July 2011 Archives

Skipping Past Middle Age

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The new haircolor, but all the old wrinkles.

Yesterday I experienced a difficult blow to my self-image and ego.

I was at a photo shoot for what will be a national ad campaign in Japan. I was thrilled to get the gig; it was my first official, not-for-a-friend modeling job. I was asked to bring my hoops and sports shoes to the shoot. Yay, me hooping in an ad! How exciting. When I arrived at the venue, I got some details on how big this is going to be - the ads will appear in the trains, on the outsides of the trains, on huge billboards in Tokyo and Osaka...everywhere, basically. You won't be able to miss me and the other three models.

Which is maybe not such a great thing, after all. As it turns out, my hoops were not necessary. I was costumed, bewigged and made up to represent the old lady in this campaign. The makeup artist, Kanzo, did a stellar job tracing the lines in my face with shading pencils. I looked like an older version of me - natural, but aged 25 years. 

And that was really painful. The job was a huge amount of fun, but that they could envision me as a 70 year old when I barely feel 30 on the inside was a slap in my wrinkly face. My expectation for this shoot had been to be a sporty middle aged lady, not a grandmother. While I was sitting in the makeup chair, I was able to set my mind into "I am an actress, this is a role. I am the vessel of their creative output," which helped a bit but at the end of the day, it all sunk in and I was stressed and unhappy.

You might be laughing about my fragile ego. And yes, I am laughing, too. But step into my shoes for a minute. Imagine you turn up for a new job. Your new boss sees some aspect of yourself that you know in your heart but don't really like to acknowledge - you are a bit overweight, or you talk loudly - and he uses it for his purpose. "Oh, hey, you're a bit chunky, so I'll just add a little padding to enhance your beer gut and you'll be perfect for our management team." 

So now maybe you aren't laughing? You might even be questioning your self-perception. Just like I was.

I know that I will get over this soon enough, either by releasing my ego or re-establishing my self-image, and get on with life as usual. I have the resilience of youth and the wisdom of experience! But in the meantime I am dying my hair to a "normal" color that is nothing near to white, and I am considering how I can hide in my house during September, which is when the campaign runs.





Towelkets

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Allow me to introduce you to one of my summer necessities, the towelket. I cannot imagine this season without these lightweight cotton terry blankets. They are perfect for sleeping on and under in the sticky Tokyo heat. I splashed out and bought new ones yesterday and realised I've never seen them outside Japan.

Japan has a very strong towel lobby (weird, but true), so you see toweling everywhere in daily life - from the damp oshibori offered before meals to specially folded and sewn cleaning cloths. Thin rectangular Japanese bath towels appear not only in the bath, but also at outdoor venues as scarves and bandannas to keep sweat away. People give towels as gifts at funerals and other formal occasions. In summer, men and women alike carry tiny terry handkerchiefs to dab at perspiration. And my friends, the towelkets, come out to play on hot summer nights.

Have you ever had a towelket outside Japan?

Art Therapy

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Two days in a row this week I was feeling wildly out of sorts: trapped and self-absorbed and generally bad. Was the heat to blame? Lack of exercise? I couldn't quite figure it out, so I did my own personal art therapy. I sat down with my sketchbook yesterday morning and doodled the things that were troubling me, labeled them with the feeling I had about each, and then in a stroke of insight realised I could also write down how to make them better. So I did and this is what I came up with:

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I posted the drawing  on Facebook. Making them public meant I acted on my own advice. Plus I got some lovely and encouraging comments from friends. (Thank you!)

By this afternoon, I have followed my own advice for each of the problems. That's what all those nice green checkmarks are about. Some happened by magic - my shoulder doesn't hurt at all today, even though I just took one Advil yesterday. Marketing my workshop has had a boost from friends reposting it on Facebook. Others were only a bit of work that yielded good results: I cleared out my closet and made a big pile for the flea market; organised playlists for my workshops; spent a lot of yen to buy a new computer to replace my old one. At lunch in an air conditioned restaurant today, I think I decided on the song for this year's World Hoop Day dance and the choreography is already moving along.

I hardest one to tackle was my body image problem. So I challenged myself and bought a bikini for our beach hoop outing this weekend. Then I put it on and levelled up the discomfort to take this picture:

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I may be a little wobbly here and there, but if this was a photo of a friend I wouldn't ever consider this a fat body. Why do I call myself fat? I'm mean and unfair and obviously not my own friend. This will continue to be a struggle, but at least I have proof now and a new beach outfit to boot.

And in addition to resolving or making progress on all of my minor life problems, I've had a couple of pleasant surprises in the last 24 hours, ranging from a delicious meal at a restaurant that was ready to close for the evening to being contacted by an old work colleague. And I've been selected for that thing I auditioned for last week.

There is power in naming your troubles, putting them out into the world and acting on them. I feel a lot better now. 

New Moon, New Month

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Today is a new moon and the start of July. I am taking the advice of my friend Heather (and several religious practices) to set intentions and begin new projects now.

If you've followed along here for any length of time, you know I like To Do lists and usually my goal setting is quite specific, measurable, and I can tell when I have achieved a goal. I reach my goal and can cross it off my list. Done! This month the less practical side of me needs some focus so I have chosen goals that are vague and connected to emotion and awareness. These are not things I can finish and cross off my list but they seem more important to me right now.  So lighthearted, mindful, compassionate, and flexible are my touchstones for July.

I will try to remember to check back in two weeks, when the moon is full to see how I am going.


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