Life, Love and Lipstick!
By T. Myers
Well, here we are! Enjoying the event and the theme of “Life, Love and Lipstick” and because I fancy myself a writer- (That means a person who is always looking in at-instead of out from!). I have taken some time to analyze the meaning of today’s theme and I get to share my vision with this captive audience! When you have a big theme like Life, Love and Lipstick it relates to each of your own lives- and to mine.
When I was a philosophy major, I loved Kierkegaard. He said, “Life can only be understood backwards; unfortunately it can only be lived forward.” It’s true. We become great armchair quarterbacks, right? Professing our knowledge about different topics or issues?
We all go through life in different ways, too. Some of us are lucky- and some of us not so lucky. Some of us get lifted up while others get battered and pushed around by authority figures, by people, or by circumstance. There is one lucky thing about me… I know who I am, I have possessions that let me see where I come from and support me in my curiosity about life. I have pets and people in my life that ring my bells and I can be sarcastic, compassionate or reflective and I get to express myself on a regular basis.
For me? I get up each morning and plan my assault on the day. Because of that, I have had to learn when the adrenaline kicks in: There is fight or flight mechanism in all of us. At my age it is more like a “fight or die” mechanism. And the adrenaline thing? That leads to figuring out what type of person you are. An A or a B?
I am an A. The best way to explain it is to give you an example: I figured it out years ago when I was still married. I had slept through the alarm and was late getting up. I put on the coffee, pushed the dog out the door and threw out the cat to do their business while I showered and dressed. I drank my coffee and spilled cereal milk down the front of my blouse and had to change clothes. Then I called in the dog and the cat. Dog came in and no cat, but I was late so I gathered up my briefcase, car keys, travel mug and left for work. I backed the car out of the driveway and started down the street. There was my cat lying in the road. I could not believe it! I had to throw him outside to go do his business! It was my fault he was lying there in the road. Dead! Still warm! Poor Kitty!
I picked my cat up and ran back to the house. By then my hubby was up and he joined me at the kitchen counter to cry and talk to the cat. We petted and praised him through our tears and then my husband started to laugh. Maniacally!
“What do you think you are you doing?” I asked.
“This isn’t out cat, honey,” he answered.
Sure enough the cat on the counter did not have the distinct white mark on his chest- and then I looked at the patio slider and there was our real cat sitting there ready to come inside. What was I supposed to do? Throw him back out on the street? No. I called my office and said I would be a little while longer while I buried the cat and we dug a hole out under the catnip plants in the back yard and laid the cat to rest. I went to work feeling a little better, but still I had this dramatic sense of guilt.
What is an A? It is a person who lives life on emotional steroids. B-s? I really don’t understand B-s but I do know that a B would have realized it was not their cat and picked the cat up and set it over to the side of the road, wiped their hands with a wet nap and driven off to work! I am an A!
So when I was told about the theme of today’s event, I said, “Sure! I get it!” And, I began to plan what I wanted to share. I will start my analysis by following Kierkegaard’s advice and go backwards by starting with LIPSTICK!”
Four years ago when Sarah Palin announced that the only difference between a soccer mom and a pit bull was lipstick, the entire nation had a great laugh and since I had been a pit bull, I had some serious thoughts about being a modern woman who is taking on age in a not so graceful manner. I am 64.
And, one thing for sure, re: Lipstick? I never leave the house without it!
Putting on lipstick used to be so easy. I smeared a color on the old cake hole and it stayed until it was worn off, kissed off or eaten off with the intake of food. (Ah, youth!) My appreciation for lipstick started early. When I was sixteen, I used to go shopping at the old Lipmans’ Store in Portland. I ran into this saleswoman –always immaculately dressed in black – as were all of the retail clerks in the upscale Lipmans’ store. This particular saleswoman worked behind the cosmetics counter there and she was a very interesting woman. “Hello! My name is Miss Magda Barenov” started the day by adjusting her coiffure (remember the hairspray and head wraps?)- I was to learn later that she had it freshly done each Wednesday in the store salon. She would carefully dress in one of her form fitting black dresses and black heels and seamed stockings. Her make-up was done with certain flair, too. Of course, because she sold for the Estee Lauder and Alexandra De Markoff lines- one a high end line and the other, the highest end cosmetic line.
I always went to town each week and loved to watch her work. She was ethnic with a thick eastern European accent and an immigrant background. She would explode with each sentence and spit tiny particles of saliva into the air as she spoke. But that was not the real reason I liked to watch her.
The real reason was to observe what happened to her mouth. You see, the woman carefully applied a bright red shade of lipstick to her mouth each morning. She powdered it and blotted it; I am sure, because she taught everyone how to do that when they picked out a lipstick from her two lines.
