Jump Starts

Audrey Hepburn as “Sabrina,” after her chic Paris makeover

I’ve always been ambivalent about our culture’s obsession with makeovers. On the one hand, so often the implication is that there’s something wrong with us…with our style, our hair, our makeup, or even our bodies themselves that need “fixing.” A pervasive Self-Improvement culture can sometimes let us forget that we are already just fine, right now, as we are.
Whether in fiction, movies or on daytime talk shows on TV, the transformation is presented with a fairy-tale ending: Cinderella gets the job, the man, the respect of her family, and gets to keep the pair of designer glass slippers. 
Life doesn’t work like that. We can change our clothes and even our bodies, but so often the circumstances of our lives haven’t changed that much. We may still have an ill relative who needs care, or an out-of-work spouse or partner, or a house that’s under water on the mortgage, or worse. There’s only so much that we have the power to transform with a snappy new look or yoga routine. I wonder how many of the women who receive splashy makeovers keep up the new (and often higher-maintenance) look. 
But on the other hand, sometimes we need a boost, a pick-me-up, a fresh perspective, a jump start. And not just with regard to our appearance; sometimes our routines and habits can use little makeovers too, in order to give our physical and mental health a boost, and help us to stay on top of life’s quick pace and (at times) increasing demands.
In the last several months, I’ve often felt as if life is a speeding train, and I’m barely hanging on to the back railing on the caboose. Some of this has to do with jeune homme’s situation. His aggressive behaviors and mood swings* have become more difficult to manage over time, and we often find ourselves tied down to the house on evenings and weekends or playing tag-team to get chores and errands done, or even just to have a little down time. We’ve realized the situation isn’t sustainable, and are beginning to look at some more comprehensive and longer-term solutions. But in the meantime, I’ve been taking some small-ish steps and making changes to my own routine to help me feel more like I’m driving the train rather than being dragged along behind it.
Even without those circumstances, there seems to be a corollary law of physics which states that getting older means we have to pay more attention to maintenance. Maintenance of our health mostly, but also maintenance of relationships, of keeping our brains engaged and stimulated. Maintenance of our appearance, to whatever degree we’ve decided to go there. Even if life is going along smoothly, the aging process demands more from us in the way of attention and action, in a “use it or lose it” kind of way. 
Beginning in January, I’ll be posting periodically on some of these “jump starts” I’ve begun incorporating into my own life and routines. Some are health-oriented, others relate to style and appearance, and some are in the Life, In General category. And I’d love to hear your ideas too for big and small ways you’ve jump-started or re-booted any areas of your life. While I’m wary of Good Fairy-level makeovers, I do think that periodic re-evaluations and tweaks help keep us engaged, and engaging.

What’s your take on makeovers? Do you enjoy a good Before and After, or do you find them off-putting? Or somewhere in between?

*For those who may not be aware, jeune homme (our 15-year-old son) suffered some severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen prior to birthHe’s a sweet kid generally, but has no impulse control and is in the throes of hormonal changes due to adolescence. His physical aggression, though intermittent has been escalating. We’ve been trying to manage it with behavioral therapy and medication, with limited results.
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  1. Ginger
    December 12, 2012 / 11:34 am

    We dream of quick fixes but it takes at least three weeks to establish a new habit. Baby steps are the path to big changes for me.

    Hang in with your hormonal son! It was my experience that thirteen through fifteen was the worst. He will settle down it just doesn’t feel that way now. Don’t feel bad about arranging a break for yourselves but know that it doesn’t need to be permanent.

  2. December 12, 2012 / 11:39 am

    Totally agree with you! I love to watch make-over shows but why is the “after” always so high maintenance or downright uncomfortable (stockings/high heals/a ton of make up! I am sure that often the people feel like they don’t look like themselves anymore…. I live in the tropics and its just too hot to blow dry my hair every morning and I perspire too much to wear a lot of make up. Clothes have to be lightweight and comfortable and I don’t want to spend too much time getting ready in the morning. That said, I have reached an age where I suppose I should make a little more effort so that at least I look “soigné” regardless of the heat and need to take baby steps in that direction. Look forward to reading about your life and hope things improve with your son once the horrormones are finished with him!

  3. December 12, 2012 / 11:47 am

    My sister’s son suffers from a very similar condition, hewas born under similar circumstances and as he’s gotten older his aggression can be be really quite scary at times, especially as he now towers over her. It’s not easy, she never ever takes I break, I don’t know how either of you manage. Hats off to you.

