Girl Gladly

What Clouds Know

by Cris Gladly on August 4, 2012

modified image, source: pinterest

I took a day off and went to the beach yesterday.

It was the first time I’ve been to the beach in over a year.

The last time I was there was the day my divorce was finalized.

I actually missed the “it’s official” 503 courtroom declaration
because I’d been delayed going through courthouse security that morning.

The silver metal beads dangling from the ties off my bathing suit bottoms
(fyi: bathing suit was hidden underneath my courtroom clothes)
accidently set off the metal detectors.

I had to explain mySelf to the security guard
and flash him an ever-so-slight peek of dangling metal
before he’d let me go through.

By the time I rushed up the elevator to the assigned courtroom,
the “big moment” had passed.

So, I walked right back out of the courthouse,
got back in my car,
and drove an hour straight to the beach.

image source: unknown

That day was the first time in my entire LIFE
I had ever gone to the beach by mySelf.

Two days prior, a friend of mine gifted me
a brightly-hued, striped, folding beach chair as a divorce present.

It came with an attachable blue umbrella
(to shade ‘me Irish skin).

I arrived at the beach that morning, set up my chair
and wiled away the first several hours of my new “liberty”
under the diligent watch of an epic Sky
as new thoughts and possibilities were born inside my mind
with every gust of salty air and each rolling wave of the expansive sea.

My friend also told me, after presenting me with my chair,
that to further mark the occasion,
I should select several shells from the beach
and set a hope or intention on each one of them.

And then, I should toss them as far as I could
out into the waves
as a symbol of releasing them
and trusting the sea-like ebb and flow of Life
to either pull those intentions in or away from me, each in own their right time.

So, I gathered shells and set my intentions and then set them free,
as my friend suggested.

Afterward, I remember feeling so serene.

I promised mySelf in that moment
that I would make Solo visits to the beach a regular occurrence.

But, yesterday was the first time I’ve been back since 503 Day.

photo by Cris Gladly

I was reminded once again of that seaside promise
just a few days ago,

while making yet another visit to the courthouse,
or The Imposing Tower of Doom, as I like to call it,
(TheX’s favorite hangout, it would seem, as often as he likes to drag us back there.)

As I left the courthouse this time,
I remembered how much sitting by the sea that long-ago day really transformed me,
and I realized: damn!, it has been over a YEAR since I’d been to the beach.

Worse still, I then realized that I have NEVER taken my daughter
to the beach, just her and me.

We went a few times all together when I was still married.
And her father takes her fairly often now.

But I never have.

1. Because I don’t know how to swim.
2. Because I hate being in a bathing suit in public.

But, as I walked out of the courthouse (yet again) the other day,
I thought: I have quite enough bullsh*t in my life
without creating more of it on my own.

So, this morning, when a client delayed our work meeting until next Monday,
I turned around to Em and said, “Get your suit on, kid.
We’re going to the beach!”

She almost fell over in shock.

“Who’s going? Just you and me?!!” she asked in disbelief.

“Just you and me.” I replied.

“OHmygosh!” she said, lighting up like a firefly.

We gathered our things.
Stopped at a few stores along the way to gather some more.
And off we went.

photo by Momota M.

Upon arriving, to keep my self-created bullsh*t in check,
the first thing I did, after setting up our spot,
was pull off my beach cover up,
and march my body-conscious ass right down to the water.

There! … body seen.
Get in the water.
Get over yourself.
On with the day.

The rest of our beach day  was spent splashing
(not too far out: that “I can’t swim” thing is atually not bullsh*t) …
chasing Em around the sand …
examining a sea star and four small jellies we found in a tide pool,
having a picnic …
taking a long walk along the shore …
giggling a lot, and talking.

Lots of holding hands and talking.

When Em decided to frolic on her own by the water’s edge on her boogie board,
I returned to my striped chair, settled in, and sighed happily,
saying to mySelf: I really must do this more often.

At which I had to smile, because, of course, I’ve said that before.

Which then prompted me to remember my “seashell wishes” ritual.

photo by Cris Gladly

So, I quickly gathered five shells
and took them down to the waves.

I set a bold, extravagant (but entirely possible) intention on each one,
kissed them truly,
and then hurled them one by one out into the sea.

1 … {kiss} … …
2 … {kiss} … …
3 … {kiss} … …
4 … {kiss} … …

The wish I made last is the one I hold dearest and hope for most of all.

When I made that one,
I rolled the shell around in palm, and then whispered aloud,
“Yes! I think it’s finally time now.” … {smile} … “I’m ready.”

