Sometimes when I am about to vent I make my listener agree to a policy of silence. I don’t want them to try and make me feel better with compliments or cliché, happy responses, I don’t want them to give me advice, I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, I really don’t want them to talk… I just want them to listen.
My dad is good in the moment. He listens. But inevitably he will send me a text message an hour or two later telling me everything is going to be ok and giving me unsolicited encouragement. He can’t resist. My mom is awful. She gets mad with you. Sad with you. Has advice out the whazoo. She is empathetic with almost every situation, as she has already been there done that. And she is completely incapable of not soothing. At the very least, if she does bite her tongue, she still offers to bring me shopping or out to eat because if she can’t talk me into encouragement, she will woo me there with food and clothes. And Ryan does exactly as I ask. He remains silent and listens.
And then I get my feelings hurt.
Why isn’t he trying harder to buck the system and make me feel better???
Poor guy. He can’t win.
So today I am asking you, the listener, to just listen.
I feel gross.
I know… I just had a baby, so it’s not the weight. It’s everything else. Mainly an outbreak of acne that has me looking and feeling like a leper. You know, the ones that Mother T. and Jesus hung out with because no one else would? That kind of leper. My body is covered in this crazy bacterial outbreak and now, here I am, 28 years old and dealing with my first bout of acne ever and I feel like I have the self-consciousness of an eighth grade girl going through puberty. Ok, and truth be told, it doesn’t help that none of my jeans fit.
It bothers me that I care so much, but I do. Understanding that God made me, loves me, and that I have a lot to offer the world does not seem to matter too much when I am staring in the mirror trying to figure out how I will go into public that day: in a trash bag or wearing a wig. Unless the big guy is in the business of anti-bacterial magic or liposuction, His love isn’t doing much for me right now.
All of a sudden I feel really bad for all the women, men, and teenagers struggling with their appearance who have been told they are beautiful on the inside and expected to be all better because of this cliché balm. In reality, if we are honest, we care what we look like. There, I said it. We all care! And is that so wrong?
Perhaps it is only wrong when it is all consuming. Otherwise, it seems to me that though our souls are the most important thing, and though our bodies will one day return to ash and dust, we are still physical, sexual creatures living in a world with God’s beauty all around us… beauty is inevitable. It is good. Our bodies possess a sort of carnal beauty and strength; we were made that way. So I am not mad at myself for caring what I look like, but rather I am upset with myself for being consumed with what I look like. There is a huge difference.
Anyways, in the midst of struggling with how I feel about myself I’ve had two unfortunate run-ins with women.
First with a doctor this week. As she tapped away on her computer and made very little eye contact with me, she asked me questions about my anxiety.
Was I sleeping well?
“No,” I said, “It’s harder than I thought having a baby.”
Am I having bad dreams?
“Well, does hearing a baby cry in my sleep count as a bad dream?”
The questions continued when all of a sudden this lady looks up, smiles, and says, “So what, you have five, seven weeks before you are due?”
Before I’m due?
Before I am DUE? I felt my stomach drop. Could I possibly look that big? Is she having bad dreams? Has she even looked at me? Seven weeks left… is there any way I look that pregnant? Surely not.
Still, I left in tears. I’m sure it was a malfunction on her part and I will find a new doctor now, but come on… don’t ask unless you’re sure.
[This is something that most men are brilliant with.
I think the guys in the band did not acknowledge my weight gain or the baby growing inside of me until I showed them the sonogram pictures and the pregnancy girdle. Until then they did what every good man should do…no comment. Men, smart men, know that to ask a woman when she is "due" is a slippery slope into misery. They don’t risk it. They wait for those sono pictures or until something is actually coming out of our bodies to insinuate that yes, they may have noticed a slight bump that could, maybe, possibly be a small child that has caused our waist to expand by, um, give or take an inch or two. Why can’t women follow their lead?]
Lady number one stung. Lady number two burned a hole through me.
This weekend was our first time to do a show since I had Anniston. I was a little rough. My voice wasn’t all there, and somehow it seemed a lot easier to sing three songs with a baby in my stomach than seven songs without. I was sweating like a pig and missing notes left and right. On top of that, there was the acne. The looming, horrible “A” word. I think I spent over an hour just trying to get my make-up on. By the end of the make-up wars and the public workout on stage, I was slightly defeated.
As soon as we got off stage we went straight to a different building to sign autographs. The line was long (Which is always fun. I love meeting fans and friends!) and there were tons of people hanging around to take pictures and talk more in depth with us.
In the midst of this a beautiful blonde lady passed through the line with her two teenage daughters, and with the guys in the band listening and the people on all the other three sides listening she said,
“We don’t need autographs. I just noticed that you are having some issues with your skin. Some breakouts and possible acne and I just wanted to give you a sample of a product that I thought would really help your skin.”
I was mortified. All the guys listening, all the people around us listening, this lady pointed out what I have been so desperately conscious of…
It took every ounce not to cry on the spot. She proceeded to hand me an Arbonne skin care sample and a note that said, “Jenny, I noticed you are having issues with your skin. Is acne always a problem for you? I’d like to recommend a product and I am willing to give you 20% off your first order.”
She was trying to sell me something. I sheepishly took her packet (not having the where-with-all in the moment to politely hand it back and tell her this was neither the time nor the place to talk about my skin care) and fought back tears and sweat… I was so embarrassed.
Who does that? Approaches a complete stranger and points out their acne? In front of people? In an autograph line? Better yet, who brings their Arbonne marketing materials to a festival?
And really, I am not sure why I am telling the world this. Mainly I am just venting. But I guess it is also to say that our words count. My words count and your words count.
I was blessed this weekend to hear a lot of amazing words. But isn’t it crazy how quickly words can add insult to injury? Can take the wind out of your sail? This lady had no idea what I was struggling with. The doctor had no idea either. It seems they were both too pre-occupied with their own agendas to stop and realize what they were saying and doing.
At the end of the day, I am just talking out loud. On the plane ride home today I held Annie and I realized that I had been too busy today to worry about my face. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. I even felt around to make sure it was all still there. Yep... still there. But I had forgotten. And that became my prayer.
God help me to not be consumed. Help me to forget the insignificant. The things that fade. That don't last. The temporal. Let my little girl see in her mom a person who is consumed with loving others just as they are and loving myself the same way. Just as I am. Pimples and all.
Will I keep washing my face and trying all the magic potions I can get my hands on? Yes.
Does it have to keep consuming my thoughts, my identity, and my emotions? No. It's time to turn the corner. To put these things back in their rightful place... I have better things to do with my emotional energy. More beautiful things.
Help me not be consumed this week. Help me let go. Let my thoughts and my words count...