Unfortunately, for her and all of her customers, her middle aged mouth no longer was contained inside the outlines of her lips and powdering it still let it creep up the tiny cracks above and below her lips so that she had red lips that appeared to be stitched on with red thread!
Before she went to her lunch break I would see her take a tissue out of the cleavage between her heavy breasts, dab it with liquid from a bottle she kept at her counter and wipe her mouth- effectively erasing the red stitching and when she returned from her break, there was fresh red lipstick in place for the afternoon. She did the same wiping thing before her coffee breaks and before she left for the day.
I really think she was totally unaware of her red stitched mouth until one late morning in mid-summer when several of my girlfriends came with me to shop. We stopped for a squirt of perfume and she, recognizing me as the customer I had become, she began her greeting, her spitting and her intense sales pitch of teenage products that were soon to be available in a new Clinique line. Hoping to prevent the inevitable and disrespectful giggles and worse, I got her attention touched my mouth and turned the mirror on the counter to her to point out her red stitches.
She glanced over and realized- to her horror- that she was a cartoon of the person she wanted to be and she immediately pulled out one of the tissues she had tucked away in her bosom and wiped her mouth. Then, in a heartbeat, classy lassie that she was, she turned the horror into a teachable moment for all of us.
“You see, girls,” the exuberant woman explained to all of us, “When a woman becomes a certain age, her tissues of the mouth break down and her lips thin out so that she needs to be very careful about the application of lip color. You will need to remember to exercise your lips and then put a foundation base on under your lip color. Eventually you will need to buy a professional lip liner to keep your lips drawn in a clean line. You will have to paint your face on. I have just discovered that I will need to add my own face to that list of women who need extra work to keep my lips in check.”
I never saw her red stitched lips again and she acknowledged my help by taking me in as a prodigy of sorts as I went through college and into adulthood. When Lipmans’ closed, Magda retired. I do not know what happened to her after she left Portland for Southern California to live with her younger sister. But, I did learn about what make-up, especially high quality make-up can do for a woman with Magda’s help and I learned to pay attention to how dated a woman can become when she does not pay attention to the changes in her face and changes in make-up fashion colors.
I eventually went into theater where I learned that lips need lipstick to help the audience understand what you are saying.
Lipstick? – always!
Love: When I had cancer twenty years ago, I learned what love was. It was not the romantic white knight carrying me off into the sunset on a silver stallion kind of love. It was not what I expected at all! Not to say that I had no idea what love was before that point. I just had the usual popular understanding of different kinds of love and how that love worked as a wife, mom, daughter, girlfriend, sibling, pet owner or friend…
Love turned into a lot of different definitions of affection and support.
When I was really ill, sometimes it was the look from my visiting children. The question mark on my youngest daughter’s face when she had these things burning inside her that she wanted to know but was afraid to ask. You know that face?-The tenuous smile and bravado to keep strong because ‘Mom needed it’ whether she understood what that meant- or not.
There was also that jar of soup from the lady who lived next to me when I stayed in a house way out in Beaverton so I could get to the hospital for chemo more easily. She would lace it with lemon and celery, because that is what had worked for her when she went through her cancer treatments. I referred to it as Puckered Chicken soup and it probably started the process that cured me!
My Senior Students from the Sandy Senior Center that studied music, band and drama with me for seven years at Mount Hood Community College, were always in my classes every Monday- the one good day in my week before I went back to the hospital for chemo every Tuesday. They brought me vegetables they grew, made me tea cozies and other hand- made items to show their love to me. And, they prayed for me.
Going through a divorce and chemo at the same time made it hard for my personal friends who knew the both of us. Some used it as an excuse to avoid me (Big C) and I lost them, but those who did stay close opened up tiny cracks in my skeptical and hardened heart and snuggled down inside to make my heart a better place to collect love- and in turn a better heart to offer love to others.
I was already 40 years old and it was the first time that I had taken time to consider the little bit of time we have on earth and I made promises to keep up with the people who gave me love when I needed more of it and I promised to take the time it takes to offer love when my friends need it.
Actually, love became a four letter word that is synonymous with miracle.
Prayers, good wishes, and amazing support from people I did not even know, kept me alive. (Well, that and a promise I made in anger to tap dance on my ex-husband’s grave before I died!) I felt that God had a plan for me/ I had no idea what that could mean, but I was alive for a reason and it was because of LOVE.
So I knew how to put on make-up and create a face that would give me confidence. I knew about love. And I learned that it was not always reciprocal. It wasn’t always everything you dreamed of, but it had the power to keep you alive and hold you in the palm of its hand.
