Hardened - Revisited

This was originally posted in January of 2012, but it is a natural follow up to Monday’s EasyBeauty topic. It has been edited with that in mind.

Anybody remember Jan-Michael Vincent?  He is an actor known mostly for a string of minor movie roles, but he was mainly famous for his part as Stringfellow Hawke in the 1983 television series Airwolf.  He had fallen off the radar since the series was cancelled, that is until a couple weeks ago when I was watching some run-of-the-mill TV movie and there he was again.  His reappearance took me by surprise, but it wasn’t because of how much older he looked, or how gruff he sounded, but rather how “stiff” his acting was.  Granted, he never was Sir Laurence Oliver, but back in the day he was rather expressive and communicated his emotions quite effectively.  Looking at him now in this low budget film, I couldn’t get over how he reminded me of a handicapped vocalist who could only sing one note.   Surprise, elation, fear, joy, anger…all looked the same on the man’s leathery face.  The words coming out of his mouth were the only clue to the emotional state he was attempting to portray.  It was as if he was dealing with the side-effects of having glanced at the snake-headed Medusa.  It was hard to watch.

I had seen this before with other actors, but now it got me wondering about the people in my life, friends and family both, who were getting up there in age.   For some of them the highs and lows seemed to have eroded away much like Jan-Michael Vincent, washing out all of the bright colors with it, leaving behind a bland monochrome version of their former selves.  It seems like arteries aren’t the only thing that harden when we grow old. That made me wonder.

Does our soul age?

On Monday I talked about the different between inner and outer beauty, and how Father-Time isn’t always kind to that outer beauty. Is the same thing true for our inner beauty? Does our emotional range, the peaks and valleys of who we are, wear down over time…or is it just our ability (or energy) to convey them?  Can it be there are feelings being held hostage behind those wrinkles and liver spots?  Sure, I see flashes of their old selves from time to time, but those are the exceptions and not the rule.

That makes you wonder…could this be happening to me?  I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so maybe.  How old is Jan-Michael Vincent?  He’s 67 now, so he’s got a few years on me.  But I’m sure the hardening process doesn’t take place overnight; rather it’s probably something that happens so gradually that we’re not even aware what’s happening.  Maybe there’s some kind of vitamin I could take to slow it down, like the other supplements I take for preventative purposes.  Ginkgo Biloba supposedly helps with memory retention and Acetyl-L-Carnitine improves the firing of brain nerve messengers, why not a pill that prevents emotional fossilization?   I know what my wife would say, take a trip to Disney World every year; it’ll keep you young forever!  But she would also say I have nothing to worry about because I’ve always been the stoic type, emotionally economical when it comes to being expressive.

That may be so, but what about my writing?  Me being a writer is comparable to Jan-Michael Vincent being an actor, the prose is my acting…a way to express myself in a way I feel most comfortable.  Is it destined to stiffen right along with my outer demeanor?  I’m hope not.  My optimism lets me believe that it will continue to be the portal that allows me to escape my insecurities and let everybody see the true me.

For those of you in pursuit of that “hard body”, remember that there are other muscles that need attention as Father Time descends upon us.  There are 43 of them in the face and maybe some smile-ups instead of push-ups would be time well spent! :)

Easy Beauty - Revisted

This was originally posted in March 2010.

We all read a lot of blogs.  I mean A LOT.  The content is so diverse, ranging from instructional, insightful, inspirational, comedic, and everything in between.  It’s rare when I don’t take something from what I read here and find a way to improve my writing, or my disposition.  I consider this community a bubbling spring of enthusiasm and I try to give back as much as I absorb.  I also develop some of my own blog post from snippets of ideas on other blogs.  It could be something as simple as an open-ended question or an unusual turn of a phrase, but I’ll mull it over and expand upon it here, adding my own unique flavor to it.  This is one of those times.

Today’s topic first originated from a blog I read almost a year ago (sorry, I can’t find the link).  It revolved around the author’s pending 39th birthday and she was reflecting about the increased number of gray hairs on her head, the few extra pounds she was carrying, and the additional wrinkles staring back at her in the mirror.  The gist of her writing revolved around society’s definition of beauty and what women today had to suffer through to try and at least stay in the ball park.  It was a fascinating read for sure, but it wasn’t actually the blog itself that stuck in my memory, but rather a comment left by a fellow reader.  In that remark the person wrote that he didn't really understand men (or women) who went for the "easy beauty".   EASY BEAUTY…what an interesting concept. 
Unconsciously, the seed of that phrase stayed with me, germinating until I read another blog post.  This one was written by woman named Thea (who has since stopped bloging), and she was lamenting about feeling Unpretty.  Her heartfelt post stirred something in me and evoked the memory of the prior blog and the unique phrase.  I left a brief comment for Thea, but still I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  

Thus here I am today, needing to say more.  We live in a society that places far too much emphasis on physical appearances.  It’s fruitless to deny its existence, or relevance, a pheromone in a visual form attracting the sexes to each other and rendering us powerless against its magnetism, like a moth drawn to a deadly flame.  But who created the measuring stick that we all, men and women both, are compelled to compare ourselves to?  A smile with perfectly aligned glistening white teeth, once only available to the wealthy and privileged, is now almost expected.  Bulging bust, trim waistlines, tropical tans, and acne-free complexions are the standards.

It seriously makes me angry when I think about the damage this does (and revenue it generates).  I don't consider it vain or shallow to worry about how others see us. It's simply human nature. The problem is the beauty we should really want others to see can’t be found in the mirror. It's in the eyes and hearts of those we come in contact with everyday. We all have a different set of lenses we see the world with and what might be pretty to you...could be unremarkable to me.  But there is one form of beauty that is universal.  And more importantly it’s a splendor that no amount of eye liner, blush, lipstick, highlights, nail polish, teeth whiteners, antioxidant face cream, body oil, styling gel, or perfume can enhance.  That’s our inner-beauty.

The person who can recognize inner beauty, sees so much more.  To me, that’s the true easy beauty because it is so much more natural and organic. Why spend so much energy focusing on cosmetics and an outer appearance that will eventually fade?  Partners drawn to one another by physical appearance alone, eventually, will not see each other.  Concentrate instead on the element of yourself that will resonate long past your prime, and even after you have gone.

How do you project inner-beauty?  For me, it’s in the little things.  I was in a store the other day, standing in line waiting to check out, when I saw an elderly man by himself who was struggling to carry his grocery bags.  A young woman who was sitting in the coffee shop of the store also noticed the elderly man.  She sprung up from her chair, took the grocery bag from the grateful customer, and walked the man out to his car.  I honestly can’t remember what the woman looked like, but I remember her actions.  I had witnessed inner-beauty. 

Let’s not have a misunderstanding here, I appreciate looking at a beautiful girl as much as anyone.  But that doesn’t mean any woman’s self-worth should be determined by how pretty I think she is.  I believe that any woman with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye...can never be considered anything but beautiful. A vibrant inner-being will always shine through. That doesn't mean they'll win any beauty contests...but in the end...why should they need to?
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