My sister Beck stops mid-sentence, looking concerned.
“What,” she says, searching my eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” I say. “Why?”
“I’m not scowling.”
We look at each other a beat.
“I’m 54,” I say. “This is how I look. I’m happy on the inside.”
Well, this exchange is a little annoying, but overall, broad strokes, I’m a happy woman.
Like most people of a certain age, I have the dreaded “11’s” etched between my brows.
When i need to clear the fuzziness from my surroundings or my inward landscape, I knit my brows in concentration. Since I am a myopic introvert, that’s pretty much every waking moment. I am good at making wrinkles.
But, I’m concerned. I don’t want to upset people just by looking at them, or scowling at them as apparently is the case. I need that time. Chit chat and pleasantries are not my forte, so making a good impression before I open my mouth would be really helpful.
Think of the impact a couple of forehead creases could make on an unsuspecting individual. I may be, say, grocery shopping and though inwardly I am contentedly chewing on a bit of novel I just read, or thinking how much flour is in the cupboard, or visualizing myself getting everything on my must-do list done by dinner time, realistically these are thoughts. Thus, my brow is knit and I am scowling at my fellow shoppers. Maybe one of them is see-sawing between hope and despair, and they meet up with me in the bananas. Not a smiling face, but a seemingly stern one regards them. They may interpret that “scowl” quite negatively and personally. Myself given to over-thinking, I know this can happen.
Maybe it would be a public service to get a few shots of Botox in the offending area to soften it a bit. Neutral would be an improvement, would give me a second to remember to smile.
No-one has ever described my face as expressive anyway. In an early stage experience, while lip synching at the end of the chorus line of South Pacific, I overhead a guy in the audience say, “Who’s the dead girl on the end?”
I have of late been making an effort to be more present and expressive when I am out and about. As an introvert, it feels like out and about IS an accomplishment. I take a deep, calming breath. I smile. Admittedly, it feels unnatural, a bit of a push. I worry it looks like a maniacal grin, but people generally smile back, so I think I’m on the right track.
But the damage has been done. The deep vertical lines are etched in stone, so to speak, evident all the time, whether or not I am concentrating. Masked only slightly and momentarily by an artful haircut which sweeps over my forehead and a hopefully not scary smile, it takes only a slight breeze that lifts my bangs or a failure to grin engagingly and I am back to confrontation face.
This exchange with my sister is indicative, though, of a theme, a growing awareness, a bit of a problem that is difficult as heck to articulate.
So, as with this 11’s thing, Father Time is having his way with my appearance. Fine. I’ll navigate these changes as best I can to facilitate positive mutually uplifting social interactions. (I’ll try not to scare people in the bananas.)
But the recent change that really, really is not fine is that I’m having trouble using my imagination. And I treasure my imagination.
I used to be able to sit and write myself a little romantic story at the drop of a hat, induce a trance by knitting a few rows on a sock. Fetching firewood by moonlight was a mystical experience. I felt dreamy, and juicy and imaginative all the time. With alarming frequency now, I hop on my magic carpet and ssst. Nothing.
My imagination seems to have left town with my estrogen, and a slightly darker thought…around the time people stopped opening doors for me so much. Is this a coincidence? What’s going on here? I mean, I can open doors for myself. But I NEED my imagination.
True, we get busy. Obligations can swell and crowd out the practices like meditation and walks in the forest that nourish our soul, prime the creative pump.
But it feels like more than a time-management challenge, and frankly more complex than a simple shift in hormones.
I can see why a shift in hormones would cause things to slide around a little on the outside. But some hormonal effects just don’t make sense. A friend of mine, who is about a size 2, was delighted by a late life pregnancy but surprised when expansions didn’t go as anticipated. “I don’t see why your BUTT has to get bigger,” she said.
And I don’t see why my inner life should suffer. Isn’t the soul eternal? Isn’t that the deal?
There is a subtle dance going on, though, I think. This street dance involves everybody of all ages, whether they are aware they are attending or not. It is a dance of hormones. Estrogen, testosterone, pheromones (are they hormones?) are all bouncing and swirling and co-mingling. We react to one another, chemically. Subtly or overtly, this biochemical bacchanal is happening.
So you’re at this street dance. What if you’re sporting the “11’s”? What then?
You have to admit its a thing, right? People of a certain age are, sorry to mix metaphors, but, kind of the motorcycles of the social scene; sometimes people see us, and sometimes they don’t. It’s not malicious or even conscious, but the effect can be dangerous for both parties.
Do our creative selves benefit from this biochemical bacchanal in spite of lack of awareness? Does our creativity depend upon it? Forget about estrogen loss, do I need the testosterone fumes? Do the two create some kind of alchemical fuel for my magic carpet? I mean, I like my Subaru, but its no magic carpet ride.
If being at the street dance is vital to my creative life, I need to know. Is it I and Thou… and those other jokers at the dance?
So, how’s your magic carpet flying these days? Has this imagination issue arisen for you, and if so how did you correct the problem? Has anyone seen any science on it? (Interesting title on that paper I’m sure) Sadly, I know I’m not imagining it.