Wheel of Fortune, acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 20″, http://www.carolineallen.com.
In July of this year, I underwent surgery for a total thyroidectomy. It wasn’t cancer, just a thyroid that was profoundly overactive, speeding up my metabolism so fast that I went down four sizes in less than three months. Luckily, I enjoy Romney-care in Massachusetts, and my health insurance covered everything. The surgery went seamlessly. I bounced back quickly, and was writing, coaching and painting again on a regular schedule within 10 days.
What doctors didn’t tell me was that three months after the surgery my hair would fall out. I did research and found that it happens to many people, lasts a few months, and about eight months to a year later, all the hair does grow back. What I couldn’t believe was how much fell out. Every day, handfuls of my hair ended up on my sheets, in corners of the room, clumped down the back of my jacket. I started collecting great wads of it in plastic bags to show to my doctors, to prove how bad it’d become. I had a massage recently, and the massage therapist spoke about all the hair left on the massage table afterwards. It’s still falling out. I needn’t have worried about collecting the hair; the bald patches on my head have become proof enough. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve had to purchase wide headbands and wear them every time I go out in public.
Conversely, I WAS warned about the dark circles and bags beneath the eyes brought on by thyroid problems, but my endocrinologist thought we’d caught it in time and I wouldn’t have much of a problem.
Wrong! While my hair fell out in shocking quantities, the deep dark bags under my eyes lengthened and deepened. It wasn’t stress. I have a certain look when I’m stressed and this was different, puffier, darker, uglier.
Week after week, I grew uglier and uglier. Every notion I had about myself and my looks came into question. I could no longer flip my long blonde hair a certain way when standing next to a handsome man and expect a response. I could barely even appear in public.
I made a deep commitment to owning the ugly, decided I would look weird, odd, even like a post-chemo patient and not worry about it. I still wear the headbands, and I now have a thick black rimmed pair of glasses, but I do not bow my head down. I walk with my head held high, in long passionate strides. I’m excited to be alive.
It has been transformational owning the ugly. Never have I felt so good. I decided I could panic or I could accept it all with grace. Every night as I went to sleep, I said to myself: My spirit is bigger than my hair falling out. I am bigger than this hair. I am a big soul and I am beautiful. I did meditations where I surrounded my head with love and light. After all this meditation, my sister called to say she’d found some headbands for me and she was beading them with glorious scrumptuous beads. She sent me a picture via email, and the headbands were beautiful. How had owning the ugly transformed into such beauty?
Ever since I’ve owned the ugly, I’ve had more dimensional conversations with friends and strangers than I’ve had in years. Friends keep telling me how good I am. Not necessarily how good I look, but how good I AM. I feel great. I don’t have to care what anybody thinks about me. That I did care so much before owning the ugly has been a profound insight.
What does this have to do with writing? My writing and my visual art seems to be exploding with this owning the ugly. It’s all about the not caring what other people think. Who are these other people anyway? Just figments of my imagination. Somehow, without even being conscious of it, I was writing my novel and doing my paintings with too much care about what others would think of me. Now that I’m letting that go, it’s as if latent talents are tripping over each other to have a say. Somehow owning the ugly has paradoxically profoundly shifted my self esteem.
Can you own the ugly? Can you think of a way that you’re holding yourself back so that you’re more attractive to the opposite sex (or the same sex depending on your preference)? I promise you, if you let it all go, you’ll be more “attractive” than you could ever imagine, and your work will flourish.
I’m a writing coach. Contact me for a free initial consultation. http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com.