Disclaimer: I want to start by stating that my blog is not meant to be the answer to all of your problems or the world’s problems for that matter. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned some things and accumulated a few stories. Sharing with my readers is my way of letting you in and hopefully, allowing for some thoughtful contemplation. Needless to say, if you do not agree with my point of view, it might be better just to click delete or move on.
I’m on retreat in Estoi, Portugal for a few days. Estoi is a beautiful, historically rich town in the hills not far from my home. My stomach has been a bit jittery because of COVID-19, uncertain times, economic upheaval, to name a few things, and I thought it would do Paco and I some good to spend time in the country where there is little distraction. I’m surrounded by orchards, beautiful hills, and the Algarve sun. It’s a time for reflection and calming the nerves.
I can’t get my arms around this virus. Hearing about death and the destruction of lives on a daily basis is a lot to take in. I don’t want to turn it off and become detached — I don’t want to plunge into a deep depression either. Again, it’s about balance. Balance seems to be the most important lesson I have learned as I get older. Empathy is an essential part of being human; however, too much empathy for me, means anxiety. Like everyone else, I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus. They say this is the new normal. Well I say, I don’t care for it.
What You See
Posting this photograph of myself is a bold move. When my friend Patricia took it a few weeks ago, I recoiled with disgust. She liked it, so she sent it to me even though I didn’t. I don’t like what I see at all. I know that I am 61 years old and no longer in shape, but honestly, I’d rather not look at it. I see someone who ate too much during quarantine and whose face is revealing far too much of just about everything I’m not too fond of. In my delusional mind, I’m young and still fetching. So here’s the dilemma: do I embrace the man you see in the photograph or do I continue to go along with what’s inside my head?
The answer for me is a little bit of both. I need to be grounded and aware of aging and be confident enough in my physical appearance to be comfortable presenting myself to the world. I certainly don’t want to look at a photograph of myself and give up. The good news is that after seeing this picture I decided to get rid of most of the sugar (the true killer) around my house and spend more time on the elliptical machine; fortunately, the pounds are starting to slowly disappear. There are so many things you can do to make yourself more attractive:
- dress well (even if you’re just going to the market)
- go to the gym, walk, swim, run, hike, bike . . .
- get a facial, haircut, massage — for yourself
- have work done if it makes you feel better, but don’t over do it. Have you been to the upper east side in Manhattan lately? It’s a shit show of plastic surgery gone wild.
- get a tan. Believe it or not, you can get a great tan with SPF 30
- eat healthy foods
- be with people who appreciate you for who you are
- be around people who let you know when you are at your best
- pay attention to your posture
- remind yourself that earned every line on your face
- take stock of the simple things
- sleep and take an afternoon nap if you can
Okay enough of this bullshit about me and my body. The bottom line is honesty with yourself and acceptance. Funny how those two things can change sometimes after a good night’s sleep or even better, after someone flirts with you a bit.
Please do not send me comments about how I look good in the above photograph. I hate the picture and no matter what you say, I will believe you are just trying to make me feel better. Either that or you love me so much when you look at me you only see a handsome guy. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe to be true at the moment. Don’t worry, this too shall pass. Everyone gets a free pass on self-pity right now.
Being Less Than Honest With Myself and Others
Some would say that it’s healthy or natural to tell yourself little white lies — self-preservation. Like when you look in the mirror and you think, “You look good in these jeans.” That’s not a bad thing is it? I think it’s only bad if your lie hurts someone else. For example, a friend asks you what you think of her make-up after she does her face. You know in your heart she has put on too much and she looks like a clown and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you say, “You look perfect.” She walks around the entire day with people staring at her and even sometimes laughing under their breath. She might even do it the same way the next day thinking it looks good. In this case I believe gentle truth is the way to go.
“A little less eyeliner and not-so-much foundation might highlight your beautiful features.” Or
“Take a look in the mirror and tell me what you really think of your make-up?”
Let them see where they might have gone wrong. They might not always thank you at the moment, but that’s not what friendship is about.
On the other hand, if a friend says, “Do I look fat?”
No matter what you think, the answer is, “No, you look great.”
Two very different situations; one can be fixed, the other is much more complicated. There are nice/delicate ways to let someone know that they have put on a few pounds.
“Hey Sue, I have these COVID-19 pounds I need to shed and I was thinking of doing a long in the morning, want to join me? It would do us both some good.”
“Roger, if I recall your heart has been giving you some trouble lately; remember the slimmer you are, the better it is for your heart.”
“Hey sis, mom struggled with her weight once she hit 50; we have to be careful in our family.”
It’s all about a healthy balance, good mental and emotional health, and living with yourself.
The Problem with Denial
I know a lot of people who lie to themselves by denying the truth. The shaking your head constantly does make non-truth true, it only gives you a headache. I have found that facing the truth is often difficult for a short while, however, in the long run, you save a lot of worry and angst. For example, a few years ago I had a spot of my face that looked like a pimple, but it wouldn’t heal. I looked for pictures of it on the internet and what I saw and read frightened me. Pictures showed something similar to what I had on my face and the prognosis might be skin cancer. I put the thought out of my head immediately. Not possible with the type of skin I have, Mediterranean complexion after all.
When I was willing to look closely at the growth, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The spot was getting larger and darker and it was way too close to my right eye. After more than a year, I had it checked. Sure enough it was skin cancer. Fortunately it was basal cell carcinoma, easier to treat and less dangerous than melanoma. I had surgery to cut it; scarring was minimal and it hasn’t returned. Not taking care of it for so long made me anxious. I was worrying far too much about what it could be instead of just taking care of it. A situation where being honest with myself and having it checked right away would have saved me a whole lot of worry. I learned a big life lesson from this.
Human beings are very good about lying to themselves. We do it with big things and little things. Sometimes admitting the truth, although better in the long run, can happen too late. I don’t need to outline here what I mean. Let’s just say, be honest with yourself right from the start and you’ll be a great deal better off in the short and long run.
What We Often Lie to Ourselves About
- Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
- Extra weight
- A relationship(s) that is unhealthy
- Hating our jobs
- Hating where we live
- Our disposition
- The company we keep
Is There a Solution?
I think there is: it’s called a tool box. We all need one at the ready; to tweak, fix, and overhaul. You need to yank it out whenever you start to doubt yourself or feel weak. Being human means being imperfect (sorry) and making mistakes. Knowing you have the ability to make an adjustment and move on, helps you to know things can and will improve. So if you begin to notice that you are having one or two more cocktails than you probably should, there are a few
tools you can use to get you to a better place (you can apply this tactic to many issues in your life):
- Admission is essential. You need to say out loud, “My drinking is a problem.”
- Come up with a plan to deal with the problem.
- Get some sort of help to insure that you stay on track.
- Monitor your progress daily.
- Enlist the help of a friend or expert.
- Take inventory of how addressing the problem has had a positive impact on your life.
The great thing about telling yourself the truth, is that you will begin to trust yourself. As in all relationships, trust is essential and necessary for success. If you want to love yourself, be true to yourself, and believe in yourself, you have to trust yourself; telling yourself lies will only lead to self-loathing and a downward spiral. Unfortunately, the further down that rabbit hole you fall, the more difficult it will be climb out and recover.