So what is left?LIFE, of course!
After a serious illness, a person realizes that life is tenuous at best.
Life becomes a precarious balance (teeter-totter) between the day to day things that each of us does every morning, noon and night with the on-going and special activities we involve ourselves with through time as we make our way through our days here on earth.
Life turns into a blend of the wonder that is unfolded before us with our personal discoveries throughout our own existence and the expectations of the people we bump up against as we travel. Let’s take a look at those bumps in the road!
When we are babies, the parents who take care of us and see to our needs begin to form us as people. We demand that we be fed, changed and nurtured, and if we are lucky, we build a sense of self that allows us to handle the people in the world around us. Our first bump will probably be a sibling- one that takes attention away from us or that we take attention from. How the folks handle the brother or sister thing will be the start of how we are able to handle relationships later in life. (Now that I think about it that is another fascinating story- in my life, anyway.)
Our next bump is going to school. Leaving the safety of the nest and flying into the arms of others who care take and others who you need to share space and “Things” with! Perish the thought that you will need to learn to interact with all the speed bumps at school.
By the time you have a handle on school, there is that first crush or case of puppy love that will often seem more like a mountain than a bump, but it proves to be a necessary part of life so that we know how to find all of the other chosen loved ones who will treat us with love and disrespect through the next phases of our lives.
Then we leave school and find that special someone who completes us. We add our own family or create a group of friends that become family and we continue our walk through life thinking that we have forever to do all of those things we have dreamed about doing and we go on whistling a happy tune until a shoe drops!
It might be age, a cheating spouse, a tragic accident, a serious illness or a combination of all of these things that finally catches our attention until we are forced to come to the realization that we humans have the same problems and concerns wherever we live, whatever we do, however we choose to make our way down life’s highway.
And, as long as we remember that the speed bumps are places to stop and think before continuing our journey, each of us will end up understanding that LIFE has never been about where you end up, but about how you got there. The journey is the thing!
So I have a few questions to ask you:
Do you have anything you love- really love? Be sure you make time for it.
Do you spend more time thinking about the life you’ve already lived or do you think about looking forward to the new adventures that are coming your way? Living in the past means your life is over!
Have you experienced some of life’s greatest losses and sorrows? (Loss due to: illness, death, divorce, career, finances, independence, physical mobility?) If you have, lucky you! Because until you do experience great loss, you cannot possibly understand life’s greatest joys and happiness like marriage, birth, personal achievements and accomplishments that make you proud to be a person!
Are you always ready for a new adventure? Are they spontaneous or cumbersomely planned? Go home and pack a DASH bag with everything you will need for a fast trip and put it in the closet to grab when needed!
Do you still dream about life’s possibilities? It is so hopeful to dream. (Consider Annie Mae. The homeless lady in the play French Fries– She dreams about living in McDonalds because it is so clean ‘God gave us plastic so we would know what the everlasting really is!’)
Do you still question everything? Questions lead to answers! Answers lead to changes and changes are the future!
So here’s the deal! There are always things to ask about and answer but ultimately,
LIFE is about living.
Don’t let your fears keep you from doing things. When you try different things and fail- at least you have tried things. Who knows, sometimes you might succeed.
Life is about living.
(This one is the hardest one for me) When you isolate yourself and act as though you can get along without the help of your community, there will be a point when you will need the rest of us to pull up your boots or get you to the doctor. Maybe while you are still independent, you should start reaching out to others and making them part of your inner circle and increase the safety of all of you. Make sure you have a buddy to check on and who will check on you. When you need them, your friends will be there.
Life is about living.
For you joiners and doers. Make sure you take a look at what you are able to accomplish and if you find that you are unable to make a real difference in the activities you are involved with, and community involvement is an important part of your personal belief system, withdraw. Take a break from what you have volunteered for and after your time out find an activity or two where what you do will matter. Focus on them so you achieve the goals you want to accomplish.
Life is about living.
Write handwritten letters and handwritten cards and send them through the snail mail so recipients can hold them and read them over again and think of you. Next to a hug or speaking your loved ones names out loud to them in person, a hand-written letter is the closest thing you can do!
Life is about living.
Eat well, sleep more and share laughter every day.
Oops! There is a Ta Dah for you! Life is really about laughter.
With laughter you can live, you can love and it won’t matter what shade of lipstick you wear!
So my advice for when you leave here today?
- · Laugh while you live your life
- · Laugh while you love- well maybe not while you make love, but… hold on you know what I mean
- And, as I remind my gal pals, wear lipstick so your lips don’t become flat tires- or worse, end up in stiches!
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