“Old Age is No Place for Sissies.” ~ Bette Davis

So, last night I started laughing as I was getting ready for bed.  Not because of how horrible I looked with my hair plastered down on my head and no make-up on my face, but because of what I was putting myself through.  And I do this every night.

I counted how many anti-aging products I have in my bathroom cabinet, and it’s 16.  Sixteen!  I literally have creams, lotions, oils, serums, and ‘cold plasma’ goop (which I really don’t want to know what it’s ingredients are) that I spread over my skin in hopes they will actually do what I am told they will by such enticing ads.  Sometimes, I feel like a mad (well…yeah…I’m bipolar after all) scientist with my pots, bottles, and jars, mixing my concoctions and rubbing them on different parts of my face.

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The real ‘miracle’ is that the company made money off of me so easily.

I have eye goop that I spread around my…you guessed it…eyes in hopes they will look 30 instead of 53 (I still look 53 after all of the smears).  I have cream for around my mouth to make any small wrinkles “disappear’ while making sure my lips look pouty and moisturized.  I have oils, (that I mix myself in little bottles and smell so good but are hell on my pillowcases) for my cheeks since they’re so dry, as well as overall lotions I plaster on top of all this mess.  The layers on my face could be studied like geologists study rocks…just start digging and you’ll eventually be able to uncover my actual birthdate.

Then, there’s my bod.  I have…wait for it…6 lotions and creams for it, plus ‘butter’ that makes me feel like a greasy french fry.  I actually tried to make my own body butter this winter.  It was a disaster.  I cooked the ingredients in my favorite sauce pan, and it was hellish trying to get the greasy concoction completely washed out.  I, of course, did it wrong (big surprise there), so the butter was grainy.  I spread it on my arms and legs anyway and it was a sandy, smelly mess with the goop dripping off in globs, since the minute it was on my warm bod, it became liquified again.  When I walked out in my shorts and tee, my son looked at me, turned around, and left.  He was practicing what I always taught him:  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

After all of this schmearing, I sleep in a contraption that could possibly be used in a 50 Shades of Grey type scenario (note to self, remember this) since it’s got buckles and straps which I wear in order to not get the chest wrinkles common to women my age.  It’s going in the back of my closet today.  I’m tired of feeling like a trussed up turkey.

So, I’m plopping in bed all lotioned, creamed, oiled, and bound up.  Gee…I wonder why I’m sleeping alone. (You may insert an eye roll here).

Why in the fuck do women go to such measures to try to stay young looking?  I’m the FIRST person to say how women need to accept themselves for who they are (I actually did a Tedx Talk on it), to be proud of their bodies, to love themselves for their accomplishments, to understand that beauty is so much more than what is reflected back in the mirror.  And believe you me, I try!  However, when you are bombarded with gorgeous young women in the media, while ads for older women are all about staying young, you begin to figure out that young equals better in our society.  Why??  I don’t get it.

Confession:  during the summer of the breakdown I had, I did something I regret terribly.  It was just a few weeks before everything went to hell:  I had a face lift.  Yep.  I did.  J had mentioned something his mom said about my age, and I became extremely self-conscious about it (actually, I still am:  old habits, or in this case messages, are hard to break).  I went to a plastic surgeon, something I never thought in a million years I’d do, and was talked into it.  That’s not what I went in for, but the doc made it sound like the answer to all my woes.  So, I had a 90 minute surgery where the doc literally cut my face from ear to ear, pulled down the skin (you can gag…I’ll wait), stitched up my facial muscles, and then put in 22 staples AND 22 stitches to re-attach my skin.

eye of the beholder

And my reward?  Paying this guy $5000 for the pleasure of sleeping upright in my ma’s chair for a week straight, not being able to talk (for some reason, ma wasn’t too upset by this…hmmm) not being able to open my mouth to eat which required ma to pour soup down my gullet, not being able to shower well since I couldn’t get my face wet, having so many bruises I looked like Rocky after being pummeled by Apollo Creed, and being in a lot of pain.  It hurt like hell.

But, I figured all of this was worth it if J liked the results (remember, he’s significantly younger than I am).  Well…that was a fiasco in itself.  I had the surgery while he was on maneuvers with the National Guard and was told by him that he wouldn’t be able to text or call me during this time.  I was mostly healed when he got home and…wait for it…he broke up with me to be with his ex girlfriend.  By the way, he texted and called her during the entire month he was gone.  Sigh.

I can’t tell you how much I regret that fucking surgery.  Not because I felt coerced into it, but because I HATE that I did something so drastic to look younger again.  For piss sakes, I’m 53.  53!!  I’ve done a lot in that time.  I’ve put my body through hell.  I’m a hard worker; I’ve always taken care of my yard, the house maintenance, painting, digging, planting, etc. and my hands show it.  I’ve had a baby (quite large I might add) who I adore with all my heart.  I’ve taught for 25 years.  I’ve been through 3 divorces (another eye roll).  I’ve earned these wrinkles…and God knows I deserve them.

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Me…wrinkles and all.  🙂

I’m trying so hard to be ‘real’ in my life now.  No masks.  No lies when I’m asked how I am.  No pretty stories to sugarcoat having this…say it with me…fucking bastard of a mental illness.  I’m living genuinely…authentically…and it’s about time.  50 years of hiding who I am was exhausting.  No wonder I have wrinkles.

As my magic potions run out, I’m not going to replace them.  I’m going to take care of me like I should, but I’m done trying to turn back the clock.  If I want people to accept my inside, I need to learn to accept my outside.  Yes, we live in a youth oriented culture.  Yes, people lose their value as they age.  Yes, women are held up to the standards of perfection.  But let me tell you something:  I’m still valuable and I’ll always be a million miles away from perfect no matter what I do.  But I’m me.  Finally me.  And it feels really good.

