The past couple of years have brought about a cultural revolution, if you will, to my life, prompted by 2 significant events.
1. We brought our son home from Haiti. It wasn't his arrival, his "different from ours heritage", that prompted the change to begin. It was the diagnosis he carried with him, and my response to that, that created such a change from cultural expectations in our home. We had to learn to do things opposite from what we thought, opposite from what others thought, at times.
2. And my girls are growing and becoming young women. I think so much about what I'm reflecting to them. What are they seeing in me?
I was wrestling with something I created the other night and my oldest son said to me, after I remarked that I just wasn't good at it yet, "Mom, what aren't you good at?"
His question completely took me off guard. "Is that really what he thinks when he looks at me?" I wondered. I certainly don't see myself that way.
That very short conversation reminded me that I don't have to feel a certain way to reflect that characteristic. I don't have to feel confident or like I'm good at anything to reflect it, apparently.
I started going gray in my late 20s. By my mid 30s I was at least 30% gray and doing my darndest to keep that from "reflecting". I realized, that with that, I was spending a lot more time looking at myself critically, wondering how people were seeing me, what they were seeing. With that one aspect, just that one - my hair! - I was hearing more and more criticism from myself about myself that didn't need to be there.
I really do not want my girls to feel about aging how I feel about aging. I don't want them to think that the best time of their lives is about a 10 year window. I don't want them to think they are beautiful as long as they stay under a certain age or weight or have a certain look. I want them to know that they are beautiful - always.
For me, one of the things that came out of that hope was the decision to stop dying my hair. Of embracing the gray. What a LONG year that has been. I still really struggle with it at times. They still hear my "Holy moly, I'm gray!" comments. I don't have to love going gray to make a decision to go gray or to reveal confidence in just looking how I look. That decision has created a change in what my girls see. What my girls don't see anymore is me looking in dread at myself in the mirror. They don't see me only paying attention to that quarter inch that is there again, already! Paying the money to have someone put something on my hair just to reflect something that I felt was expected of me.
The girls ask me why I wear makeup and get highlights. For me, completely coloring my hair and wearing makeup feel different. I enjoy putting make up on and I want to actually be able to see my eyelashes. But, coloring my hair was a burden for me. An obligation. They require different mentalities from me.
I've learned, in this "journey to gray" and the need to be counter of cultural expectations with my son, to look for and embrace what I enjoy, more than I ever have. To think about what I really want. What I really want to do, what I really want to wear, how I really want to reflect who I am.
A lot of that has involved cutting things out and getting rid of things that aren't really my style or are really just in my way. Part of it has been embracing new hobbies and ideas. (Who knew woodworking was so stinking awesome?!?) And part of it has been learning so much more about myself and taking risks. Taking risks in doing things that look so opposite of what our culture seems to value - downsizing, going to lumberyards, going gray, narrowing my friend base, etc. (I no longer have any brunette friends. ;))
It was hard to have that mentality, though, and try to run a retail business. The last thing that would have allowed me to stay in business with DFC would be to have told you that you didn't need anything from my store. But, I don't sell shelter and water.
I didn't want to put pictures up of women with other women wearing my products because I didn't want to communicate the message that you can gain popularity, be in style, or do anything else those pictures are supposed to make you think you can do with a product. Instead, I showed pictures of my items on rocks and vintage doors.
The reason I started DFC was to give people purposeful shopping. To show them, you!, how to make a difference with something you will likely do anyway. You will likely wear or know someone who wears jewelry, pajamas, lotion, etc. Why not buy those things and help people at the same time?
I love the products that come with the fair trade mentality. Each fair trade product carries a story of the person who made it. When I shop, I think about how what I'm buying might reflect beauty. How can this necklace, that is my style, reflect the beauty within me, the creativity within me and the dignity, hope and creativity of the one who made it? When we wear something, use something, we are reflecting something or someone. Someone who may have gone through relate-able experiences to yours, someone you have been inspired by, someone who has created a message that resonates with you, through their talent and skill base.
Instead of thinking, or not thinking, about buying more "stuff", what if we become thoughtful about how our purchases reflect the beauty we want to show ourselves and others?