Landing Comfortably Between the Extremes

I’ve been feeling really down about this pandemic the past few days, as the numbers swing upwards again. It was taking too much energy to feel sorry for myself, though, so I decided to create a list of good things that will come from several more months of “safer-at-home” orders. My list didn’t get very far though: I’m saving wear and tear on my dress shoes. I haven’t had to buy Tic Tacs for weeks. I won’t be needing to reorder make-up anytime soon.

Like many creatives, I’m not that great at making lists. My mind too easily wanders. And when I wrote down that last item it got me thinking. . . I’ve been wearing make-up consistently since I was first allowed to in the eighth grade. Whereas my two daughters never became dependent on make-up, I did. They’ve sometimes dared me to go even to the grocery store without it, and until the coronavirus hit, I hadn’t had the guts to try.  Now, on those days where there’s not so much as a Zoom call scheduled, I’ve been going without make-up. And here’s what I’ve discovered.

When I was a teenager, my mom and my aunts scolded me for touching my face. That was how you messed up your make-up or worse, got pimples. And the more you touched your face in your youth, the more likely you’d be to have dark circles or bags under your eyes as you aged. I took their advice to heart and broke that nasty habit.

How odd it feels now to rub my eyes like a three-year old when I feel tired or to cry freely without fear of running my mascara. And I’ve gained a few minutes in my day by not applying or removing make-up. Not to mention all the money I’ll save. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to experiment a little too. What do I look like with just mascara? How about just mascara and blush? How about mascara and eye shadow only?

Last week was the first week in many, many years in which there were no meetings, calls, or speaking gigs on my calendar. A wide-open week. Plain and unadorned, like my face. Though it felt disconcerting, I thought I’d lean into it anyway and see how my days changed when there was no schedule to dictate my actions. I checked some long overdue tasks off my list and moved forward on a few projects, but I also wandered aimlessly around the house a lot and complained about feeling bored.

Derek Sivers said in a recent interview that he likes to throw himself into something for a while and see how it feels (like living a minimalist life) and then throw himself into the opposite to see how that feels (he bought a bigger house and more stuff). Once he’s tried both, he knows which feels better or how to land comfortably between the two.

This pandemic has forced me to try working less (after years of working far too much). And it’s given me the opportunity to test my boundaries around personal appearance. It’s clear now those are not things I would have tried on my own.

As artists of all kinds, we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves during this bizarre time in history. And when all is said and done, I hope we’ve figured out how to land comfortably between the extremes that have dictated our lives. What would that look like for you?

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