What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Intention Scripts Experience

"We script intention into our designs, and in turn, our intention scripts our subjective experience." - Jason Silva

I look around my home at what I've designed for my family and I see three children who enjoy one another. Who want for nothing. (Except for maybe a Baby Alive doll.) Who spent the morning at the community center and are sitting on the floor in the living room, playing pretend. Who will go to the library in the afternoon and to bed with nourished bodies and clean teeth. Children who travel and know their extended family and love to watch YouTube videos.

In a city with hair and nail salons on every block, in a culture where women generally wait much longer to have kids than I did, in a neighborhood where you don't see school-aged children at the playground (unless they are with a summer camp), I am the women with unshaved legs and a toddling baby and a boy who looks bigger than his 9 years and a girl in the middle. People love to ask me, "are they all yours?" A question I cannot answer gracefully without doubting myself.

I end up feeling self-conscious. Not because of the question nor the hair on my legs (which is less of a statement and more of a symptom of busy-ness), but because I see no others mothers trying to entertain three children with an 8 year age range. Who do I think I am? I am most certainly not good at this. I most certainly lose my composure on a near-daily basis.

So I return to my intention. My intention was to be their teacher this summer. To take them on adventures around this fair city. To build memories together. But there was a learning curve. It took time to get into the groove of leaving the house every chance we got. It took time to figure out the right activities and schedules and techniques for conflict resolution. It took time to figure out how much food I would need to carry with me at all times. It took time to realize what I am attempting with my daughters and my stepson--summer camp plus home school plus school break plus sibling bonding.

Upon articulating motivations, we can better understand the process and the outcomes. Rather unconsciously, I decided to let my bohemian hippie self run the show this summer, keeping my children out of conventional structured activities and close to my side. This was the experience we needed Now. Nothing happens on accident. Including the resulting isolation and unease that pushed me back into this online world, head first. Where I have no one to answer to but myself. Where I can speak to adults. Where I can do something beyond washing and feeding and disciplining.

I see positive changes in my children, too. I see them listening better. I see them excited to get out of the house. I see them exercising their imaginations. I see them reading books, enamored by the local library. I see them making things. I see them learning at the California Academy of Sciences and engaging with nature at the Botanical Gardens and building forts in the Presidio. I see them sticking up for one another.

We engineer our experiences. Next summer, I may release control of my older children. I may maintain smooth legs. I may paint my toes. I may do more work. I may be different. But now that I understand the intentions that shaped this time, my head has cleared. I understand how I got here. I understand why it is right and important and so, so good.

This is day 12 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Finding Presence As A Work-At-Home Mother

When I got pregnant over 6 years ago, I knew I wanted to try for the best of both worlds. I wanted to work, and I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my daughter. I figured I could do this by starting my own business and working from home. I was wrong.

While I may have been home, I was not always there. I had tea to mix and invoices to bill. I had marketing to do. I had a website to manage. I tried to run the business alongside raising my kids. Literally. Which meant I did neither at full speed and I always felt spent.

Possibly my greatest regret as a mother so far is that I have not always been present for my children.

But, there's a light and a shadow side to everything. I was able to breastfeed my daughter on demand through her toddler years. We spent copious amounts of time together. We still do. She received plenty of unstructured undirected play time. Now, she has a wild imagination and she can play "pretend" like no body's business.

I had high hopes for working at home. I thought my daughter could learn a strong work ethic by seeing me work. I planned to automate most of the business so I could make money and still be at home with her AND have time (and money) to write. I thought Timothy Ferris' book, "The Four Hour Work Week," offered the perfect blueprint. I just needed to fill in the blanks. Reality proved far more complex.

When my second daughter was born, my attention became divided once again. My older one came up against a brick wall of jealousy, and I struggled to carry her over it. I could not physically care for everything and everyone. Running the tea business became a burden that ceased to pull its weight. I learned the lesson we all learn sooner or later, sometimes more than once: I needed to do what I loved most. I couldn't divide my attention into so many pieces. I needed to edit and discard.

I continue to grapple with presence. I carry around books and notebooks, hungry to read and write at every opportunity. Though the books mostly remain unopened, I like to have them close by. They bring comfort. As I mentioned in my post about winning, you never know when a thought may strike or the children may become so absorbed in their play that I can read a few lines.

Modern humans have a billion different things to do and watch and read and be. Meanwhile, a bit of undivided attention goes a long way, whether it's applied to a child or a website or a novel or a movement. When faced with a gamut of opportunity, how do we prioritize? Ideally, we do it according to love. Not prestige. Not expired ideals. Not outside expectations. Not habits. Not other people's passion. But our love and our passion.

When my daughter erupts with emotion, what she needs is my full and honest presence, with a side of snuggles. In those tender moments, I see how motherhood can be simple. But this simplicity requires, without exception, presence.

This is day 11 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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The Trick To Winning

Have you heard the old adage, "slow and steady wins the race"? This idea contradicts many a modern mindset. We like to do things quick and effectively. We like maximum productivity. I know I do. Yet parenthood often takes us on the scenic route. Winding, yet beautiful. I write stories by stealing bits of time through out the day. A few minutes of peace at the keyboard during nap time. A line in my notebook at the library, crouched on a tiny chair, my knees knocked against the toddler table. Occasionally I will carve out enough space to find the flow and discover a new arc to the story line. This so-called flow state is what fiction writers live for. This is how we get our stuff done. I dare to believe that if it weren't for the flow, novels would not get written. But when you're a full-time mother, the flow state will inevitably be interrupted by a child waking or a school pick-up or a sibling battle.

Generally, I close my notebook or my computer and I am unsatisfied. As if I haven't gotten enough done. As if I am never getting enough done.

This belief no longer serves me. I am ready to replace it with something new.

The truth of the matter, anyways, is that I do get stuff done. I have improved my writing by writing and editing and reading and writing more. I will continue to work on my craft until the time comes to publish a novel. And when I look back on these years rich with uncertainty and sweet babies, I will regret none of it. The universe gives me exactly what I need, when I need it, whether it's motivation or ambition or support or chaos or a fire under my ass or a book deal.

I think the trick is to be satisfied, even fulfilled, by little bits of progress. They add up. There is no race. The only competition is with the person in the mirror. If you never give up, you have already won.

This is day 9 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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The Summertime Blues

Motherhood has, as of late, turned me upside down. I guess I had it coming. When I became pregnant for the first time unexpectedly, I didn't have cold feet about becoming a mother. I didn't fear losing my freedom nor my body. I had a doctor who interpreted most of my pregnancy as having the potential to go very wrong, yet I carried to term and I gave birth quickly and easily, with the help of a doula rather than drugs. I nursed easily and my baby was healthy and I did not suffer from postpartum depression. My "pre-baby body" returned, I ran my organic tea business out of my home, and all was good. It was all so good. And now, it's harder. A lot harder.

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