Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Appearance is everything

My imagination is - and always has been - robust.

Days, weeks, months, years have I dedicated to fantasies, most of which I believed to be within my reach.

Fame, fortune, and - most importantly - the mega mouthpiece those things would afford me.

Notoriety. Renown. Love. Sex. Admiration.


I have achieved none of these.

My imagination remains keen, but my prose are lacking.

It is with no pleasure whatsoever I admit I was a better writer 10 years ago.

In part because the world still lay before me then.

In part because I was practicing in one way or another every day.

In part because I didn't have my brain injury then.

But none of these parts accounts for the hole.



That was good at least.

Still, 10 years ago, at what I consider to be my intellectual and physical prime, I pursued my dreams. I wrote. I was on film sets. I was engaged. Active. Hungry.

But my success was limited...largely, I believe, due to my appearance.

I've never been ugly.

To this day, no one has ever crossed the street to avoid me because my face fills them with terror.

But I have always been what one might call "average."

To combat this, I kept up a strict exercise routine for about a decade...and my body was in wonderful shape.

I loved my form, and how strong and lean I felt in it.

But I could never overcome the handicap that was my run-of-the-mill face.

I lost roles because of it.

Industry leaders listened less because of it.

All in all, I have been consistently overlooked because the population's consensus is that there isn't much here to see.

I considered plastic surgery.

Attempted those magic transformations you see in YouTube tutorials.

But none of it was enough to overcome the banality of my features...

I didn't recognize that I was plain until middle school...and even then, I always hoped I'd grow out of it.

I'd seen the "before" pics of celebrities - how awkward their school pics were - and thought my chances of going from ugly duckling to beautiful swan were pretty good.

But middle school turned into high school, and high school to college...and as time passed it became more and more evident that this was me, take it or leave it...

I always imagined my childhood fantasies in first-person POV. So I never imagined how my face would ACTUALLY look on various scenarios. At the time, I was innocent enough not to realize the role beauty would play in my life...and the role it plays in the life of every woman.

But even in elementary school, I noticed that the girls in class who were the best liked also happened to be the prettiest, and, as you can rightly guess, that continues to be the case.

Just yesterday I was reading article wherein beautiful people tell the rest of us what it's like to be really, really ridiculously good looking.

It was about what you'd expect - you make friends easily; you're offered jobs despite not being qualified; you're stared at; you're asked out a lot; you never pay for your own drinks; you always get free stuff.

As I read, I found myself longing for that beautiful face I'd always wanted. The faces of my popular friends I'd envied. The faces of the girls who went up against me in auditions and always got the part because, though I had ore acting chops, they had a prettier face, and it was only 2 lines anyway, why not give it to the eye candy?

When casting my own short film, I chose two beautiful young women. And, despite my status as director, more credence was given to the actresses than to me by the all-male crew.

That was just the way of things.

Beauty opens doors.

And while there have been plenty of ugly famous people, most of them have been so remarkably talented that they overcame their physical shortcomings.

I acknowledge it: I am not that talented.

Which is one of about a million reasons I left the film/television industry.

But this albatross still follows me.

Both of my sisters are/were knock-outs. So growing up I saw how differently strangers reacted to them than to me.

Just standing side-by-side - no words exchanged, so no personality bias - they'd get the stares, the smiles, the freebies from the barista.

I was always "the funny one."

I hoped this would one day be enough for me.

It isn't.

I know beauty fades. I know those women who are knockouts at 20 will turn 60 one day and they will have to deal with how cruel the world is to flowers that have faded.

I don't envy the beautiful people this loss.

But if they say it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all - can't the same be said of beauty?

Is it not better to have experienced life as a beauty than to never know the feeling at all?

I wouldn't know. Couldn't tell ya. Cause I've never been beautiful.

Given all my current health challenges, lamenting my lack of physical appeal is trivial.

I know this.

I'd give anything now to be able to see clearly, or have a decent night's sleep, or be able to adequately feel my hands and feet.

So many aspects of my health I took for granted prior to FQAD.

And really, I should focus on those.