  4. December 12, 2012 / 12:12 pm

    It’s amazing what goes on behind the scenes. I have 3 children with Down syndrome ages 24, 20 and 15. I am not dealing with the same issues but know what it’s like to sometimes be “hanging on to the caboose instead of driving the train.” My heart and prayers are with you as you search for a solution.

  5. December 12, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    At one time, I was fascinated by the makeover shows (especially Oprah’s!). Not as much anymore. I used to watch for “tips and tricks”. However, I think i’ve settled on who I am, how I present myself and how much effort I am willing to expend to get there. The one area where I do like to engage in some occasional tweeking is my life habits – or how I conduct my daily life mentally. (Does that make any sense?) Coincidentally, I am going through such a phase right now, so your post is especially relevant. I look forward to hearing what you will focus on and how you will approach change. For me, it will be about FOCUS. Often, I let my life unravel a bit. I feel the need to spool it all back in, make it nice and tidy.

    Supportive thoughts your way regarding jeune homme. I hear what a challenging and emotionally difficult time this is for you. Everything will work out – everything always does, the challenge is just the time it takes to get there. All my best to you.

  6. Anonymous
    December 12, 2012 / 1:06 pm

    I’ve been working on a fitness makeover..I wanted to be sure that I’d be mobile in my later years! It’s been rewarding, but tough, and I’m looking forward to reading your insights!

  7. December 12, 2012 / 1:18 pm

    Such a thoughtful post, Une Femme – you’re so right about there being no quick fixes, only fresh perspectives. So much of my “making over” occurs only in my head, in how I choose to look at things such as aging parents, finances, and my own aging. Not to say I don’t enjoy a new lipstick, haircut, restaurant or book to shake up the routine! Best to you in your caring for your son – you have my utmost respect.

  8. December 12, 2012 / 1:32 pm

    I hate extreme makeovers, there’s one on TV (or at least there used to be) over here called 10 Years Younger where basically women are encouraged to have so much surgery and stuff, that they end up looking like someone else. Not a great message. Though I think smaller details like clothes, hair and make-up can be revised and updated to good effect. I’m sorry to hear of the difficulties you’ve been having and hope you manage to find a long-term solution soon. I feel like I’m on a runaway train myself but it’s work- related, not family. Think I just need to be brave and jump.

  9. December 12, 2012 / 1:53 pm

    Very thought provoking post.
    I know what you mean about hanging on to the fast moving life train….one minute you’re a young mom, next, you’re an empty nester.
    Change is inevitable for all of us whether good or bad. The make-overs we see on TV are good for ratings but unattainable for the majority. For me, I hope to stay healthy – mind & body first and foremost. The physical part will follow. Looking forward to your follow up posts.
    I’m sorry to hear of your struggles with your son.
    Happy Holidays!

  10. December 12, 2012 / 3:01 pm

    I believe true make-overs evolve over time. Mine began with a warning from my doctor. I could not sustain my weight and my cholesterol was out of control. Unfortunately, I cannot tolerate statins. I went on a balanced, but restricted diet approved by my doctor. In addition, I started exercising and established a work-out routine. Over the period of two years I lost over 50 pounds, built physical stamina, and felt healthier. A funny thing happened along the way. I became more invested in all aspects of my life and had a greater sense of well-being. I took a greater interest in my appearance and began getting regular manicures, hair-cuts, and an occasional massage/facial. My clothing fit better and I had to revamp my wardrobe as I went down several sizes. I did go to the Chanel counter to have a make-over. I purchased a few items and started following blogs for suggestions that other women found effective.

    This did not just impact my appearance. I began a Rosetta Stone course in French, took classes at the Art Institute, joined book clubs, and attended fund-raisers.

    In all this paid off as I needed a serious surgery. Afterwards, my doctors thanked me for being fit as it made the surgery easier and recovery was quick. I was out running again within 7 weeks.

    A true makeover takes time and it begins with one significant step–to begin.

  11. AprilB
    December 12, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    Really looking to forward to your January posts. I’ve hit 45 this year, and have hit what (I think) is perimenopausal weight gain, and perpetual ‘knackeredness’ or it could just be no time to exercise and food as a substitute for sleep (running my own business, nursing my m-i-law, who lives with us, through a painful cancer journey, and the usual trials and tribulations of being a wife and Mum to teenage boys (our fifteen year old has cerebral palsy too.) I love your blog, which helps me as I cling onto my own fast moving train. Happy Christmas from the UK.