5 … {kiss} … …

And then sent it flying.

I can’t tell you what I wished for, of course
(per the ordinance of “duh! everybody knows that!” wish superstitions, and all),
but if you’ve followed my story even a little bit,
I’m sure it’s quite easy to guess.

modified image, source: pinterest

At least, my ever-faithful Sky figured it out quickly enough,
because, as I turned around to walk back up the beach,
there, hovering in the beautiful blue Sky above me,
was a huge, completely unmistakable
billowing heart-shaped cloud.

So big.
Right there in front of me.

“Wow,” I said. And then yelled to Em out in the water:
“Em! Come look at this! Come see!!”

She darted to my side and looked up,
then gasped.

“Oh wow! It’s a heart-shaped cloud. That is so awesome!”

I stood there smiling at it for several minutes
until the wind blew the outline of the shape away.

I sat back down in my chair and breathed in more joy and more sea.

Nearby, Em scratched a sign in the sand with her finger that said:

image source:

Soon thereafter, the rising tide and evening chill
shooed us off the beach.

We stopped for ice cream and then headed home.

Once there, Em fell asleep quickly.

I made tea and then languished in a steamy hot shower
letting the sea salt and sprinkles of sand slowly wash off of me.

My thoughts drifted over and over to those perfect poetic lines from e.e. cummings:

For whatever we lose … (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

I loved every single thing about this day.

I really DO need to do this more often.


How about YOU?
What seashell wishes are you casting out to sea these days?
Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

P.S. This post is dedicated to my much-adored friend Benjamin Stone,
who inspires me to “do stuff” and reminds me often to indulge in “small adventures”
so I’ll be better prepared when the big ones come along. xo!


Make A Real Face

by Cris Gladly on February 12, 2012

image source: pintrest

Hi. I’ve been hibernating.

I’ve been hibernating,
incubating, contemplating, reevaluating,
and otherwise taking time to restore.

After weeks of dark, slumber-laced solitude enjoying a quiet, reclusive winter,
I am now suddenly springing forth again
like a plant whose roots and leaves are spreading up, down,
out and around in a dozen different twisting turning directions.

The dormant time period was
powerfully nourishing and transforming for me.

But now, I’m at a bit of loss for where to begin.
I suppose it best then to resume where I last left you:
at the tail end of my 7-week journey exploring fear, beauty and body image.

Yes, that seems fitting,

 I’ll catch this blog up to speed by saying (proudly) that as promised:
I successfully completed my 7-week No Hate Holiday challenge
and on my 39th birthday, summoned my courage,
revealed a very modest (but for me, hugely comfort zone pushing) amount of skin
and had my photo taken for bodyheart’s body image campaign.

image source: pintrest

But what’s lingering on my mind now, in the present,
(and has been for the many days since my birthday photo shoot)
is the memory of another photo once taken of me.

Or rather, a very small series of private photos I once innocently took of my Self.
Images of me first thing in the morning,
entirely unadorned … and {eek!} completely naked.

I snapped the images one warm, sunny morning last summer.
At the time, I was still half in and half out of a sincere attempt at love;
still hopeful and completely smitten.

And as Louisa May Alcott once said:
“Love is a great beautifier.”

So on that particular morning,
I woke up feeling frisky, pretty, a bit shy yet playful,
having slept in nothing but my own skin.

As I sat in my morning meditation, I happened to catch my eye
in my over-sized bedroom mirror and suddenly curiosity kicked in.

I sat there in this incredibly rare (for me) physically uninhibited moment
observing the lines and ever so slight curves and contours of my body in the mirror
and, for once, really liked what I saw there.

photographer: Van McLine

And yet this was me
at my absolute most raw, vulnerable, bare and defenseless:
without the slightest wisp of makeup,
bangs swept back and clipped off my forehead,
hair loose, down, and fresh-from-the-bed tousled.
I kid you not when I say that I let no one see me like this.

And yet, for some reason, without really thinking about it,
I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures of my Self in the mirror’s reflection.

Nothing lurid. Nothing graphic.
There was no salacious, ‘do-me’ posturing or posing,
like the barrage of bikini/lingerie clad, “leave nothing to the imagination”
photos girls seems hell bent on slapping up all over Facebook these days
(sometimes I think I may well be the last physically modest female left on the planet).

In my photos, I was simply curious.
I saw something different, something alluring, in the mirror that day
and wanted to see if the camera would capture it
because I wasn’t quite sure what exactly the ‘it’ was.