But I've spent the past three years focusing on those, and now I'd rather focus on something - anything - else.

wisdom says I should focus on something I can control. And appearance definitely doesn't fall into that category.

I should write and read every day.

Build back my vocabulary.

Challenge myself to little projects.

I can imagine myself doing these things, and doing them successfully.

And yet again the fantasies come - recognition, fame, validation.

But all of my fantasies are first-person POV.

In my fantasies I control how people react to me.

I'm the one getting the smiles, the friends, the jobs I am not qualified for, the free stuff.

But then I go to start my day, and I see my true reflection in the mirror.

And I know none of those things are coming my way.

As not even I can imagine a world in which my appearance would lend itself to success.

I could have everything I ever wanted if I were prettier.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Chronic Illness Catch 22

My mom sounded positively giddy as she passed her phone to a coworker.

I sensed the ambush immediately.

“Um…hi,” says my mother’s coworker, “I heard you might be looking for a job. My daughter’s company is hiring.”

I have been disabled for three years now, and while it has always been my goal to return to work “as soon as I recover,” that recovery hasn’t come. If we’re being honest, I’m sicker now than I was three years ago.

Not that any of this matters to my mother.

She, like so many others, just doesn’t understand.

Like most reasonably healthy people, my mother has never been sick more than a week or two at a time, so she doesn’t comprehend – and how could she? – an illness that sets up shop and never leaves.

She thinks that she is helping. That, because she saw me last week, and I was able to share a meal – laugh, joke, have one of our inevitable arguments – that surely I have recovered enough to return to the workforce. Surely I can now hold down steady employment (so long as it’s not too labor intensive). Surely we can all return to the normalcy that I enjoyed (and took for granted) prior to that fateful day I fell ill and never recovered.

She wants that for me. Everyone does. I want it for myself.

But it hasn’t happened.

It’s the Chronic Illness Catch 22: if you’re sick and you show it, most folks flee. No one wants to be around. It’s too frightening. It’s too depressing. But if you’re sick and you hide it – pretend you’re feeling okay, so you can muddle through even one iota of what you were capable of as a healthy person – then others see someone who isn’t really sick; someone who could and should return to those healthy-person activities of days-gone-by.

This Catch 22 is unique to chronic illness sufferers, and it’s something I wish more healthy people understood. Since beginning my own journey, I’ve met hundreds of chronic illness sufferers and they all say the same: some days are better than others, and sometimes I just fake it.

Depending on the disease(s), some sufferers will be able to meet you for coffee Monday but be completely unable Tuesday. You may see one of us shopping for groceries Wednesday, but what you don’t see is the day spent in bed Thursday, Friday, maybe even Saturday because we made the extra effort. We may look nice, healthy, happy at the wedding but how many days and how many drugs did it take to get us there? And what was the fallout afterward?

I tried, in vain, to explain this to the coworker, as she insisted the work she was offering was “easy” as it “merely” required I sit at a desk and answer phones for eight hours a day.

She was polite, but I could tell by her tone that she didn’t understand.

And how could she? This is the Chronic Illness Catch 22, and she, like most reasonably healthy people, has never been sick more than a week or two at a time. Like my mother and so many others, she doesn’t comprehend an illness that sets up shop and never leaves.

She hangs up and returns to work. I hang up and return to the couch. Last night was another one with no sleep. My neuropathy is acting up, so I will use my TENS unit, or maybe just some ice. I’ll take the meds if I have to, but for now I need to rest. This evening there’s a mandatory meeting, and that will require all my energy and focus.

I bet no one there will even know I’m sick.

That's the Catch 22.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Truth of It

In the PolitiFact review of my life, my "Pants on Fire" findings would be low.

Perhaps unbelievably (and, thus, ironically) so.

In truth I'm told I'm entirely too truthful.

Truthful to the point of tactless.

Damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-forthright. That's me.

And it's ruined many a mint-julep; bless my poor, southern heart.


Given my penchant and reputation for (brutal) honesty (whether the situation in question warrants it or no), I've been shocked to discover that, even among those who know me well, my candid straight-shooting is viewed with skepticism - my recollections and motives questioned.

