Sometimes hobbies and interests seem like the Hydra. They take over so much of my non-working or sleeping hours, they invariably drain away the quiet downtime I often convince myself I don't have time for. I shrug it off as frivolous, even wasteful because I am a busy person, and busy people should be productive. I occasionally feel overwhelmed by all that self-imposed responsibility, but when I try to wrangle balance out of this monster and cut off one head, another grows back.
I normally buy presents for people weeks or months in advance, but I realized last Friday that I had not yet purchased a Mother's Day present. I had little time to remedy this situation because Mr. Petals and I were taking Mom to a Sunday seaside brunch. So I did the unthinkable. I went to the mall. On Saturday.
This may surprise you coming from a beauty blogger, but I hate shopping. My husband feels like the most fortunate man on earth because shopping for me means being in the store/mall parking lot waiting for the doors to be unlocked, dashing inside with a list, and returning to the car within the hour, before the crowds show up. To be that organized takes research, but I am it's the only way I can handle it.
So Saturday I found myself at the mall, without a list or even a plan, but I wasn't inside more than five minutes before the most gorgeous bottle-green handbag called to me.
Total Mom bag. Great—I'd found the perfect present for my mother. Except I had to walk through the department store to get back to the parking lot. On my way through, as these things invariably happen, I had to brace myself for the perfume blockade. One such spritzer was a Chanel employee, but I felt quite smug and safe as I informed her that I have been wearing Chanel No.5 and No.19 since the 80s and did not need a thing.
"But what about your mother?" she asked. Uh-oh.
How did she know I'd been considering trying to convert my mother over to Chanel? Mom began her perfume life wearing Guerlain Shalimar, and she switched to Estée by Estée Lauder after, which has been her signature fragrance for 50 years. And as much as I hate to say it, I have never liked Estée, mainly because it makes me sneeze. So I asked Georgia about something rich and spicy, since that seems to be my mother's preference.
And here's the thing about shopping, and perhaps the main reason I avoid it. When I am out there, surrounded by at all the pretty things, I see all kinds of stuff I had no idea I wanted. I covet. I lust. I have an inner battle. I often lose. To make a predictable story short, I left the Chanel counter with a sample spray vial of Coco for Mom. And a bag of Chanel items I do not need for me. An eyeshadow quad? Really? I'm not the Hydra monster. I have only two eyes, but it often feels like my becoming a beauty blogger has heightened my awareness for beauty products I used to largely ignore.
Skip to Sunday. Brunch was wonderful, and we had a great visit with my parents, visits that I cherish because I know there will come a day in the not too distant future where I no longer have one or both of them to visit.
On our way home from the coast, Mr. Petals and I stopped at the nursery so I could buy hanging flower baskets, one for the hummingbirds and honey bees and a few for the front porch for curb appeal. Within five minutes after we'd arrived home, and I was hanging the flower baskets, and I was drawn up short by the absolute beauty of my surroundings.
Barely 5PM, it was prime feeding time for birds, who were crowded at the feeder. The sound of hundreds of happy songbirds was simply gorgeous. And then I noticed a clematis that had flopped over and tied it back up, and the more I stayed outside, tending to my neglected gardens, the more I realized what I have been missing by not slowing down and appreciating all the beauty around me. As I weeded and deadheaded, it occurred to me that perhaps my desire to buy new makeup is a based on a love of color. I don't need to buy stuff that clutters my home and my mind when I can enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer.
I lost my sense of smell—totally and completely—for five years, and when I felt sorry for myself for not being able to smell the perfume of flowers, my morning cup of coffee, freshly-cut grass, the salty tang of ocean air, or even a Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the oven, I continually reminded myself that of any sense to lose, at least it wasn't my sight. To not be able to read or see beautiful things would be a devastating blow. People deal with such loss all the time, but I would have a very hard time adjusting.
One of the things I would most miss, you see, is color. Sky, clouds, ocean, flowers, trees, textiles, and more. I sat down on the porch steps and admired the brilliant yellow goldfinches feeding their babies, which if you have never seen it, is so adorable; the youngsters line up on the railing and furiously flap their wings and peep for attention. Suddenly, my eye would be drawn to the brilliant ruby throat of a hummingbird, the cardinal red of the red-bellied woodpecker, dusky red and steel blue against the creamy belly of the bluebird, purple finches, dove-grey titmice, iridescent blue-green-black feathers of gluttonous grackles, the brilliant orange breast of the oriole, the scarlet cardinals, the grey catbird, and the golden-brown Carolina wren. And once in a while, so rare sightings become treasured moments, my patience will be rewarded with the glorious plumage of a strutting tom turkey.
And if that isn't enough beauty, I can walk around my yard and admire the blooms of the nearly-spent pinkish-white crab apple and ivory dogwood, the bell-shaped delicate-pink bleeding heart, pale yellow helleborus, the vivid purple lungwort with its velvety white-spotted grey-green leaves, the proud violet iris nodding in the breeze, and the beginnings of the pink and white and purple bigfoot geraniums. With more to come over the summer and fall season.
Peaceful. A sensory explosion of all senses but taste, but sometimes I think I can smell honeysuckle on my tongue. Yesterday, all desire for material things outside my surroundings or myself drifted away like the gentle, departing wake from a sailboat. I felt centered, balanced, and restored. Invigorated.
Whatever one's life situation, it seems like there are more demands than ever before, some self imposed and some necessitated by families, job, and maintaining the roof over our heads. How and where do you find balance?