Battle Buddy Series – A Prayer for The Wallflower

By Darian McIntosh

The last year and a half have seen more changes than an average year and a half for most, I suspect. I can say that that is true for me and my family. Truthfully, my average daily life began to change a little over four years ago and while the changes have mostly all been positive, a few things have been difficult. After I moved to Canada, I went from seeing my children daily while raising them as a single mom to watching them fly the coop and only seeing them every other month as I transitioned into a huge change for myself with the move to another country. All of this occurred with my newborn in tow.

Overall, the transition went smoothly with a few hiccups here and there. Life wouldn’t be real if those hiccups were not encountered on occasion. But I had gotten settled in. This “new” life quickly became my norm. I was able to see my two adult children fairly frequently, thanks to the mere three-hour driving distance away from each other, despite there being a country border between us. Often we would meet at a restaurant halfway and hang out for a bit, lessening the drive for either party (and the gas bill) so that we could do it more frequently.

Then Covid hit. Suddenly my new norm changed on a dime. The border crossing that was only seven miles away from my house in Canada swiftly closed shut and has remained so to this day on the US side. I had taken it for granted that it had always allowed me easy access to my adult children with a relatively short drive. Locked up with an active three-year-old (at the time) and having nowhere to go proved challenging. Suddenly the guilt of not seeing my older children and not doing enough for my youngest began to wear on my mental state.

Over the next year, I would go through more life transitions. A new movement began amongst women in my age bracket. Without access to their hairdressers, many women stopped dyeing their hair and eventually let the gray growth become their crowning glory. I had already become restless with dyeing my hair pre-Covid but becoming a mother again in my forties prevented me from seriously considering that option. Since I had started showing gray in my mid-twenties, I never let them see the light of day with my relentless hair dyeing. There was no telling what my true hair looked like. I had already been mistaken for my youngest daughter’s grandmother with my dyed hair whenever my oldest daughter was around (she was automatically assumed as mom), and I did not want grandma to be the everyday assumption. My youngest’s dad (my husband) already had a full head of gray so if I were to take the plunge too, I worried what my daughter would go through with both parents being assumed as her grandparents.

Now after fully taking the plunge, I see how vain and silly those thoughts were but I really had to work through them before I could take the next step. I realized neither decision was right or wrong but deciding on what would ultimately make me happiest was important. What wasn’t making me happy was the itchy scalp and increasing hair loss that drugstore dyes were leaving me with and the feeling that I had to dye my hair every 3 weeks to cover up. Not to mention that doing it never made me feel content and the brassiness I could not seem to conquer meant I was fooling no one.

After 5 months of no hair dye, I was having a hard time with the concept that I would be going through this painfully slow and obvious process over the next 2+ years if I wanted to keep the length in my hair. The dyed parts of my hair were turning the dreaded Blorange (blended orange) that I read about in my Going Gray support group on Facebook and was a stark contrast against my true salt and pepper roots. I was not down for that.

So, after putting my child to bed on a night my husband was working late, I was left alone to my own devices. A YouTube DIY tutorial video and a snip session later, I emerged with my fresh new short ‘do. I will tell you that for my entire adult life, I feared ever having short hair because of trauma resulting from being called a boy on more than one occasion when my hair was short as a child and also from being told I had masculine facial features. Imagine my surprise, when my new DIY haircut looked surprisingly complementary to my face shape and I didn’t feel like a “dude”. I actually liked it!

Unfortunately for me, I am left to my own devices all too often and the same antsy anticipation I experienced 4 months ago with that first haircut doesn’t always translate well with all my DIY experiments. There have been many a snip session since that first time in an attempt to get rid of ALL the blorange and then again, in an attempt to tame the grown-out thickness that began to resemble something of a mushroom cap. After too many times with my trusty scissors in hand, what I am left with is a little less than stellar and an uncertainty of where to go from here. A visit to the hairdresser may be in order soon but new Covid restrictions mean that that will have to wait. If you have learned nothing from reading my blogs, you must know this…I am not very good at waiting.

Oh and if I haven’t mentioned it in the past (ok, maybe I have), I gained a lot of weight during Covid. Between admitting that I am a normal, middle-aged woman with gray hair, gaining upwards of 35 lbs. and chopping my hair to smithereens, my confidence has taken a bit of a hit, as of late

It was my birthday a few days ago. My husband sweetly posted a message of love for me on Social Media that day. For more than a moment, instead of being grateful that my husband thought of me, I actually was feeling upset with him for tagging me with RECENT pictures (the audacity!). I hadn’t yet revealed to most of my friends and family about all of my physical changes. He outed me to reveal that I was less than perfect. I seemed to have forgotten that I never was.