  12. December 12, 2012 / 3:16 pm

    I do empathize with you…
    I work with special needs students and can see how day to day their moods oscillate and change.
    It must be very stressful for you and I hope that you are able to get respite. Many of our parents do avail them of this service.

    On the other hand I await your jump starts we all need to keep things fresh.
    Take care,

  13. December 12, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    I really have learned a lot over the years from your pro-active mindset and positive attitude. I have less on my plate, yet get bogged down in routine. I need to “change my life” also.

    Here’s a famous poem that ends with that: Archaic Torso of Apollo

    We cannot know his legendary head
    with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
    is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
    like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

    gleams in all its power. Otherwise
    the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
    a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
    to that dark center where procreation flared.

    Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
    beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
    and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

    would not, from all the borders of itself,
    burst like a star: for here there is no place
    that does not see you. You must change your life.
    Rainer Maria Rilke

  14. December 12, 2012 / 3:37 pm

    Your life as a fast moving train resonates with me. My email inboxes contribute to that speed. Your post made me do something I had been putting off: create filters for my inbox delivering items that can wait until I have a moment to breath to their own folder and leaving the urgent ones that need my immediate attention in the new mail viewer. Make overs aren’t always about physical appearance. Thanks.

  15. December 12, 2012 / 4:31 pm

    Extreme makeovers are like extreme anything– unnecessary and unsuccessful. When I feel that I need to adjust something in my life, I do it in “baby steps” that I can maintain. We all have full plate lives and we need to plan changes that enhance rather than burden. You are amazing just the way you are.

  16. Anonymous
    December 12, 2012 / 4:47 pm

    The only make-over as I approach 70 is an attention to detail. I finally have indulged in pedicures and a good hair colorist. Speaking of hair color: not covering grey but highlighting and enhancing it. Looking an honest 70 rather than like a geriatric cinderella seems a better choice to me. thank you

  17. December 12, 2012 / 6:02 pm

    Oh dear, sorry about the troubles with your son.

  18. December 12, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    Here’s wishing you much good will and patience and forebearing with your son. We have friends who went through similar challenges. It all works out over time.

    As for makeovers, the only one I still wish I could master is make-up. I can’t tell you the number of times I get a make-up lesson, think I’m going to change my routine, and within two weeks I’m back to my usual self. I should learn by now!

    I’m looking forward to your Jump Start posts!

  19. December 12, 2012 / 7:19 pm

    I love a good before and after…it gives me hope and the people always look so thrilled. Cant wait to see what you come up with. I have lost 45 pounds and need to ‘jump start’ the fitness.
    So sorry about your son’s issues. Its very hard.

  20. Mary
    December 12, 2012 / 12:19 pm

    Not that big a fan of makeovers, especially when they make ‘persons of a certain age’ look like (as my British mother used to term it),”mutton dressed as lamb.”

  21. December 12, 2012 / 8:21 pm

    At this time of year I recall a few years that were indeed a speeding train, on its way to disaster. I survived but only in pieces. Ironically, I have been considering a makeover to sort and jump start the Me 2.0. I am ready but certainly not in the television style. A change in routine a change in hairstyle? color? A change in sleep habits. These may sound rather elementary but I believe that such small changes can evolve into the person I am meant to be now, in post middle age. I am so looking forward to your Jan. posts and perspective. I live in Pittsburgh and it is quite chilly here now and I want to start some new exercise options. I will probably revert to the dreaded treadmill. Any ideas beyond that will be most welcome:)

  22. December 12, 2012 / 8:31 pm

    I like the idea of jumpstarts much better than that of a makeover, and I’ll look forward to seeing what kind of a charge your posts will bring. Sometimes it’s just some meaningful tweaking with the daily routine that can pay huge dividends.
    I do hope you’re able to get some respite from stresses, both at home and at work. That’s a heavy load!

  23. Pam @ over50feeling40
    December 12, 2012 / 1:07 pm

    I am really looking forward to your January posts. It is difficult to keep this short, because really this is what my blog is all about and it was an AH HA moment which led to a makeover which gave me the shot in arm to enjoy life again. When I turned 50 I had a wake up moment and actually looked in the mirror for the first time in years. I had placed Pam on the back burner as I raised children and completely forgotten about me. I allowed some other circumstances to beat me down. When I saw how bad I looked (literally worn and torn) I went through a make over. Make over shows did help and direct me in making personal decisions about myself. They headed me in the right direction. I am a work in progress every day, but I now face every day with all of its challenges and sometimes CRUD….as an adventure! Life is short…I choose to enjoy it with strength and dignity…no matter the chaos around me. My makeover was very important at a critical time in my life. I really look so forward to January with your posts!! I have friends with special needs children and I know how wearisome it can be…you are an amazing woman and I know your sacrifices will be honored.Sacrificial love always pays off no matter what the circumstances are.

