero posts to posting every day for the next 30 days.

Haven't I always been an all-or-nothing gal though? You can stop nodding now.

One of the topics I've thought about blogging this past month has been regret. Regret gets a bad rap. People are constantly harping about living without regrets. If we're human at all, living without regret is an impossibility and setting ourselves such a lofty goal will only leave us with... yeah, you guessed it... regret.

1. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.): He no sooner spoke than he regretted it. 2. to think of with a sense of loss: to regret one's vanished youth.
3. a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.
4. a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.
(Thanks for that, dictionary.com)

I think what most people don't realize is that they are putting regret on the same peg as shame, and guilt, and fear. And it doesn't belong there. At all. Whereas shame, guilt, and fear will weigh us down until it is impossible to move, regret is an insight. Hold on just a second and think about that. Regret is an insight.

If, say for instance, I regret that I've never traveled to Ireland, that thought would lead me to, "And why the hell haven't I? Why not? Let's GO!"  Perhaps, in my old age, I'm thinking about the way I treated someone many years ago. I regret that I was not kinder. If time is on our side, I can look that person up, contact them, and say, "Man, I was such an Ass Barnacle... my apologies." (Been there, done that, thank you for nagging me, oh Great Regret!)

I'll say it again, because it was such a revelation to me. Regret is an insight. Regret is useful. Sure, live with regret! I'm living with regret and I love it. Regret for things I've missed, or done, or have neglected... that's what spurs me to action today. Regret is what pushes me beyond fear, shame, and guilt. It's that Jiminy Cricket-y voice that says, "You don't want to feel badly about this any more. Deal with it."

I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences. 
I'm human, not perfect, like anybody else.
~Queen Latifah

Anyway, you can quit trying to live without regret. As Mr. Gump would say, "And that was good because, y'know... one less thang." You'll just have to uselessly strive for perfection in some other arena.