Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I've opened my own personal Pandora's Box. This might go on for a while...

"Love never ends." Umm... yes, it does. I happen to know that it does. I'm pretty sure I was not delusional EVERY time I was told that I was loved. I'm pretty sure what I gave and what I received was the real thing at least once or twice. And yet it still ended. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was yanked out from under me. I've always been the dumpEE, never the dumpER. And I was still in love long after the dumping.

" 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I can't even think of a clever retort for this one. All I can think of is "Why?"

Monday, October 19, 2009

It Seemed Like the Right Thing to Say at the Time

There are all these things people say, the kind that of things that are meant to make you feel better when things go drastically wrong. We've all said them. Problem is, they don't always help you feel much better at all.

"If you love someone, set him free..." etc, etc. If I love someone, I have no intention of just setting him free. Rather, I would hold on tight and surround him with my love, never allowing anyone to question my devotion. If something tried to come between us, I would stand and fight for love. I'm not talking about locking someone in a closet. It's just that to me anything else suggests that he wasn't worth my effort.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Maybe. Or maybe little pieces of a person are chipped away until what's left is barely recognizable. This probably depends on the person and the circumstances. I've known people that have been through so much that they can hardly hold themselves together. Do I think they are weak? No, I do not. Vulnerable, yes... damaged, probably... weak, no.

"Children are resilient." Somewhat, I suppose. But if children were truly resilient and able to bounce back from anything, then parents could make all kinds of selfish choices and not worry about the consequences. Divorce, neglect, even abuse would be no big deal, because the kids would emerge from the rubble unscathed.

"The only person you should worry about pleasing is yourself." I like the sound of this one. I WANT to buy into this one. But it sounds self-centered to me. It pleased my brother immensely when he broke my arm. It didn't please me one little bit.

"Happiness comes from within." Oh, yeah, the old no-one-can-make-you-angry-you-allow-yourself-to-get-angry theory. Try telling that to the little kid that spends an hour picking flowers for his mother, handing them over with a huge grin on his face, just to hear his mother point out that they are actually weeds as she drops them into the trash can. That child was filled with joy in anticipation of thrilling his mother, right up the point of her rejection.

"We can still be friends." How do you go from being lovers to being friends? How do you put boundaries on a relationship that was previously open and intimate? How do you stand by and watch the one you love fall in love with someone new? If you can do it, you are a better person than I.

"It just wasn't meant to be." This one is a no-brainer, and it's actually true. But it isn't helpful. The expecting mother who took perfect care of herself from the moment she learned of the new life beginning inside of her will take no solace in this when the doctor informs her that she won't be having that baby after all.

These phrases seem so harmless. There is some truth to them if you are able to view them through a philosophical lens. We resort to them when someone we care about is going through tough times because we want so badly to find the right thing to say. And sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As much as I love words, sometimes I struggle with them. I'll think I have something important to share, and I'll have a hard time getting started. This is one of those times. Maybe I should just dive in head first.

It appears that I am entering menopause. I always thought that I would be happy about that - no more monthly "visitations," with their accompanying discomfort, inconvenience, and expense.

Turns out I'm not really happy about it after all. I am experiencing all kinds of unpleasant symptoms - depression, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, fear, anger... and a veritable smorgasbord of physical changes.

Never having suffered much from PMS, some of the emotional stuff came as a bit of a surprise. But what shook me to my core was my reaction to the end of an era. I will no longer be capable of conceiving children. It's not that I desire more children - the ones I have are amazing, and my life is full. It's the realization that an integral part of my womanhood will be no more. I wonder if this is the way a woman fighting cancer feels when she loses a breast or all of her hair.

Yeah, I know, I've said it myself - they're just breasts. It's just hair. It's just a uterus. But these are some of the things that define women and set them apart. They are things that make us different from men. They matter, in ways we don't even grasp until they are gone.

There's another part of my identity that is falling victim to this "change of life." I noticed back when I was expecting my first child that my ability to sing was affected greatly by my condition. I tried to talk to friends, colleagues, and professionals about it, and I got the same response from everyone. "It's just the baby pushing on your diaphragm" or "It's all in your head." Although those explanations couldn't account for the continuing vocal problems I had on a monthly basis postpartum, I accepted them as reasonable.

