Sunday, March 26, 2017

I can do bold things.

I'm sort of shy.

Usually people who know me laugh when I say that, because my natural demeanor is silly, playful, and sarcastic. But when I am in an unfamiliar, strange, or stressful environment, I tend to withdraw and internalize. Especially when I am facing anger, judgment, or possible ridicule.

I am somewhere in between these two heads.

That's not to say I don't lash out. I do. I'm human, after all, as well as a Taurus and a strong, proud woman--those traits alone make me prone to anger outbursts as much as the average person. But over all, on average, I tend to withdraw. I don't like to be stared at. I don't like to be made fun of or mocked. And I'll walk 14 miles out of my way to avoid tromping past a group of folks who will inevitably do any of those things.

The other day a friend asked me, "If you're so shy, then why do you do dress the way you do?" and it gave me pause. She wasn't trying to be mean. She's not like that. She was just curious. If I consider myself shy and prone to withdrawal when faced with judgement or ridicule, then why don't I work harder at blending in?

I had to chew on that one for a while. Let it marinate. Because she was right. I do dress like a person who doesn't shy away from curious eyes. I wear bold colors and lots of makeup. I change my hair color and style often. If there is a rack of clothes in a boutique, I am drawn like a tractor beam to the boldest, wildest, sometimes tackiest item in the bunch. I don't know why. I just am. I've always been that way.

I fully intend to be this lady when I'm old.

I remember shopping with my mother as a little girl. She has a very classic sense of style. Earth tones, mix and match pieces, lots of respectable dark reds, navy blues, and browns. Simple jewelry with ethnic themes. Fun shoes that also provide comfort and predictability. My mom toes this classy line between geriatric sculptor and senators wife. (She is neither.) And it works for her.

When I was little, she loved dressing me in classic little girl clothes. Ruffle butt tights. Pretty smocked dresses with lace hems. Sailor themed anything. Little saddle shoes. Bonnets. Sundresses to the floor. Anything that looked remotely militant. I don't know why. (Don't judge her--it was the seventies and eighties, fashion was a hot mess.) But the older I got, the more I rebelled against her "classic with an artsy twist" style.

I wanted bold, bright, obnoxious. If it sparkled, I wanted two. If it was neon, I bought it in every color. I remember when she let me take money and go school shopping with a friend before 6th or 7th grade, and I came home having spent most of my budget on an oversized white tee shirt covered in smiley faces in varying neon shades, neon green leggings (seriously, they made my retinas ache) a black belt to cinch around my waist (because it was all about cinching back then) and a long, long strand of eye-melting pink beads to triple wrap around my neck. I'd forgotten about underpants and socks. I'd forgotten shoes. But I'd bought the perfect outfit for just so happened to be alarmingly ugly.

This was me...except I wore them all together. At the same time. With a belt and beads added.

Fast forward a few years, okay...about thirty...and I am not much better. As I write this, I am sitting by a pool in Guam while wearing a purple wig and a straw hat large enough to paddle back home in if I need to. On my body I am wearing a bright teal vintage style swimsuit covered in orange and green Hawaiian flowers. There is a skirt. And when I walk, it swishes very fetchingly, if I do say so myself. I've gotten lots of stares today, and during most of those stares, I've felt sort of embarrassed. I suppose it's because most of the other tourists at the hotel I am at are Korean, and Koreans are, as a whole, very conservative. (Take it from me. I live there.) But nevertheless, it makes me sort of twitchy to be stared at all the time...and yet...

I can't seem to stop putting myself in this situation. Every day I get up and get myself dressed, and I have the opportunity to dress more sedately. To cover myself in browns and greys (though, don't get me wrong, I loves me some greys and blacks now and then) but I always seem to take it a step over the line. It is the same with my hair. I could wear a respectable blonde bob all year long, and look like the respectable Stepford wife my sweet husband deserves, but where's the fun in that? And so, seeking fun (because losing ones hair is sort of a punch in the gut) I change my hair length, color, and style every month or two. Like that old movie, Spinal Tap, used to say, "This one goes to eleven." Well, my style, which would be much more socially acceptable at a 9 or 10...goes to 11.

I can't seem to help myself. I love color. I love bold prints. I love hair. I love bold styles. I love things that just look unique. Or look fun. I don't like classic. I like unique. If something looks joyful and fun...I'm all over it. I like fun. I love having joy. Being joyful and happy is infinitely more enjoyable than being melancholy and downtrodden. Duh. And so....I seek out things that look happy.

I've tried--countless times--to tone down my style. For my kid's sake, for my husband's sake. For the sake of the conservative city in South Korea that I live in. And sometimes for my own sake. It doesn't always "feel" good to stand out. Especially when it can turn into unfair judgement or jokes. But whenever I do that, I feel bad. Not just sad or bummed. But actually deep down in my soul. It feels like part of me is missing, and I wind up feeling like a poser. Like I'm a fakey-McFakerton. Like I am less "Brooke" and more "everyone else," and being like everyone else just doesn't feel right. And so I grab a bright yellow sweater. Or a pair of yard gnome knee socks. Or a hat. Or try a new wig that is leaps and bounds different from the one I wore the day before.

And then my soul feels happy again. Just like that. Like a magical, colorful, brightly colored (potentially neon) Band Aid.

Except, you know...for my soul.

You know, the more I think about my fondness of all styles bold and obnoxious, the more I think about how capable I am, and have always seemed to be, at doing bold things. It's so much more than just wild shirt patterns, or brightly colored wigs. I have stood up to prejudice. I have stood up for women's rights. I have fought and advocated for victims of sexual and domestic violence. I have stood up to my alcoholic parent and shut him out of mine and my children's lives because his chaos was disrupting our peace. I have left a toxic relationship and sold blood to feed my kids while we rebuilt our lives. I have put my hands up and stated "enough is enough, I will not tolerate that" during situations that I could've been complacent, but miserable in. I have had my work rejected hundreds of times, and still wrote more books--eventually getting that first publishing contract, which led to my successful writing career today. I have been told I am not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, and not talented enough, and still pressed forward. I have fought and won legal battles. I have lost a child and managed to dig myself out of the grave of grief I'd been buried in. I have faced a fear of flying and a crippling fear of the unknown and traveled the world. I have mucked my way through a cancer scare, and the inevitable diet changes that came shortly thereafter. I have advocated and fought for a special needs child, and then sufficiently stepped back as he became increasingly functional and self reliant. I have cared for an aging parent and remained neutral when I wanted so badly to push my own opinions and beliefs. I have remained Christlike in the face of hate, anger, aggression, and just plain meanness. I have felt the fingers of anxiety grip my throat and squeeze, and still managed to stand up, speak, face folks I would rather ignore, and smile--despite every cell in my body screaming, run away! run away!! I have moved to a country where I didn't speak the language and pantomimed my way through every situation imaginable. I have been rejected by people I admired and respected, and still held my head high and didn't stop being me, no matter how much I was told it was wrong to do so. I have stayed alert, present, and functional, even when everything around me, and life in general, seemed to be crumbling around me.

I can do bold things.

I am not famous. I am not rich. I am not particularly pretty, talented, or skilled. I am not super human or gifted. I am just an average, middle aged wife and mother, and I can do bold things. It took thinking about my bold hair choices and my wild personal sense of style to realize that I've been bold in ways I hadn't even considered. I am so much more than the lady walking around with purple hair, and the Hawaiian print swimsuit with a flouncy skirt. I am strong. So much stronger than I appear. And so, so much stronger than I thought. I do big, bold things. I am bold.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

Now I am off to see if I can do snorkeling. In a purple wig. Wish me luck.