Kristi xoxo

Definitely Underwear. From K-Mart. (The Rainman)

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately and what all can we change in ourselves, if anything.  There is a lot of change we control: we change our underwear, our taste in clothes, our skin with tattoos, our body with piercings, our brand of deodorant, our hair style or color or both, and the list goes on and on!  (P.S.  If you don’t change your underwear, we need to have a natter.)

But, can we change who we are?  Parts of our personality?  Our ‘core’ to where the changes are actually set, and the old ones washed away?  Hmmmm.  Here’s what I think:  change is a possibility, but not a likelihood for a lot of things.

I believe our personalities are developed during early childhood and are very much influenced by our parents and early experiences.  Yes, we are born with a temperament and have hereditary traits which can impact this development, but I am convinced that nurture outweighs nature by a significant amount.

I also have to think about the impact of mental illness.  Can we change parts of us, or do our mental illnesses dominate so much of who we are it’s just not possible.  Take my impulsivity (I mean actually take it away from me and toss it in a bin).  I hate it because it makes me blurt things out without thinking or do things without taking into consideration the consequences.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Money is a good example!  I see something…I get it!  Then later, I worry about the spending and feel guilty.  So, how do I change this?  This impulsiveness is much much worse during manic cycles, and I often feel so ‘high’ I can’t see anything else but the minute I’m living in.  Last summer, I painted my big, wooden, expensive bed a God-awful color and glued glass stones from the Dollar Tree all over it.  After I came down, I thought: What the fuck did I do??

I would really love love love to change how sensitive I am.  How I react to things so strongly, when others can simply brush them off.  Hearing a criticism is devastating to me.  I might have 20 students give me perfect reviews, while another writes a scathing one.  I cry over that one and can’t see the positives.  Mouthing off to someone makes me feel so bad, I ruminate over it for days and apologize to them again and again.  Relationships are the same way:  when I love, I love way too hard and am so sensitive to my partners moods, comments, and behavior.  As a result of this, I am very good at taking personal blame for things…even when logically I know I shouldn’t.

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From scientificamerican.com

Now, the question is this:  can I change my sensitivity?  Is this a genetic trait that’s pre-wired in me?  Or, is this a result of my bipolar (which also is centered in my brain)?  And if so, is change possible?  Can I just turn off that switch in my brain labeled “Kristi’s Emotion” and be done with this piece of me that causes so many of my tears to be shed?

And let’s say I find that switch and turn the damn thing off.  Is it REALLY off?  Will it come back in times of stress?  Is the ‘shut off’ permanent, or can it be flicked on again easily?

What else do I want to change in me?  I think it would be my ineptness (thank the lord for the online thesaurus I use) in forming friendships.  I can’t do it.  I’ve said it before: I’ve always been different from other people.  I felt it in Kindergarten…truly.  I’d see the girls playing with the kitchen set and I’d go join in, but I felt like an outsider.  Like I was looking through a window at what everyone else was doing and then would try to imitate their behavior.  I’d be invited to slumber parties throughout elementary and Jr. High and all of the girls would have their besties there.  I never had one.  It would be just me; so to be noticed, I created this HUGE personality!  I’d be the loud one who would do any dare.  The funny one.  The weird one.

I had a couple of good friends in High School, but I wasn’t their bestie.  As an adult, I can honestly say I had 1 really good friend for about 7 years.  We did so much together but her bestie lived about 60 miles away, and when she would visit my friend, I was put aside.  Ouch.

So how can I change this?  Am I truly different inside, but could change it with enough work?  Is this feeling of being different a part of my bipolar and anorexia?  Obviously, both of these make me very different!  Or is this difference just something I feel, but isn’t true in the eyes of others?  If I take off the mask I see in the mirror, would it change my awkwardness?

oval brown wooden framed hanging mirror
Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer on Pexels.com

But I also wonder this:  do we really need to worry about if or how we can change, or instead just learn to live with who we are?  Be happy in our own skin?  Accept our challenges?

I feel like we live in a society where being different is bad.  Right?  It’s almost like there’s an expectation to look a certain way, emote a certain way, act a certain way.  And anything that deviates from that is ‘WRONG’.  But, what if those of us that are different are the ones that are RIGHT?  What a kick in the ass that would be!  What if I’m just brave enough to show my sensitivity?  Isn’t it a good thing to be sensitive (maybe not to the degree I am, but still…)?  And my impulsiveness?  That’s helped me accomplish a lot of things in my life I might never have done. And being different from the other girls and people in my life as an adult might mean I’m not a sheep following the herd.  Maybe I’m the sheep that’s taking my own path through the meadow and sees flowers the others have trampled on.

So, maybe instead of asking about whether we can fundamentally change, we should be asking:  how do I celebrate these things in me and just try to have a bit more control over them.  Doesn’t that make more sense?  Wouldn’t it be great if all of us with mental illnesses could look in the mirror and say ‘Hey, I am what I am.’  Use our differences to educate others?  Let people see we accept ourselves, illnesses and all? Isn’t that a HUGE step in them accepting us too?

I’m 53 fucking years old.  I don’t think I’m going to be able to radically change this Kristi that I am.  However, I think I could change the way I accept this Kristi who’s been with me on my journey in this life…through the good and the bad.  When I think about it, she’s taken care of me pretty well.  Maybe I’ll take her shopping for new fancy underwear today; I think she deserves it.

Kristi xoxo