At the hardly tender age of 32, I had finally contracted that horrid little disease I had successfully eluded my entire childhood: varicella, aka chickenpox. That was this year. I could have spent Valentine’s Day playing connect-the-dots, but I think my sense of humor took a huge dip around this time. You really couldn’t blame me; I looked pretty much like the plague had descended upon me. My darling toddler was the culprit. While the adorable tyke had gotten off virtually scot-free (no scars at all, didn’t even have a fever), the same disease turned yours truly into a wretched, agonizing, and utterly gross piece of humanity (raging fevers, howling migraines, and a multitude of those gruesome blisters).
I really don’t know how I could have been so thick. Our vaccination philosophy is to let our daughter develop immunity from the usual childhood diseases naturally, but if she doesn’t contract them by the time she’s ten years old, THEN we shall vaccinate. Those diseases (the chickenpox numbers among them, of course) are supposed to be worse for older children and adults. Well, there I was, a couple of decades older than ten, unvaccinated… you do the math. If you came up with the answer of over two weeks of suffering and scars unto infinity, you would have been partially correct. They do say that chicken pox scars linger indefinitely for those who contracted it in adulthood, but mine went practically non-existent within the year. The following pictures demonstrate this.
Not scarred for life - from spotted to clear
The Before picture was taken in late March aboard the Doulos, about a month after I had chicken pox. You can imagine how terrible I had looked when the blisters had been in full force if I felt that my face in the Before pic was ready to brave the public. Still, it was all I could do not to wear a sign declaring myself non-contagious even if I did look like a public health menace. The After picture was taken in early September at a friend’s wedding in Bacolod. Thanks to Glutamax, which helped fade those awful scars, you couldn’t even tell I had had chicken pox earlier in the year.
My brush with chicken pox was actually a wake-up call of sorts. Prior to that, I was complacently going through the transitions one generally makes into motherhood. I knew I wasn’t happy about my physical state then, but I had excuses upon excuses for not doing anything about it. I think I’ve always had a pretty healthy attitude about the physical. Skin care for me wasn’t an issue. Except for a time in my teens when I was assailed by blackheads - my share of the usual adolescent skin woes - I’ve always had pretty okay skin. Just soap and some inconsistent application of toner were my idea of facial care. I had a tug-o-war battle with 5 lbs, which didn’t really bother me all that much. I was anything but perfect, but I wore whatever I wanted and did not give two hoots about what other people thought. Through the years, I was able to cultivate a good sense of self. The inner person was what mattered. Then again, I had been lucky enough not to encounter any serious body issues. Up until my late twenties, people told me I could still pass for a teenager. I put it down to my height (4’11.5” technically, but I shamelessly round up), being Asian, and living in the tropics (humidity and sweat are natural moisturizers after all). I really thought I’d indefinitely go on looking youthful without any effort. But then I got pregnant. Exit all delusions of indestructibility. It was a difficult pregnancy filled with projectile vomiting and dizzy spells. I was in a perpetual state of discomfort and the strain showed on my face and disposition. After childbirth, I made the mistake of trying on my pre-pregnancy clothes, which only resulted in their furious banishment to a large storage box hidden in the distant recesses of a cupboard. I refused to buy bigger-sized clothes to pressure myself to get busy losing pounds and bulges. Um, what happened instead was that I simply alternated about five outfits for more than two years, lol. Along with the mega-milestone of becoming a mother, I also reached another one: turning thirty. As though I didn’t have enough going on, I also decided to transition into the kind of mother I had zero training for, which was the attachment parenting, homeschooling, homesteading, ‘50s homemaking kind. I thought all these changes could occur without me making any sort of adjustment. Around this time, I started noticing other signs of maturity. I discovered a few strands of gray hair, the appearance of the beginning of crow’s feet, more freckles, the general diminished elasticity of my skin, and just a body made inferior by age and experience (gah, pains and stiffness). So, there I was ravaged by pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and an abrupt foray into domesticity, I knew I was letting myself go but, what the hey, I had my excuses (essentially, no time or budget for vanity).
Here I am rocking the frump look *snort*
Unsuccessfully hiding that spare tire I'd been keeping in my gut
Anyway, I may have been twenty pounds overweight (at 4’11.5”/5’, there was no way I could rock that look), perpetually attired in shorts, loose tops, and, gulp, maternity dresses (I kid you not), bare of accessories or even perfume (anything that I thought would irritate my daughter), flipflopped even in church, with my thick, frizzy hair forever unstyled and sentenced to be kept in a slapdash bun or ponytail… but if I kept away from mirrors or pictures of myself, I didn’t have to confront how frumpy I had become. However, heap those chicken pox scars on top of the mess that was li’l ol’ me and there was no more avoiding it. I had turned into a frump and, la frump, ce n’est jamais chic. It wasn’t the physical at all. The physical was just the result of an attitude. I just looked like I wasn’t taking care of myself. It wasn’t just about the looks either. Attitude affects everything, from appearance to health, to disposition, to overall wellbeing. I had to ditch those excuses and make a conscious effort to care better for myself. It’s an ongoing process. I have to be organized and really set aside time for wellness rituals. I have to be more thoughtful about things like wearing rubber gloves for chores or religiously putting on sunblock. I have to be more aware of my mindset, to check and recheck if I’m keeping things positive. I have to remember to take pride and joy in presenting myself as a person of beauty and loveliness. As I make concessions to vanity, I gradually work toward a balance, ironically toward that old sense of self that held the inner person at greater esteem. Ultimately, I believe I was unhappy more about my lack of discipline and grace than I was about my actual appearance. I say so, because now, even with pounds still to lose and actually looking my age (the goal is no longer to look 17 in my thirties, but to look a youthful thirty-something – there’s a difference. It’s in the spirit, the sparkle in the eyes, the energy in movement… but, hey, those crows feet still aren't welcome), I can still claim I clean up good. Just caring makes a huge difference.:)