Style is optimistic. It is optimism made visible. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for.
Hara Estroff Marano from "How to Have Style"
Do you know what most people say when they meet me, even when they know I've had Stage II A Breast Cancer? "You look so good!!
Whenever they say that, it never fails to amaze me because it's so difficult for me to even look presentable. To get to the point where I can say, "Showtime Folks!" like Joe Gideon (Bob Fosse) did in "All That Jazz", I'm forced to confront a tired face, and a scarred body. I have to find the energy to transform with makeup and clothes that reflect my own personal style.
On May 1, the facilitator for the Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center's Writing Group gave us a topic which made me want to explore the subject of appearance. Below is the essay I wrote in response to the topic: Research indicates that holding onto unexpressed feelings or keeping a secret can take a great deal of energy in light of this I need to let you know that . . .
The effort I make to keep the secret that I'm not always "okay" by disguising it with my appearance has led me to a better place where I can deal with problems I wouldn't be able to handle if I didn't "front". I'm not saying that it's always smart to pretend to be "okay" even when I'm not. I'm saying that, lately, it's an alternative survival tactic that I need to use to confront issues that overwhelm me. Lately I've wondered how healthy this attitude is because it prevents me from asking for help when I need to and pretending to be strong when I'm not.
At times I'm glad I can reveal my process in my journal and my blogs, my articles and Writing Group and let go without worrying about others seeing who I really am when I'm totally vulnerable. One of the best ways I "hide in plain sight" is through my appearance, which I try to maintain whenever I'm out and about regardless of how I feel. Realistically it's extremely difficult to keep up with fashion and popular trends when my mind is dually occupied with health issues, but I've found when I force myself to do it by either reading a fashion magazine or shopping at a store and buying something new, I'm diverted from the physical confines of my body and transported to the fun and glamorous world of appearance.
I don't feel separate any longer and instead of focusing and obsessing about all of my flaws caused by my illness and its side effects, I'm inspired by the transformation that new clothes bring, whether imagined or real. I feel like my old self again, even though deep down I've changed and I now see what used to be mere frivolity and happenstance in a new way. Now style's my armor and safety net, when I want it to be, which helps me deal. And after reflecting during my down times when I'm my sometimes real raggedy self, it's a viable way to cope.