Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choosing Carpe Diem

This morning, a quote from the wonderful Anne Lamott stumbled across my eyeballs and smacked me right upside the head (in the most vivid WV vernacular).  To wit:

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. — Anne Lamott
Fantastic stuff, isn't it? Filled with letting go and living life to its fullest extent and not in the small-minded, narrow way that conformity brings to the table far too frequently.  As good an exposition of the necessity of choosing carpe diem over cowering in the corner as I've ever read.

Which brings me to the picture above, a picture filled with love and enthusiasm...and one which I had initially declined to share because I felt like I looked a little too big in it. 

"What a shame," I thought this morning, in light of this Anne Lamott quote, "who cares what I look like in the picture when it's such a cute hug with The Peanut, radiating all the love we felt in that moment as we finished climbing the giant, meltingly-hot sand dune."  And then, "why on earth was I worrying about how I looked in the photo, when how I felt was pure joy?"

Why do we do this to ourselves, honestly?

When I posted an initial picture of our trip to White Sands National Monument, this is what I posted:

Because from far, far away, you cannot tell anything about the size differential, now can you?  But this is what I should have posted, if I hadn't been so in my head about it, because it is a better shot and filled with a lot more emotion and visual pop:

The difference is miniscule in terms of how I look, right?  But that inner voice in my head found enough fault with it that the far away shot is the one I picked.  I do like the far away shot, because it shows the vastness of the landscape really well, but it isn't the only shot to share, even though it was the only shot I had shared up to today. 

This was such a fun moment, but I nitpicked the photos in the aftermath in that judgy way that we do -- my thighs are too big, my butt looks huge, good heavens I have put on weight this past year, thank you steroids during the chemo, and on and on and on.   Why can't I just be happy to have gotten through the chemo in the first place, not worry about how I look in the aftermath and just concentrate on getting my feet fully back under me again and on a healthier path over the long run?

The truth is that, at the moment anyway, I am not happy with where I am, how I look, or what I am or am not doing with myself.  But the fact that it leads to a sort of self-censorship on this blog, in an image-management sort of way, is disturbing to me, because that's never really been who I was.  Or at least has never been who I wanted to be.

Something to think about, anyway.  But looking back on all of these pictures makes me remember the searing heat of that day, and all the giggles The Peanut and I had as we climbed the molten heat of that giant sand dune together.  And that makes me smile.

That's worth letting go of all those pesky insecurities all by itself.

Some more shots of the dunes, so you get a sense of the scope of the dunes.  When you are out on the drive around the park loop, you are way, way out there, surrounded by white gypsum dunes and not much else.  It is definitely worth the drive just for that reason.

(All photos by Christy Hardin Smith -- with a smattering from Bill Smith -- copyright reserved.  Please do not use without express permission.)


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a fellow chemo-girl, who is likewise trying (and failing) to lose the steroid weight, who still mourns the loss of my waist-length lush beautiful hair and HATES this curly grey short crap on my head, it's normal to worry about how we look. I can't MAKE myself believe my partner still finds me beautiful, no matter how often he tells me, because I don't see it in myself right now. We haven't had the luxury of 'aging' gracefully - chemo throws us ten years ahead of schedule, looks wise; we've been through hell and back, of COURSE we're going to look it! So don't apologise for being human - sometimes it takes more courage to accept ourselves as we are now than it did to sit in a chair for hours on end while they poured poison down our veins.

Christy Hardin Smith said...

I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes I forget that my body went through all of that just last year. It seems like a lifetime ago at this point, but I was still dealing with chemo and its nasty side effects this time last year. I hear you about the hair: mine came back in different colors, in spots all over the place, and for a while I looked like a calico cat with a bad perm. SIGH My hairdresser has been wonderful about working with me to find some sort of new normal, but we still aren't back to "my" hair, whatever that is at this point. I find myself singing the "Just Keep Swimming" song from Finding Nemo a little too frequently these days. LOL