Thank God my husband loves me no matter what and doesn’t see the changes in the pictures he takes of me in the way that I do. On the plus side, being out can be quite liberating. There is no one left to try and impress and you can be the true you.

Adding on to all of this, last year I decided to embark on a new business venture with my brother. Due to life changes of his own, he is frequently unavailable so I am doing most of it by myself. My older children, whom I still cannot see because of the border situation not changing with all of these new Covid variants, are having life transitions as well and my son is struggling, A LOT. The guilt is real when it comes to feeling like I could be doing more and SHOULD be.

What does any of this have to do with running, you ask? Well, it is this blog that started me on another new transition in my life. One that I actually feel good about. This blog has been an excellent battle buddy, you might even say (you like how I worked that in?)

As I may have mentioned in some of the past entries in this series, the notion that I was talking to a bunch of people on a path of fitness and wellness while I was headed in the opposite direction just seemed silly to me. I decided I needed a change to my own health and wellness. Shortly after starting to write this blog, I met my trainer friend. She began holding small group fitness classes about 6-7 weeks ago, and I have been joining her classes 2-3 times a week since.

My initial thoughts of being able to run a virtual marathon by the time of the SF Marathon in mid-September seem laughable now but nevertheless, I am motivated to stay on course. The dramatic transformation that I had envisioned by this point is not all that dramatic. The changes that are happening are probably more the speed that I need them to be to make the lasting changes that I want. Dramatic for me always makes for failure when I reach the inevitable stalling point. Something in me wants to give up when that happens. Just look at what happened with my hair transformation.

I have not seen my clothes falling off as I hoped for but a gradual loosening of the tightest areas so that my clothes are finally comfortable. For the first several weeks, all of the weight-lifting made me too sore to want to do much physically with my four-year-old. Recently, I have to admit that every day, I am in a little less pain. My endlessly sore knees, which were not a result of the strength training but were just part of my everyday life, seem to be supported a bit more. Suddenly I can keep up with my youngest just a little better than before.

I am slowly starting to feel better about myself. I have always been susceptible to falling into a rabbit hole of despair due to low self-esteem even on the best of days. Now with all these changes, some days I can feel so sorry for myself that it seems like I am personally carving out that hole to the darkest of recesses just so that I can have an excuse to fall even deeper.

On the flip side, I know that I have plenty to feel blessed about. With this pandemic taking actual lives and destroying others, I cannot take it for granted that my family and I have not personally been affected by Covid in this way. Beyond Covid, I also know many people that are going through things that are not merely life-altering but life-threatening. It is my duty to be there for them when they need me just as so many have done for me in the same manner.

With that being said, we cannot forget that we are human and it is ok to allow ourselves to feel all the emotions that come about when things are no longer in our control. As long as we remember not to dig ourselves in deeper. Instead, we must become willing to begin the slow ascension out of those rabbit holes. Take a break in between. Our feet may slip on the way, causing us to fall a little further down. When that happens, grab a hold and start the climb again. The goal is to stay a little bit ahead. And of course, surround yourself with the right kind of people that will give you a hand up when you need it the most.

Therapy

Ironically, the things I dreaded the most turned out to be the most therapeutic for me. Writing a blog for people I worried could not possibly relate to me because of our differences helped me to work through my own personal struggles. Struggles in life happen to every human being on planet earth and as such, are extremely relatable. This holds true despite the fact that everyone’s path is divergent from the next.

This spring I planted a bunch of beautiful flowers in my front yard to enjoy throughout the summer. While I have enjoyed watching them all flourish, it is the least beautiful one on the surface that is my favorite. I planted a succulent that seems like nothing special. In fact, it is what one might describe as plain to look at. But for a certain window of time in the day, when the sun hits it just right, it opens these tiny little yellow and white daisy-type flowers and it is the prettiest little plant you ever did see. Perhaps I favor it because I myself could be described as a wallflower. And as us wallflowers can attest, we often feel we are nothing special to look at and the fear of judgment often makes us close ourselves off to the world. Sometimes though, on occasion, we feel confident enough to let ourselves be exposed and vulnerable for a brief window of time. And sometimes, we get to showcase the most beautiful of our qualities that not everybody knows about or may have even missed entirely. But when it is our time to bloom and you just happen to have a keen eye…oh what a sight to see!

Battle Buddy Step #11: Find your therapy

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