And so I snapped a few photos and something so surprising happened.

Me — the woman who regularly hides from cameras like they are lethal weapons;
Me — the woman whose spirit physically shrinks, dims and retracts when her photo is taken;
Me — the woman who has never ever truly liked a single photo of her ever taken …
That same woman looked at these unstructured, unassuming photos of her naked Self
and loved them!

I mean spellbound, can’t stop staring, loved them!

But what was striking for me about the images
(and is still notable to me to this day)
is that EVERY flaw I’ve ever seen in myself
is clearly visible in those photos.

My pale skin.
My lines and wrinkles.
My quirky, slightly crooked face.
My high forehead.
My imperfect abs.

People chastise me:
Cris, you’re crazy. What are you even talking about?
when I mention these things,
But, uhhh!!! … No. I’m not!
Every single one of those things is right there
undeniably, on full display in those photos.

So, technically, I should hate those images.
should want to delete them, hide them,
or at least edit them, like I do most of my other photos.

But nope. I love them.
Entirely unaltered.
Just as they are.

But for the life me, in all of these many months since I first took them,
I haven’t been able to understand why.

Until now.

photographer: Francesca Woodman

Let me see if I can explain,
because this particular realization, I believe
is a key to women (or at least me) finally breaking free
of our culture’s wide spread plague of beauty/body self-rejection …

In my photos, I look indelibly like … me.
Every “flaw” is present.
And for the rest of my life,
unless I Botox and derma-filler myself into oblivion,
I am only ever going to be able to look like this … like me.

But what I’m realizing is that our society emphasizes
(and therefore women and men obsesses about)
what creates the look of beauty.
And as I shared in my post about my behind-the-scenes experience
on a New York City fashion shoot,
lots of very, very unbeautiful and seriously uncomfortable things happen in order to create the ‘appearance’, or look, of perfect beauty for a photographic image.

Basically, what looks beautiful and what feels beautiful
are often two very different things.

As I experienced myself on my own bodyheart photo shoot.
One specific example being: my skin.

All of my young life I was made fun of for the pale color of my Irish complexion,
to the degree that I remain terribly insecure about it,
striving to keep as much of me covered as possible, especially my stomach and legs.

image source:

And yet, I also have been repeatedly complimented
on the exquisite softness of my skin.
What makes my skin beautiful is not how it looks, per se,
but rather, how it feels
How beautifully soft, smooth and irresistibly touchable it is.

Yet at my bodyheart photo shoot,
in order to get my skin tone to register well on camera under the lighting,
a thin layer of coconut oil mixed with foundation was applied to my body.

It helped my skin look good, but it felt sticky and oily and uncomfortable.
And I found it rather comical that in order to make my skin look pretty
what is actually beautiful about my skin was literally glossed over.

And so, in the two weeks that have followed since that shoot,
I’ve really been paying attention to the difference between
what makes me look or not look beautiful,
and what makes me actually feel beautiful.
And I’ve realized that vastly different circumstances are usually occurring.

Case in point,
with the help of the amazing culinary nutritionist Sue Ann Gleason.
I am, for the first time in my life,
learning how to actually cook … and I’m loving it!

A few weeks ago, I decided to stay home on a Friday night
to try my hand at a more complicated dish:
a warm, subtly spicy Moroccan Quinoa that took just shy of two hours to make.

By the time I was done,
I was radiating such a self-satisfied glow and adorable pride in my accomplishment
(and its unbelievably sensual tastiness)
that I thought: “Oh my god, I am seriously the sexiest woman alive right now!

I have no idea how I actually looked in the moment,
but I had an irresistible sparkle in my eyes and a twinkling in my toes
and I felt utterly, completely and deliciously beautiful.

image source:

The same thing occurred when I walked out
of belly dancing class last week,

my first time back at class in over 3 months.

I mustered the nerve to let my stomach actually show a bit in class
(the very first time ever having done so
despite having discretely taken belly dancing lessons for years).

And something about that small flash of delicate skin,
combined with moving my body around in that exotic, poetic way
(even if I was a bit stiff and unpolished after so many missed classes)
left me feeling smiley, and sparkly and beautiful.

And I realize now that THIS is what was distinct
about those dreamy bien dans sa peau summer photos of mine.

All of my physical flaws are absolutely there in those images,
as are all of my physical assets as well.
(Yes, I’ll concede that I do, at least, have a few.)

But, whether I actually look beautiful in the images is debatable.
And I simply can’t control people’s opinions on the matter,
any more than I can control people’s opinions of how I look on any other day.
All I can control is how I feel.

