I could not believe that my eyebrows had disappeared overnight. This was supposed to improve the look of my skin and not erase my face.
My forehead looked like it would after too much sun. I brushed at it, and it appeared to be snowing. The peeling reminded me of a National Geographic documentary where a snake sheds its skin.
She walked into the bathroom and started laughing.
“What is going on?”
“The retinol you got me is causing problems.”
“It’s not supposed to do that.”
That always doesn’t make me feel better.
“Maybe you are allergic to it.”
She looked up information while I continued to uncover my true self.
“I guess you aren’t supposed to use it every day.”
I looked at the jar.
“It says right on this ‘daily retinol.’”
Was daily not the same anymore? Was this like new math where getting to the answer was more complicated than ever? I couldn’t handle old math very well.
Had I missed the post on the changing of this word? Was the meaning now vague and whatever one decided? Did daily mean weekly? Monthly? This would disrupt a lot of habits like taking vitamins, teeth brushing, exercising.
So when someone says,
“I work out daily.”
It might not be what you think, and that could mean they went to the gym over a year ago in our world of ever-shifting terminology.
“I’m on day 3. This didn’t happen the other two nights.”
The regime was to use a cleanser first and then apply it like a moisturizer. I did recall a slight tingling feeling similar to a chemical burn.
Those I know about. I had used a product on my face a long time ago, and it had left a burnstache on my upper lip for days. A long, red angry line reminded me that if the product smells like varnish, it should probably not be trusted. But, I had forged ahead and slathered it on. My skin took revenge for my careless regard and let me enjoy my scarlet letter for weeks. Putting concealer over it was torture, so I had to display it proudly.
I didn’t want history to repeat itself.
“It says that when you start, to build up your tolerance to it,” she said reading on.
I wasn’t drinking it like a bottle of whiskey.
“And you are supposed to mix it in with your usual cream, so it is an adjustment.”
“None of this is on the packaging.”
I had scrutinized it before I had tried it. The green tea scent was inviting, along with the bottle design. One pump of the top produced a convenient pea size amount to be applied, so I thought there was no overdoing it.
“Other people are saying they have had the same reaction.”
It was comforting to know that a club was forming, and I wasn’t the only flake in the world.
“It’s on the product website in the reviews. The company is advising on how to avoid a reaction like this from happening.”
“Are they telling people if they never used it, it wouldn’t have happened?”
Those words have never been more accurate over time when we fall prey to advertising.
Like the self-tanner that turned my skin into an Umpa Loompa color just before I was expected to attend a church service; it was spring, and the idea was to get that summer glow before the season officially started. It was claimed that this healthier option would replicate hours spent in the sun without the risk of damage.
It said nothing about the transformation into a bright unicorn orange. As the minutes passed, it got darker. So did my thoughts.
I had to bundle myself up like it was winter to cover the ever-changing gobstopper look that was happening to me. I reached for something during church, and part of my wrist escaped, just slightly. No one noticed but me as I quickly pulled my sleeve down. This was the start of what looked like extreme modesty on my part. I had visions of winter mittens and a scarf tied tight around my neck through August.
I had no idea how long of a haul I was in for. By the time summer arrived, I was back to where I had started. Pale never looked so great.
The most painful experience to achieve beauty was a product called the Epilady. The word “lady” was so misleading. They knew what they were doing when they slapped that on the product to lure in women. It denotes high sophistication and a socialite quality. Drinking tea with one pinky raised. It was anything but ladylike.
There was a metal coil that promised to remove leg hair effortlessly. This was created by a room full of men who would never have this grace across their kneecaps.
It felt like a million tiny tweezers ripping and pulling at once. And you were making it happen. You weren’t being held hostage at gunpoint by a band of marauders. No, someone gifted you this thing, and you decided to scrape it across your limbs in the pursuit of smoothness.
You tell yourself it has to get better as you go. But it doesn’t, and you keep trying to be its best friend while it leaves some of the unwanted hair, so you have to go over it repeatedly, subjecting yourself to multiple needle-like stabs. They are still out there claiming that women worldwide love the device. Who are these people?
It rested in peace on the shelf with the self-tanner until I cleaned the linen closet years later because the individual who gave it to me is long gone. Who needs enemies when you have a friend like that?
Most recently, I realized I might have a slight intolerance for niacin. It’s in one of the supplements that I take every day. Yes, daily. In the morning. Daily. The old daily, just to be clear.
I noticed that it only happens sporadically and comes out of nowhere. It generally starts in my face and then spreads. I will feel the heat that begins and radiates into a flush. Usually, this happens if I down the dose too fast, often in my rush out the door.
When this came upon me recently, I drank the ounce straight like a shot without mixing it with water and drove to the bank. It was one of those days where multiple things were about to happen, and I needed to execute each task to get around to everything.
Right as I pulled into the drive-thru, I felt the familiar tingling begin. Maybe if I got the person to help me quickly, they wouldn’t notice it as much. Time is the factor as it seems to get worse and then disappears.
I hastily placed the canister into the receptacle and hit send. I could feel it increasing in intensity. Of course, this was the one day I had to wait longer than usual. Finally, he appeared on the screen.
“Christine, is this just a deposit?”
I thought about facing forward only to show my profile, but that felt rude. So I decided to let this person see how a visitor to a nuclear power plant might look.
I saw a lot of blinking and covering up. He wanted to ask me, but he didn’t dare for fear of a lawsuit on Judge Judy.
“Yes. It’s for deposit.”
In the five-minute drive to get back home, my color returned to normal.
Trying to stay healthy and maintain what God has given us is complicated at times and requires discernment. What is too little? What is too much? On the one hand, you can easily binge-watch an entire six seasons of a show on demand and not move for hours at a time. Or you can insist on working yourself to death beyond your maximum.
What can help you stay in the middle, centered and grounded? Here’s a great guide found in Luke 12:22-32:
“Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.
“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out.”(Message)
We can function at a level that isn’t God’s best, racing from one thing to the next in pursuit of elusive contentment. But when we relinquish control of the outside and connect inwardly, all we are responsible for will easily transpire as we are given instructions on how to care for ourselves best.
Falling for social pressure and hurrying on to the next thing will never bring you close to what God can do. While the world says, “Rush!” Heaven says, “Rest!”
And we are admonished to live in this present moment because tomorrow holds enough trouble of its own. Build up your relationship with the One who created you to do great things and take it day by day.