My Life as a Puddle

Creating hyperhidrosis hope and awareness one drop at a time

Tag: India.Arie

Alone At My Table

Remember my post about Elena Levon and her hyperhidrosis-dedicated dance where I mentioned her use of the bird/wing metaphor and how that metaphor is playing a huge part in my own life right now? Well, I am happy to report that I can finally fill you in, in a BIG way, about what’s been going on these last nine months or so. While this post won’t explain all of it, it will take care of a huge chunk. Drum roll, please…

I WON A WRITING CONTEST!

That’s right. Every year, the Denver Woman’s Press Club sponsors the Unknown Writers’ Contest. This was my second time entering, and this time I won! My essay, Alone at My Table, won second place in the non-fiction category.  😀

So, without further ado, please enjoy reading my essay below. I think it’s the most cathartic piece of writing I’ve ever done, and it was a painful process to bring this piece to fruition. But man, was it worth it. Lots of sweat and tears were shed, believe you me.

Alone at My Table

I’ve just sat down at my new dining room table to eat the dinner I mustered up the motivation to cook. I’m cooking for one now. There was a deafening reminder as the olive oil sizzled across the skillet as I sautéed Italian red kale. At night when I sit down, I try not to cry into my food. It has lost its taste. It is never as exciting as I try to make it when coaching myself through the food prep process. It should be called Cooking and Cocktails, just like Canvas and Cocktails. It’s a new routine for me; I’ve been high strung these last few months even thinking about cooking a meal. Hell, I was never the chef in the household to begin with. So here I am. Cut food, fork in mouth, a slosh of wine, repeat.

My husband has a baby on the way, but I’m not the one pregnant. It is the cherry on top of an unhealthy marriage sundae. In the fall, I mailed custom-designed moving announcements that said Spread your wings. Prepare to fly. The expensive, shiny card stock with the colors I so painstakingly agonized over was my way of telling the universe I would forge a new path and never go back. We teach people how to treat us. It was time that I practiced what I preached. As if I had any other choice but to be hopeful. It is the end of an unhealthy marriage and the beginning of a new and healthy life, whatever that is.

Spread Your Wings, Prepare to Fly

My custom designed moving announcements, courtesy of www.lauralandshop.com. Lyrics by India.Arie

I feel judged. I didn’t receive the annual Christmas card I usually do from one of my favorite college professors. When I cautiously shared the pain in my heart with a group of my trusted religious friends, one of them fled to the opposite side of the room for the rest of the evening. My vulnerability was standing naked center stage. Had I done enough to try and save my marriage? What if I had worked just a little bit harder, or settled for just a little bit more of what I was being given? We were a couple who hung out with couples; they can’t nurture the two of us anymore, so they also push away the one of us. Either/or. Neither/nor. It’s hard to carry this burden. Others can push it away, but I have the weight of it every single day. Sometimes, it is so heavy I have a hard time lifting my fork to my mouth.

As I scoop the kale onto my fork, I admire the pattern in its leaves. How amazing that nature can create such a tapestry of color in one single vegetable. It is a superfood, after all. Perhaps if I consume enough of it, I will feel super, too. A stray piece slips off my fork and lands on the acacia wood from which the table is made. I bought the first dining set I saw in the store. I was drawn to the pattern in the wood of this table. Turns out the Tree of Tenere, an acacia tree in Niger, was once considered the most isolated tree on Earth, yet this one tree lived on thanks to its deep roots that reached the water table 118 feet below the surface of the ground. At least I have my roots to turn to.

I struggle with the lack of inclusion. I’m not a mother or a wife—a complicated life*, but it’s mine. Picking up the phone to call friends is a heavy-handed affair. Shouldn’t they be calling me? I’ve promised not to talk about my divorce all the time, nor do I even want to. The spontaneous crying, though, I can’t guarantee won’t happen. The time spent with friends is precious, yet also is a constant reminder of the house, the husband, and the family I do not have.

I no longer have to consider someone else first, just me—a liberating struggle to say the least. When I set my table tonight, I laid out the dark gray placemats, a woven texture that’s solid and strong. Tomorrow, I might switch to the silky soft oriental placemats, the colors bright and inviting possibility. I am a possibilitarian. My silverware is stainless steel, heavy with a twisted rope pattern on the handles good for anchoring my hands and providing reassurance that I won’t slip. I’m setting my own table now. Taking care of myself is a first for me, like many other things.