And what makes those images so special to me
is how I felt about my Self when I took them.

In those images I look delicate, innocent, and so playful and sweet!!!
I like the ‘me’ in those photos.
And the sparkle of me loving those aspects of my Self,
is what is undeniably beautiful in those oh-so private images.

So, look, I’ve got to put my foot down here on this beauty thing.
I feel like society demands that a woman unwaveringly believe
that she “looks” beautiful every single minute
in order for her to qualify as: “confident with healthy self-esteem”.

I’m sorry, that’s not fair. Nor is it honest.
I don’t have to believe that I am/look pretty
to be a healthy, confident person.

There are thousands of women infinitely better looking than I am.
(Congratulations to them. I understand why the world gawks at them.)
Just as there are women out there who might wish they looked a little bit like me.
(and thank you to those of you who think so well of me).

But in my mind, I think I hover somewhere in the middle.
And I’m okay with being average looking.

I, for one, think it’s kind of sane and healthy of me
to have a realistic perception of my attributes
and where they do and don’t rank on the beauty social acceptance scale.

image source: louisabobisa.blogspot

So, sorry. No! What I see in the mirror
did not change during my 7-week No Hate Holiday challenge.
BUT, what did change, is what my reflection in the mirror now means to me.

I look how I look.
And for all of these years, I truly thought that joy would come if I could
somehow figure out how to change or improve that “look”.
But, that isn’t going to happen.

This face and this body are what I have to work with.
Some days, I look really, really good.
Some days, I really, really don’t.
But my mistake (and the mistake many women make) has been in tormenting myself
trying to achieve a more beautiful ‘look’
thinking that once I did, I would finally feel beautiful, too.

Turns out: it’s the other way around.

And so, from now on,
I am going to channel my energy into doing the things that make me feel beautiful.
Because the things that make me feel beautiful
are WAY more fun and interesting than what makes me look beautiful.

And also, I’m seriously tired of carrying the weight of this topic around.

I have a big beautiful life waiting that I need (want!) to enjoy more fully,
no matter how I look while doing so.

Now that the No Hate Holiday challenge is over
I am sooo ready to experience and write about other things.
And so, how I choose to table this beauty conversation is with this …

image source: pintrest

A Zen friend of mine
shared a saying from Toltec teaching with me recently:

God allowed me today to make a real face.

And when I heard this my heart said: “Yes!!!!
THIS is what I’ve been trying to communicate all along.
THIS is what feels true to me.

I want the people who love me to
think I’m beautiful when I’m polished and put together
AND when I’m plain and disheveled and average and ordinary.
The two combined are what is real about me.

And this is why I love those summer morning photos of mine.

Because I feel most beautiful when I’m allowed to make a real face.

How about YOU?
On days when you can’t control how you look,
how do you embody “beauty” as a feeling?
Are you making a real face?

p.s. for what it’s worth …
I think you’re gorgeous!


The Beauty of Bleeding Eardrums

December 9, 2011

I am a terrible singer. I don’t mean in a cute, quirky kind of way. I mean: I make glass shatter and eardrums bleed. I’m not tone deaf. I hear music in all of its perfect melodic beauty. But when I sing the beauty doesn’t translate. My voice cracks, misses notes, and ventures off into dark, […]

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“Help! Help!”, she cried.

December 8, 2011

One of the things I am terrible at in this world is asking for help. I’m great at asking for opinions, asking for guidance, asking for insight and assistance. None of which, in my mind, is the same as asking for “help”. Asking for help doesn’t feel like transparent vulnerability to me. It feels like […]

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No “My”, Just Me

December 6, 2011

I decided yesterday that I need a body/beauty role model. Someone I can emulate throughout the “No Hate Holiday” bodyheart challenge who exemplifies complete and total body and beauty confidence. I’m proud to report: I did successfully identify that person. But it’s the last person anyone would ever expect it to be. I’ll admit: I […]

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My “No Hate Holiday” Challenge

December 5, 2011

I just took on a super big super scary super holy-oh-my-gosh terrifying challenge. It’s one I’m trying hard to be playful about, but I kid you not, I’m scared out of my mind! When I told e/S about it on the phone the other night, she was excited. She said: “This is great. This is […]

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On My Not Hot

November 19, 2011

I … am not hot. I am not hot. I am not smokin’. I am no picture perfect model. I am just an average looking woman perceived as attractive for having a beautiful spirit. At times I can look absolutely lovely, even downright stunning! But there are also times I look like a bus backed […]

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