Saturday, 7 June 2014

Getting me back to me

Reading: Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Listening to: "Why Pt. 2" by Collective Soul
Outside: A balmy English evening

Not long ago I happened to glance at myself in a mirrored picture frame that hangs above my child's changing table. I noticed something in my face had changed. Something was there that wasn't there before. Or maybe something was missing. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was. Maybe the split-ends of neglected mouse-brown hair? Or - after a year without seeing a drop of wax - my eyebrows had gotten out of control, broad and flat and uninspiring? Were those early weeks of sleepless nights finally catching up on me? I thought to myself: my daughter is nearly six months old. That morning, at approximately 7:58 am, I decided, it's time to have a pamper day.

Is that my face?

So I opened up Google. I phoned and arranged appointments at the local salons.

I did this because enough was enough. For nearly six months I had strung myself onto the rack of worry, twisting it up tight for days and nights of fretting, wondering whether my daughter's every last freckle was a sure sign of meningitis, or maybe, despite my first-time-parent obsessive eagle eye, she would just die for no reason. (The heatwave didn't help - I was wringing my hands over whether I should wrap her in a blanket overnight, because that's how she normally slept, perhaps the holes in the receiving blanket were supposed to be scientifically designed to breathe through a seventy-eight degree nursery. I oscillated between that and the absolute certainty I was most surely smothering her to death.)

How can someone live like this? I asked myself.
And my self said, You can't.
Hence a pamper day.

It was like someone took a crowbar and prized me off of the rack of worry. Straps unbuckled one by one. They pulled me off and threw me on the floor and said, "You will GO OUT THERE and you will enjoy yourself and you will LIKE IT." They made me appointments to attend, they wrapped me in one of those sheets with sleeves and shoved me into a hair stylist's chair and then asked me How do you want to look? Who do you want to be? 

I want to be me, I said.

Only I didn't really know who that was. Not anymore.

Because I am not only the daughter and the sister and the lover and the friend that I used to be (although these things I still am). I am still the wife, now going on two years in October.

I'm the fledgling mother, twisted and scarred with worry.

So I got the whole nine. Trim, highlight and dyed purple tips. Nothing says "I'm a new person" like purple-tipped hair. I got the manicure, the pedicure. I returned home with my new bangs wafting in the breeze, my nails shellacked, my eyebrows whipped back into shape.

I never felt so...

It took six hours of pamper time to learn that my daughter is fine in the care of my mother-in-law. That my daughter is fine, period.

Perhaps all mothers go through this at the six month mark. Maybe they learn that their child will tell them if something's wrong. Maybe they learn to trust their own instincts for once. Maybe, after so much tension, they learn to trust themselves.

So that night, after a whirlwind day of foils and hairdryers, straighteners and nail-polish and hot wax, I emerged a new woman. I walked back to the rack and it crumbled to dust before my mind's eye.

I held my girl again, singing her to sleep. At the end of my big day, I was still just the very same to her. But with better hair and polished nails. At the end of my song she raised her head from my shoulder and she looked right at me. Her eyes seemed to drink me in, every last detail - these new perfect eyebrows, this flawless face - and she smiled. In the twilight coming in through the window, she looked like a baby picture of me, warm and breathing.

For one split second, she was me.

This girl that didn't want to sleep but just wanted to look, smiling big in the moonlight, this happy little thing. And I couldn't help but laugh. My first real laugh in many months. I threw my head back and laughed, a full belly-laugh, and for the first time ever, she laughed right back.

Oh what a sound that was. My baby-self laughing. The sound of pure joy.

Maybe she was all I needed to get me back to me.

(However a good pamper day never goes amiss.)

Happy Saturday, my dear readers!

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