An Ode To Betty Draper

(photo: AMC) This morning I lost it Betty Draper style. I’m not sure what set me over the cliff---maybe the fact that I once again shut off my 5:00 alarm and chose to lay in bed and contemplate my life instead of work out. Or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t find a single thing to wear that didn’t scream ‘blah,’ or the 300th zit I pinched on my way out the bathroom door. I was feeling anything but dapper, and as I left the house this morning with thoughts of a daycare bill I forgot to pay and an 18-month old’s nose I forgot to wipe, I couldn’t help but feel as though life is sometimes an out of control mess.

It’s weaved in everything I read and everything I see --- the need to be in control. The desire to handle jobs and lives and kids with a smile on your face, rouge on your cheeks, and a homemade apple pie chilling on the open window ledge. Embodied by the more ‘PG’ rated Betty Drapers of the 50s, this female caricature has been a part of our culture for so long, and leaves us searching for an unrealistic perfection that does nothing but leaves us feeling inadequate when we just can’t hold it together. We want it all, and sometimes, we’re left with what the amazingly brilliant Sylvia Plath says in her memoir ‘The Bell Jar:’ 

'I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.'

That’s how I feel this week – I feel like I’m living in a human pinball machine, ricocheting between two worlds, two lives, and two identities. I’m feeling not in control, but quite vulnerable, and I find myself dancing back and forth between happy or sad, mom or teacher, public school or university, exercise or lay in bed. It’s a rollercoaster, indeed, and I’m feeling as though I need an intervention. It’s kind of like after you get your heart broken, and one of the first things you want to do (after ripping his eyes out, of course) is make this wild, awesome change in your life. A new hairdo. Zumba. A tattoo. Something that gives you the control when things around you are quite out of control. 

After surveying our growing abundance of ‘stuff’ the other day while attempting to find homes for Cruz’s newest Easter treasures, I told Beau that we needed a clean sweep. A week of sorting, throwing, donating, and reorganizing our haven, with hopes that the sorting and reorganizing may trickle into other pieces of life’s jigsaw puzzle. 

I’m living in a time of uncertainty right now and at times, it’s killing me. As of July 31, I will have no job, no security, and no benefits for my family. The job that I’ve worked hard at for five years, at a school that I’m convinced is valuable and needed for so many reasons, is being closed. While I have no idea what this means for my life and my future, I’m attempting to sort out options and understand what’s best. But with uncertainty comes indecision and I happen to be terrible at making decisions. Times like this become a healthy reminder that few things in life are constant and that sometimes, we can’t see that dang forest through the trees. 

Kelle Hampton has reminded me of this over and over again as I’m lost in her book ‘Bloom.’ If you aren’t familiar with Kelle and her blog ‘Enjoying the Small Things,’ you must visit. Although she’s known as a spokeswoman for Down syndrome, she’s more of a spokeswoman for life. Her amazing photography, and ability to see the beauty that exists in everything is inspiring and contagious. But through her memoir, it’s easy to see that with joy, comes pain, and that at times, it’s hard to truly appreciate the joy if we haven’t been through the tough times, too.

In her memoir, she explains her heartbreak in the hospital after giving birth to Nella and learning the news of her diagnosis. She takes us back to that night and recalls a pep talk her sister gave her in the early morning hours of one of Kelle’s toughest days. 

"So many people fear hard times...they go through their life solely seeking comfort and avoiding personal growth at all costs because it hurts. But slowly, change does great things. It renovates new spaces and places into something beautiful. I want you to picture some hypothetical person in your mind - someone who handled Down syndrome exactly like you wish you could. Now go be that person. Rock it out and show the world another way. Put on different glasses, discard the old ones, and flip the switch, Kelle. Because life is all about how you look at it." 

Reading this was an epiphany for me. A reminder that life is what you make it. A reminder that things could be a lot worse and that with change sometimes comes opportunity we can’t even imagine right now. And a reminder to be a person that handles the good and the bad in the best way possible, the best way one can imagine. 

This will be my battle cry from here on out. To rock it out and trust that this little renovation project that’s happening in our lives right now will produce some charming results. 

I think I’ll start with the laundry room…