I’ve Stopped Erasing Myself From Those Milestones
I’ve been trying something new for the past few weeks. We live in Washington, D.C. while my husband works as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, and the pandemic has taken a dramatic turn for the better here. Cases are down, vaccinations are up, and everything is re-opening. As I’ve been re-entering the world after being shut in for so long, I realize that I no longer want to care what other people think. I don’t want to let fear and insecurities stop me from doing anything at all. There’s no time for that sh*t!
My sister-in-law calls it #nopride. Drop your pride and open yourself up to all kinds of opportunities.
I signed up for a challenging fitness class knowing full well I’d be at the back of the room unable to keep up. Don’t care! I paid just as much to be there as anyone else. I’m not going to be shy about talking to new people and I’m not going to shy away from long-shot professional opportunities.
And I’m not going to keep deleting myself from family photos just because I think I need to lose a few pounds or because my hair looks horrible or because it was taken from an unflattering angle. (Why are they always taken from that angle?!?)
The one thing I’m most insecure about is my severe inflammatory rosacea. It’s a chronic skin condition, and there is no cure for it. Some people with rosacea simply flush a lot. Some people have permanently rosy cheeks. I get those symptoms too, but mostly when my rosacea flares it presents as large seeping pustules that take weeks to heal and months for the residual redness to start to fade. They’re gross! There’s no sugar coating it. Beyond that, they’re physically painful and emotionally and psychologically hard to deal with. This is my face we’re talking about. I do obviously see a dermatologist and have several prescriptions that help to control the condition. But sometimes something will still trigger a flare and I often have red spots from my latest breakout. And, of course, I will still get very red from any sort of heat or exertion.
So that brings us to last weekend. My 9-year-old daughter, Mary, had been training all spring with a great organization called Girls on the Run. Instead of the big regional 5K race to celebrate the end of training season, they split the race into smaller runs in local neighbourhoods. I signed up to be a buddy runner with my daughter and we walked over to the elementary school to meet up with the rest of her training crew. It was shaping up to be a hot day and the area has lots of hills, so I tried to temper Mary’s expectations. We’d start off slow and keep a steady pace, even dropping down to a walk if we need to. No shame! #nopride
“On your mark! Get set! Go!” And she was off running with a pack of girls, leaving me in their dust. I chugged along slowly at a jog, up hills and through patches of blazing sun, stopping only to sip some water each time I completed one of the four loops the run consists of. Finally, almost halfway through the third loop my tortoise caught up to Mary’s hare. She had burnt out and started doing walk-run intervals. We continued the rest of the race together, Mary leaving me in her dust once again when she sprinted for the finish line.
I was proud of Mary and she was proud of herself. I should capture this moment, I thought. I knew my face would be beet red from running in the heat and any reddish spots I had would practically be pulsing. But—you guessed it—no superficial pride! The only pride that mattered is how I felt about Mary’s accomplishment.
So I leaned in and snapped a selfie with Mary. Then I posted it to Facebook so friends and family could share in my delight. The comments came pouring in congratulating us both, and I was happy I’d taken that picture to look back on in years to come.
But then it happened. I got a private message from someone commenting on how bad my skin looked. “Your skin looks like it’s hurting” were her exact words, followed by a sad face emoticon. I immediately felt a surge of embarrassment and shame. You can’t just turn off those reactions even if you want to, even if you feel like you should know better. I knew that this woman sells skin care products for a multi-level-marketing company. I knew she was just trying to make a sale. But hot tears stung my eyes nevertheless as my shame turned to outrage.
How dare she? How dare she take what was a happy picture of me and my daughter and taint it with these feelings of humiliation. How much is that potential sale worth to her?
But, hey, I’ll cut this woman some slack because she’s not the only one. And I also do believe she has drunk of the MLM Kool-Aid enough to believe she was actually offering me help. Like I’m just fumbling through the world in this skin with no clue where to find treatment, if only some sales person would reach out. But let me tell you now, DON’T WORRY! The sales people always reach out! They drop into your DMs, corner you at family picnics, and chase you down after PTA meetings. They won’t let you walk through this world pretending that maybe your skin doesn’t look so bad today. Not on their watch.
But I am happy to report that I don’t care anymore. I don’t! And neither should you. Whether it’s your skin or your weight or both (hello!)—or a speech impediment or a disability or whatever it is—it doesn’t matter. Because we are coming out of a global pandemic and we simply cannot afford to lose any more moments.
Take those pictures, moms. Take as many as you can and never stop.