Thursday, March 27, 2003

I am feeling much better. Several days of paying attention to the basics have done the trick. As usual. When all else fails -- when no activity brings pleasure -- try scut work. You'll appreciate it later.

I've been considering the pleasures of cosmetics. I don't wear any. I watched Legally Blonde again yesterday. It's an excellent text against discrimination against the blonde and fashion conscious. There are a few subcultures where there is discrimination against the beautiful, after all. And all those blonde jokes show it might have been spreading to the wider culture. Good thing Legally Blonde came along to nip it in the bud.

It's the kind of film I like. Unexpected, funny, well-crafted, smart. I enjoyed spending a couple hours watching it with Grandma yesterday, and she laughed too.

So let's consider the message that fashion and intelligence can coexist in a single woman.

First response -- of course they can. Second response -- where did the idea that this is unlikely come from?

It seems many people have run into women who have beautiful surfaces and not much else going on. We've seen plenty of them in the movies too -- it's a well-worn video fiction type. And in the seventies -- my own formative years, the decade of truth -- a nation suffering from Vietnam and Watergate rejected appearances, in search of something more substantive. Perhaps it was television as well that brought the realization of how easily appearance could differ from reality. And so an aesthetic of natural, untampered faces accompanied much of the women's movement.

There are real advantages to not using make-up. You save time in the morning and money at the market. Your face advertises your attachment to the contingent that avoids false appearances. Quite important in my case, you are much less likely to have skin reactions to allergens. And I like the feel of uncoated skin better too.

Subtly and crucially, leaving my face as it is affirms that I am good enough as is. I do not require outside aid to be acceptable -- and it's rare enough that I run into a circumstance where I feel pressured for that choice now. (Not shaving my legs is a different story. For another blog.)

On the other hand, where would the world be if no one tried to create beauty? And that is what wearing make-up is for many women -- creating beauty. I cannot fault that.

For others, it is a way of caring for themselves -- a pleasant luxury that leaves them feeling better about themselves. And I cannot fault that either.

So once again, diversity and tolerance are the best policies. Anyone surprised?

Monday, March 24, 2003

All right. When things aren't working, go back to the basics.

Hygiene -- check. I haven't fallen far enough to stop washing, dressing, and brushing my teeth.

Sobriety -- check. I am not regularly ingesting any mood altering substances, and by grace, I've never failed this checkpoint. Unless you count chocolate.

Home care -- check. The house is a little less clean and orderly than I prefer, but there are no leaks or holes. We have clean clothes and clean dishes. All within the normal range.

Diet -- hmmm. Getting a bit too many prepared foods and too much dairy, too few vegetables. Slight loss of balance here. I'll see what I can do about that.

Exercise -- better than usual. We joined a health club, and have actually improved the frequency and quality of our exercise. This should help in the long run, though it may be a stress in the short term.

Sleep -- getting enough hours, but not waking as rested and energetic as I'd like. Hmmm.

That seems to cover the physical needs. A couple things to work on, no huge red flags.

So, where's Maslow when you need him? What's next?

Ah, Google. Thanks.

The next level is security needs.

Safety -- check. I do not feel threatened in health, life, or ability to meet my physical needs. Although there is a war on, I'm reasonably certain that I will not be attacked. And although the economy is poor, I'm reasonably certain I will still be able to afford food and shelter.

Ah, the next level is the emotional/social level. Now here is where it all breaks down. I have my husband, who is unbelievably great, my best friend, my daily support, my fellow adventurer. I have my family, and we enjoy seeing each other now and then and would absolutely come to each other's aid in times of trouble. But I haven't got a single person I can call to go out for lunch. I know no one that I feel would actually care to listen to my problems. I don't belong to a group that shares my interests and appreciates me for who I am. And this is a sore point. (poke, poke, ouch.) I have joined a couple groups since moving here -- I just haven't felt as included as I did in the ones I left behind.

The next level is esteem. I've already written about my difficulties telling whether my creations are any good. I very often have no confidence in the quality of my writing, my singing, my homemaking and all the other things I do. Sometimes I think I've done something good, and the next day, it looks like trash. Some days I think I'm fairly competent, and others I wonder why no one has shot me yet for being such a burden on the planet.

I hear a lot of writers suffer those ups and downs.

Strangely, some days, I feel I've made it to the top level. I've had hours of clarity, when I feel I am becoming the best person I can be and improving the world with the gifts that were mine alone to offer. I remember a few of those moments.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do about not having a local friend or group. I've tried several avenues, so far without success, and at the moment, I can't think of any more to try.

So back I go to the basics. Home, food, sleep. And maybe tomorrow I'll wake up with a solution, or I'll learn of another group to try, or I'll connect suddenly with someone who shares my interests.

And I do feel better, just for taking the inventory.

Best wishes to all. Anna Paradox.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I've just watched the Oscars. There, the glitter of America dresses up and shows its human side.

The Oscars make me feel better. They're a beautiful celebration of art. And beauty and art are tonics. They strengthen the spirit.

And more than that, they celebrate the diversity and vision of our country. Discrete pins and word choices map out political divisions. Disagreements may bring boos -- but boo is a word, and words are the forum I like to see our differences worked out in.

We have learned compassion. Even those protesting the war speak appreciation for our soldiers. It is brave and noble to put your life on the line for your country. And where did we learn to honor the service, even when we cannot honor the cause? From movies. And where did we learn that the other side is people too? From movies.

So I salute Nicole Kidman, for saying the movies matter. I salute the wearers of the dove pin, and Michael Moore, who can be counted on to stir things up. I salute freedom of speech.

And I salute our soldiers. May they come home soon.