Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Me To the Core

I know we are five days beyond Reverb10, but I am still catching up...

Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)Author: Molly O'Neill, Harper Collins Children's

A few years ago I got an email from the editor of a regional magazine I had been writing for, asking for writers willing to undergo a personal makeover for the sake of the story. I was 49 years old and in that space of life when, as I say in the story, we want Oprah’s people to call and offer to transform us into someone more beautiful than we feel. 

So, I jumped. A freelancer at the time, I was not about to turn down good money, even if it meant being subjected to bleaches and pincers and people poking at my particulars.  I imagined myself under the influence of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of What Not To Wear, finally throwing out that aqua pique pantsuit I wore for my book tour 10 years ago, because you know,  I might just fit into it one day again soon. Stylist Nick Arrojo with his sexy Manchester accent giving me just the right cut, and makeup artist Carmindy (what kind of name is that, Carmindy? Could I combine my names somehow, Sustella? Stellusan?)... Carmindy telling me what I really need is a smokey eye. Oh, how I wanted a smokey eye.

What I didn't know was that the story required not only a hair/makeup/clothing makeover — which was hard enough — but that I work with a life coach. A LIFE coach! I didn't agree to anything about changing my life. But I had signed on, so I was in. For five weeks (FIVE WEEKS!) I spent time on the phone with my life coach, with my space organizer, with my clothes makeover maven. The organizer came to my house and transformed my office. (And because of her I now have wonderful built-in book shelves.) The clothes maven came to my closet, and I was embarrassed that I don't have a light close enough by  to see what I am trying to find. Even now. 

The final day would be with the hairstylist, then shopping for a new chic image. (Thank goodness the photos are lost to the magazine archive.) I approached each with trepidation. What did those women really feel when found on a NYC street by Meredith and Matt and Ann and Al and taken off for a day of transformation?

I would soon find out.

On the final day, before I was to have my physical transformation, I met with my life coach at a coffee shop. And OMG (though that expression didn't exist in the vernacular at the time) I was thrilled at the outcome of my little treasure map project. But she was not.

"All you have here are words," she said. "Where are the pictures?" Pictures? Well, I had a few. (ok, four.) But I guess the assignment was NO words. 


When I thought about it, the magazine pictures of women smiling whom I had never met, objects I would never own.. they didn't draw my eye. What I saw before she pointed to the lack of pictures, was art— something I had created that reflected quite by accident the me at that moment, and probably the me of every moment since I could spell out words at all, on the chalkboard lines my teacher drew in front of me in first grade.

I remember that, how my teacher, Mrs. Pippen, used to write the letters out in yellow chalk, spelling plain old words across the chalkboard in fine block letters that looked like art to me. And she could take that old eraser, wipe it all away, and make a whole new sentence, all over again. What magic, that was. (Yes, I do realize how weird that is.) 

How wonderful, to be able to put one letter in front of the other to make a word. And then a sentence. A paragraph. A page. A story.

But according to my life coach, I had not followed the directions. I had made a C. Well, there you also have me. C. To the Core.

And so, in the beginning of my "finding" (my word for 2011,) today I revisited that treasure map, the one that didn't have (enough) pictures.  Looking at it now I am embarrassed at how much I haven't done, but heartened that it still holds the secrets to what I wish for myself, at my core. 

My purple room friend today took a look at the map and suggested I pick pieces of it to write about during this year. What a wonderful idea. My own little Reverb, she said. A goal I will set for myself. When I am stuck, and maybe when I am not.

What my 49-year-old self meant by the words "Sane, polished, and ready for anything," I have no idea. But I am just curious enough about her to dig out the old chalk board and eraser, to wiggle with the words enough, to find out.