Turns out that research supports the theory that the changes in a woman's hormones directly affect the voice. The vocal membranes are startlingly similar to the membranes in one's nether regions. Membranes in both regions undergo some thickening and dehydration as hormone levels increase. The voice becomes less flexible, both in range and in variability. And there's not much one can do to stop or reverse it.

Because every woman's journey through menopause is unique, not all singers experience this phenomenon. But there are plenty of opera singers whose careers have come to a screeching halt as they enter this phase of womanhood. And not only do they feel betrayed by their bodies, but they must also muster the courage to pursue new avenues at a time when most folks are settled comfortably into their careers.

People who enjoy a specialized skill or talent have a difficult time differentiating the self from the behavior. They are gifted with the ability to do something that not everyone else can, and that sets them apart from the herd. And that special something permeates their being. The expression "eats, drinks, and sleeps" is an apt description of how an artisan relates to her craft. When that something is threatened or taken away, the resulting grief can be devastating.

The way I see it, I have a couple of choices. I can accept the inevitability that my body and voice will be changed forever and try to find a way to honor the me that is left behind. Or I can diligently seek methods in which to fight the process and try to keep what I have as long as possible. Either way the road will be long and hard and lonely, as others are unlikely to empathize with my selfish plight. And at the end of the road, I may no longer recognize myself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Variety - The Spice of Life

Glamour magazine is starting a fashion revolution of sorts. A short while back they printed a small photo of a lovely, curvy woman named Lizzie. In the modeling world Lizzie would be considered plus-sized. Anyone wearing a size 6 or larger is considered plus-sized in the fashion industry. In the real world Lizzie is actually only a few pounds over for her height.

Public response was overwhelming. The photo caused such a stir - a positive stir - that Glamour executives now state they intend to include photos of women of varying shapes and sizes in upcoming editions. (To read the article and gaze upon some gorgeous normal-sized women, go to this website:

I'm thrilled and so are thousands of other people, men and women alike. Glamour is a women's publication and as such should provide their readers with a variety of ladies with which to identify. It just makes good marketing sense, if you ask me.

Not all response to Lizzie's photo was positive. As you can imagine, there were plenty of men (and women) that criticized Lizzie for being fat and Glamour for condoning poor health. Those opinions were expected albeit narrow. The comments that annoyed me the most, however, were the ones that implied that women who are insecure about their bodies and tired of being compared to unreasonable industry standards are in some way misguided or petty.

I read several comments advising women that the only people whose opinions should matter are their husbands' or their boyfriends'. When I hear statements like that, I feel as if people are trying to shame me into living only for my spouse. To me that equates to thinking what he wants me to think, going where he wants me to go, socializing with whom he wants me to socialize. My identity and my self-image become totally dependent upon his whims, if that is the case.

Most folks will not agree with me here, but I did say that this is how I feel about the issue. What one thinks and what one feels are not the same thing.

Some husbands wrote in that they didn't care what their wives looked like, that they loved them anyway. I think they meant that they love their wives for what is on the inside, but saying they "don't care" gives the message that they no longer look at them or long for their wives in a physical way.

(Guys, if you are guilty of this, stop immediately.) Suffice it to say that this is not a helpful statement in a marriage.

I recently expressed my own insecurities to a friend. I told her that due to events in my life, I no longer felt beautiful. She told me that the only person I should want to be beautiful for is me. It sounded good at the time, and I think she meant well, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I will probably never buy into that. Isn't the real purpose of physical beauty to attract one that you desire? If you are not attractive, in that sense of the word, and a mate is either absent or unresponsive, what then is the point of thinking you are beautiful?

I applaud the executives at Glamour for taking a risk. I'm glad that a publication with it's level of influence in the industry is challenging society's views on beauty. I also applaud them for not taking sides. The super-thin are not being bashed, obesity is not being condoned. They are simply making an effort to celebrate all makes and models of women. And I think it is about dang time.