I’ve traded my life for a life of firsts I must do all on my own. The days I particularly hate him are when it’s three degrees outside; I trudge up and down three flights of stairs at least three times each day to take out the Pugs. One of them has a bad back and must be carried. Yet she and I press on, doing what we can with what we have right where we are. As I seethe inside with rage and a complete lack of patience waiting for my dogs to do their business, I remind myself that it’s okay. I’ve lost a lot of baggage. My clothes fit differently now thanks to these damn stairs. We treat anger like it’s a bad thing when it’s a completely valid emotion. Sometimes, it is perfectly okay to feel lousy.

I feel lousy in the grocery store as I push my tiny little cart for one up and down the aisles. Couples shop for dinner with their cute little lists, and I am sad. Mothers coo at their children sitting in the cart, and I am envious. I decide to check myself before I wreck myself. Be here now. The shaky wheel on my cart rounds the corner to the produce section. The fresh fruits and vegetables with their rainbow of colors call out to nourish my inner being. I stop and touch the fruit, picking up a cantaloupe. It is rough on the outside, yet oh so sweet when I lift it to my nose to smell its ripeness. Like me, it is ripe for consumption. I find my trusted superfood and figure I’ll up the ante on the kale salad this time. I stash more ingredients in my cart, encouraging myself as the groceries pile up that I can actually cook.

I lugged the groceries up the stairs all in one trip, conscious of the fact that I must put them down in order to let myself into my apartment. We must put down what we carry in order to let more of ourselves enter. The table is set. While the chicken that will adorn the top of the kale salad is baking, I’ve got time to enjoy the little things. I have been what poet Mark Nepo calls reduced to joy. The bird feeder that I was afraid to screw into the ceiling with the scary cordless drill now hangs on my apartment balcony. It beckons the hungry little mouths I was afraid would never find me again after I moved out of the first home I had ever purchased. The geese flying overhead on their way to the lake for a water ski splash landing call out to me. As I sit down at my table for one, I glance across the room and out the window. The birds are on the feeder, eating at the same time I am. I am not alone. I have been found.

I am nurturing what life has asked of me. Today I stand tall, in gratitude to the people I’ve lost (some good and some bad) and to those whom I’ve gained. They have either taught or reminded me of who I am and what I stand for. So thank you. Thank you for rekindling in me my honesty, grace, perseverance, and inner muse. Thank you for letting me know that I am strong without you and will, in fact, be okay. My future belongs to me, a testament to the unconditional love with which I’ve finally learned to shower myself. This is a new year, a new history, a new chapter. As I turn the page in my own story, I intend to write like a motherfucker**, love like I’ve never been hurt, be genuine with people while also setting healthy boundaries, and realize deeply that I am enough exactly as I am—always have been, always will be. I may be alone, but I am not lonely. I’m communing with myself, at the table I chose, with the meal I wanted to prepare and the wine I want to drink. And so, cut food, fork in mouth, a slosh of wine, believe in love, repeat.

Newly divorced and shame-free, Maria has found her wings. When she’s not busy deciding what to wear with all those magnificent feathers, she’s rebuilding her life, creating her own happiness, and hopefully inspiring others along the way.

*Adapted from the album Songversation by India.Arie. This album particularly saved my life these last several months. Thank you, India.

**From the Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

Stay tuned. Not only did I win the contest, I was asked to read my essay at the Winners’ Reception. You know what that means – public speaking and hyperhidrosis. Dun dun dun.


Copyright © 2011-2014 My Life as a Puddle

My Hyperhidrosis Theme Song

I’ve loved this song by India.Arie since the first time I heard it. She is definitely on my top 5 list of artists. I saw her in concert last summer and have been listening to her since about 2003. She is part of my pre-interview routine, and when I started my new job I was asked what song described me. I chose this one. I can relate more than just my hyperhidrosis to the lyrics.

I also appreciate the still photo in this video of India. I like the way her hands are posed, as if she’s holding her chin up no matter what happens, while her other palm is clearly visible and ready to support her.

