This was my concern when I discussed vanity: my skin tone. I wanted it to reflect light; for illumination meant I was sustaining the life-force. The day my face took on a dull gray finish I knew my energy was going down and I had to do something. Unless I was slated to be the first female emblazoned onto Mount Rushmore, this low-grade granite tone I emitted had to go. But truth be, I was exhausted going nowhere on the circuitous route I'd taken. What I needed was a goal in which to channel my energy; shore up my resources; focus. That meant walking on the straight and narrow, which didn't exist anywhere on my personal topography until Wednesday April 22, 2015 at 10 AM.
That was the time I got an inkling, while working with middle school kids from Danville, California, with a packed itinerary, demanding at all times I had my watch handy. And it was 8 am when I stepped onto the coach, grabbed the microphone and said, "Hello. My name’s Jane. Call me Jane. Never ‘the guide.’ I’m larger than my function. ”
Whether they understood or not, I didn't care. I needed their attention and when I got all their eyes I resumed. “The only reasons your phones are out are:you're taking photos, looking up information to see if I what I had said was correct, or you're speaking to the President. Am I clear?"
At the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, after I'd given them a tour, I offered ten minutes of free-time; with constrictions. “No one may do drugs” I directed through pursed lips. “Or get tattoos” offered now with a cold stare.” Nor go into anyone’s trunk." That one had extreme gravitas and I strangled my giggle.
If only the clock would tick backwards and I could begin again at their age.
Then everyone dispersed, save three girls. They came up to me with dispatch, me thinking what they were saying next would be of some import. It was "You’re old.” From their perspective I was. I said, "Thank you." Then I wondered "was it a complaint" but they stood there smiling saying next, “And fashionable. We’ve been studying you. You’d do well on Instagram. Give us your phone. We’ll download the app; show you how to upload. You must write as you speak: be funny and make us think.”
Mesmerized by their surety, I complied. The benefit for my participation became clear. They offered me a goal. Forget that it was ludicrous, superficial and mundane; I needed to practice. And when they asked what I'd call myself “Clothing is character all one word no spaces, ” came out as if lying-in-wait for the chance.
Next: a photo opp, in the quasi-dark, by a niche with no markings, producing a dismal shot, which got three likes: those cherubs. The task, though, of accumulating images proved to be daunting.
When I was working or with a friend, I had a ready ally, but most days I was alone. No way was I doing a selfie. What was in order was to develop a technique that would elicit assistance, which was going over to anyone clear-eyed, young, not on crutches, nor wearing earphones and carrying a phone. I'd say, “Can you take a photo? For my fourteen year old followers on Instagram. Do a burst and when you're bored, stop." And whatever was produced went up; one day at a time. No beauty contest here.
Even when strangers rejected me, remembering that woman carrying an air-conditioner who thought I was crazy, and those two teenagers who ran away screaming, I went on to another. For my point was to understand structure, develop perseverance with consistency, and produce something, which was 500 posts and more than 500 followers.
There was my pay-off.
Meanwhile, the universe added another dimension. It was August 7 when I got that e-mail. It was from Yuri who lived in Moscow. The subject line had Cyrillic letters and then a colon: “New York tour.” Inside, in perfect English, he requested one for he and is wife Maria, who followed me on Instagram.
August 14, in the lobby of the Hotel Chatwell , waiting for them, I glimpsed myself in a corner mirror, appearing as if swathed in glitter; not a shred of gray near.
That's what comes from learning how to self-illuminate.