Most often by those persons in my sphere that I know to be liars themselves.

I've been ruminating on this phenomenon for years, revisiting episodes in the past where my entirely truthful tellings are called into question by the very persons I wouldn't trust alone in a room with the family silver.

Fruitlessly have I sought to understand the Doubting Thomases of my inner circle.

Endlessly have I doubled-down on examples and witnesses. Studies. Anything "official" to corroborate events I know to be 100% true to my recollection.

I don't lie (often).

And when I do, I usually admit it, because lies stick in my craw, and my shoulder angel is relentless in her criticism, harsh in her flogging.

I have to be truthful...because I loathe being lied to...and those who engage in the very behaviors they decry - those whose lives are a study in hypocrisy - are repellant to me.

If truth is my first master, hypocrisy is my hill-to-die-on pet peeve.

And it's why I am so often tactless.

I simply cannot let hypocrisy lie.


I've been branded a liar by numerous doctors, whose hubris will not allow them to admit that my truth - that a medication, not any inbourne illness - crippled me three years ago.

In vain do I present the studies - my evidence - the research - in asking for help.

My heart breaks when I hear similar stories from others who were likewise damaged or have chronic illness.

Apparently, in the medical arena, disbelief on behalf of doctors is standard - the go-to response when some M.D. doesn't know what's wrong, and would rather pawn the patient than admit that truth.

So there, at least, I suppose I am "in the clear."

It's not me.

It's them.


But try as I might, I have, as yet, been unable or unwilling to accept that same truth about those Doubting Thomases in my family.

My family, who have repeatedly hurt me in one way or other since birth, are quick with the brush-off where I'm concerned. My recollections are suspect; my memories, incorrect. Their trespasses are, instead, MY failing, because I was too weak or too sensitive or too...hell I dunno...DIFFERENT to be credible.

The very events that shaped me - cut me to my core and changed me - are the experiences they don't or won't acknowledge.

And this pattern of behavior has plagued me since I can remember.

It plagues me because I am among the most forthright people I know - not just aware of my flaws, but clinically depressed by them. I, above all people, know just how far I fall from perfection. (Hint: It's FAR.)

But when I say something, I mean it.

When I say something, 99 times out of 100, it's true.

You'd think that'd carry more weight with these people, but it doesn't.

Because the moment my truth shines light on something they don't want to see, the only solution is to bury me.

It's taken me until now to grasp it - that the problem is not with me but with them.

I can hold up a mirror to their hypocrisy, but they turn from the reflection there - preferring instead to compliment the Emperor on his new clothes, and make plans to get themselves a matching set.

I'm that kid in the crowd that shouts that the Emperor is naked.

And rather than believe, they continue with the charade parade, and belittle me because I refuse to join.

They want me to confirm the lie - to double-down, strip down, because that is what they do.

That is what they know.

And, when I refuse, as I inevitably do, I am the problem. I am the thorn.

In their eyes, it's my fault that I am not accepted. Because if I wanted to be accepted, I'd join them, gladly, in their parade.

That I see it all for what it is - somehow that's on me. Somehow that's my failing.

And I am punished accordingly.


In the PolitiFact review of my life, my "Pants on Fire" findings would be low.

Perhaps that is unfortunate.

For the world is often unkind to those who rise above in any area.

It tears apart the chaste, the intelligent, the wise, the good.

Ask Socrates if you don't believe me.

That I don't lie makes them uncomfortable.

It's a cognitive dissonance they cannot overcome.

If they believed, they'd have to change, and I'm finally giving up on them ever changing.

They'll continue to claim Jesus and live his antithesis.

They'll follow the Emperor down the street in no clothes.

They'll blame me for sitting this one out - for seeing what they are unable or unwilling to see. They'll blame me. They'll blame me. They'll blame me.

Which means I have a choice to make.

I can love them as they are.

Or I can leave, because I cannot change them.

That's brutal.

And honest.

And yet another thing I know they simply won't accept...because they're unable to comprehend the truth of it.