Inside my head there lives a dream
That I wanna see in the sun
Behind my eyes, there is a me
That I’ve been hiding for much too long
‘Cause I’ve been too afraid to let it show
‘Cause I’m scared of the judgment
That may follow
Always puttin’ off my livin’ for tomorrow

It’s time to step out on faith
I gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long
Freedom is mine today

Gotta step out on faith
It’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down
Look what I have found, I’ve found

Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along
Strength, courage and wisdom
Inside of me

Behind my pride there lives a me
That knows humility
Inside my voice, there is a soul
And in my soul there is a voice

But I’ve been too afraid to make a choice
‘Cause I’m scared of the things
That I might be missin’
Runnin’ too fast to stop to listen

It’s time to step out on faith
I gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long
Freedom is mine today

Step out on faith
It’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down
Look what I have found, I’ve found

Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along
Strength, courage and wisdom
Inside of me

I close my eyes and I think
Of all the things that I wanna see
‘Cause I know now that I’ve opened up my heart
I know that anything I want can be

So let it be, so let it be
So let it be, so let it be
So let it be, so let it be
So let it be, so let it be

Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along
Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along

Now every day I pray for
Strength, courage and wisdom
Strength, courage and wisdom
Inside of me

I found it, I found it
I found it, I found it

My Pre-Interview Routine

Call me superstitious, but since 2004 I’ve listened to the same song on my way to an interview. I’ve talked about India.Arie before. I learned about her thanks to the Oprah Winfrey Show, and ever since I saw her perform Video on Oprah’s stage I’ve loved her. Her music speaks to the very depths of my soul. She has a song called Strength, Courage, and Wisdom that I’ve used as my mantra any time I need to present my very best self. It works.

Over the years, especially this past year or so, I’ve added other types of music to my interview playlist. I’m really digging gospel and contemporary Christian music for the specific job interview scenario. I don’t listen to it all the time, but there is something about the way black people sing that infuses me with awe and inspiration. (Side note: I’ve always loved soul and R&B music. I grew up listening to Michael and Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, and Tevin Campbell. Can we talk for a minute? My wedding song was Grace by MeShell Ndegeocello. I’ll give you five bucks if you even know who she is.) I told a girlfriend once over IM that sometimes I think I should have been born black. I already have the “ghetto” booty. 😉 Needless to say, she laughed. But seriously. My music collection is mainly by black artists, with the exception of my boyfriend John Mayer.

So, whatever type of music you listen to, create a playlist of songs that make you feel good and remind you of what you have to offer the world. If you can focus on the music on your way to an interview, you can take some of the focus off of your sweating. You already know you should arrive to your interview a few minutes early, so use some of that time to center yourself. Listen to your best I am awesome, hear me roar song one more time before you get out of the car, take some deep breaths, say a prayer, chant something, etc. Whatever it is that you do, do it. Align your mental state with your intention and the outcome that you desire.

You should already be prepared research-wise for the interview, preferably with some notes jotted down that you can refer to when you’re actually in the interview. Don’t lie to yourself and think that you’re going to remember all of the information you found on the company, what questions to ask them, what the job description is, and scenarios that you’ve been in that can apply to the job for which you’re applying. You’re not going to remember it all, and that’s perfectly fine. Hence the power of the written word! Write this stuff down and help you help yourself.

If there is a bathroom available before I get to the reception desk and no one will see me go in, I always stop. Even if I don’t have to go, I will still use the sink to rinse my hands under cold water to try and calm down the sweating. I also use this as a chance to rearrange my shirt if necessary. If I’m wearing a short-sleeved shirt underneath a suit jacket, I’ll straighten the sleeves and pull them down since they usually get bunched up underneath my extra-wet-for-the-occasion armpits.

Once I’m ready to announce myself to the receptionist or front desk clerk or whomever I’m told to ask for depending on the interview environment, I sit down in the lobby if I have time so that I can adapt to the room temperature. If you’re someone with hyperhidrosis, you’re going to have time. I hate to be rushed for anything. It makes me sweat. So my entire interview process begins way in advance of the time I’m actually scheduled to come to an interview.

The last thing worth mentioning is that since you’ve already jotted down some notes, make sure you bring a pen with you, one that you know has fresh ink and will last through the interview so that you don’t have to borrow one of theirs. I don’t like borrowing pens because I worry about giving them back all wet and coated with a layer of dried sweat. You’ll need a pen to jot down the name(s) of whom you meet if they don’t automatically give you a business card. Letter writing is a lost art. Revive it by sending handwritten thank you cards as a follow up to your interview; emails can be impersonal, and chances are the person who is interviewing you gets enough of them on a daily basis. Don’t crowd their inbox. Take up a small desk residence instead and mail them a smile.


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