Paying Attention

  •  Maida Korte

            “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”  Coco Chanel

            Two times in my life I have had a friend offer to do a make-over on me.  Two times.  And these offers were in close proximity to each other.  I can take a hint – so I muffled an ‘okay I think…..’ and settled in for the first one.  At the time I didn’t wear make-up because I told myself that beauty comes from within. The trouble with this philosophy on self-care is that what was showing on the outside was proof that either this ideology was flawed or that my ‘within’ was taking on wrinkles, splotches and a downward pull. 

            She arrived, this friend.  This beautiful, coiffed picture of poise and elegance.  She brought with her an army of products and I am sure she had visions of ‘Miss Congeniality’ in her lovely head, but I could tell that upon looking me over decided I didn’t have the hair, the face or the body.  But no matter, she was a warrior and girded her loins and all business said, “Let’s get to work.”  It went smoothly until she tried to put lipstick on me and I kept laughing because it tickled.  Finally, though I could detect a wisp of exasperation, she tricked me into looking out the window “Oh!  See that bird!” and she smeared lipstick on me suddenly in a broad slash of bright red.  Excitedly and brandishing a voila mentality, she spun me around to look at myself in a tiny mirror.  I was unrecognizable. 

            After she left I took a shower and did feel renewed as I watched the red lipstick stain the bottom of the tub while swirling down the drain.  I felt energized about makeup though and walked up to the small pharmacy and bought a neutral lip gloss.  Slowly I have embraced make-up and spend countless hours now trying to look as though I have none on. 

            The second make-over pertained to my hair.  I still feel bad.

            My hair is everything I didn’t want it to be.  When I was in Junior High-School the fashion was long and straight and parted down the middle.  My hair wouldn’t do this if it was offered a trip to Paris.  My hair, in its attempts to be long and straight, took a circuitous path thru the land of oddly shaped waves and short patches of frizz.  I offer as an example the time when visiting Washington D.C. with my girls.  We landed and immediately walked outdoors into the moist hot air, our spirits ready to experience the hallowed monuments of freedom.  In the time it took for them to turn around my girls looked at me and said, “Oh Mom.” 

            Sherry had known me and my hair for years.  She was undaunted by my fine, thin, wavy, frizzy natural do.  She would do something different and give me mindful curls.  Her word.  Mindful curls.  ‘We’ll see,’ I thought.   She proceeded to create bangs and a style that allowed my hair to be itself but tame-able. I was beginning to think that maybe we have something here when she spun me around and said in a bright and cheerful voice, “Let’s not neglect the back!”  I had been neglecting the back for years.  I could not imagine having the courage to care for the back of my hair when the front occupied so much of my mental energy.  So Sherry taught me to pay attention.

            I want to be present for my family.  By being present I am paying attention.  I am seeing each daughter and I tell them this.  I see you.  I don’t just see you in relation to your husband, or your children, or what you do, or what you have.  I see you.  I am seeing my friends and I tell them this.  I see you.  I see how much you give to others, to me, to life.  I see people around me trying, learning, growing and sometimes groaning.  I see you.  I am paying attention to the nuances and subtleties, to the grave and great ideas, to the multitude of minutiae that comes at us in a steady stream.  By paying attention I can choose yes, this, no, that, perhaps and possibly something else.  I pay attention to what is behind me so that I can launch into the future equipped and prepared to choose good and noble things.  Thank you Sherry.  I will not neglect the back.    

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