  24. December 12, 2012 / 10:17 pm

    Jumpstarts sound much more appealing to me than a makeover; I’m convinced they are much more meaningful and effective.

    I’m sorry about the turbulence your son is experiencing and the stresses this adds to your life.

  25. December 12, 2012 / 10:51 pm

    Not a special needs child here, but I had one with Leukemia, which meant a 2.5 year chemotherapy regime which took up all of my free energy, time and abilities. I had to let something slip, and what “fell off my plate” was that nothing fell off my plate! LOL 40 lbs heavier, my daughter received her cancer-free screening Oct 5 of last year, and Nov 1 I started a jump start of weight loss. A year later, I’ve lost the 40 lbs and have more energy and happiness and gratitude than I’ve ever had. It was definitely a jump start with a very calorie-restricted replacement meal plan.

    As far as makeovers, I enjoy watching the Stacy and Clinton show (somehow I’m completely brain freezing on the name), but don’t care for the more extreme ones. Those feel sad to me somehow.

    Take care and hang on to that train. Sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and “get by” rather than “make progress”.

  26. Pale Lady
    December 12, 2012 / 5:02 pm

    ” While I’m wary of Good Fairy-level makeovers, I do think that periodic re-evaluations and tweaks help keep us engaged, and engaging.”

    Hear, hear. Even if nothing comes of it, I think pausing for evaluation is healthy. And *hugs* for the son’s situation.

  27. Veuve
    December 12, 2012 / 5:17 pm

    Very sorry to hear about the difficulties with your son. Mothering a teenager is never an easy job, but additional challenges can make it feel like running a marathon.

    As to makeovers: when I was younger, I was enamored with the idea that I could be “transformed”. Of course, it was just a projection of unhappiness with myself, but I spent many years and dollars following that pipe dream. Nowdays most of the makeovers I see make women look nearly alike, and slotted into a cramped little definition of “pretty”.
    We are changing constantly anyway, so it’s good to keep up with that. But it has to be on our own terms.

  28. Anonymous
    December 13, 2012 / 3:17 am

    I do love a good makeover, I admit. They do two women every Thursday on the Today Show, and I always try to tune in. I think deep down I wish someone would take me in hand and make me fabulous. Would it make my life fabulous as well? Well, no, I’m mature enough to realize that at least. But I think most of us reading this blog, and similar ones, understand that looking good, or as good as we feasibly can, does give us a certain lift, a confidence, that makes it worth the effort.

    I’m not a fan of plastic surgery type makeovers, unless there is a serious deformity of some sort. But I love to see what a great haircut, color, and makeup, as well as a great outfit, can do for a woman.

    —Jill Ann

  29. Anonymous
    December 13, 2012 / 3:20 am

    Oh, and that is one of my very favorite pictures of Audrey, in her train station outfit. I am still hunting for a pair of those earrings.

    —Jill Ann

  30. Katja
    December 12, 2012 / 10:28 pm

    Makeovers are troublesome for all the reasons you and the commenters have mentioned.

    Approached with playfulness, however, they can be valuable if only as a tool to show how many different possibilities there are for any of us. I view them as costuming/playacting. Anyone can, with some thought and creativity, assume and/or present multiple personas. It can be enlightening to see that this is possible, and can be an impetus towards change.

  31. Kathy
    December 13, 2012 / 12:45 am

    Really sorry about the growing difficulties with your son, and glad you’re thinking about long term solutions that will be best for all of you. I feel like I need a mental makeover right now. Speeding train syndrome as well. It’s been a year full of big ups and downs and a lot of stress.

  32. Anonymous
    December 13, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    Let me say firstly Thankyou for a fantastic blog. I have only been following you for a couple of weeks but I really look forward to reading whatever you write about.
    I have friends with a daughter that has and will always need care. The strain on their marriage has been immense. My heart goes out to you.
    The Makeover- I did this a couple of years ago and vowed that I would do it every year if I could afford to. But I have been time & money poor alas. It gave me a real boost in confidence and made me feel really good about myself. I didn’t go for a new haircut or facial, but found a stylist who would go shopping with me, a 50 year old women and sugget/show me what suited and didn’t make me feel like “mutton dressed up as lamb”. I received alot of compliments about the way I looked. I’ve been thinking it’s time for another, I turn 53 next year and I am 4 weeks into my health and fitness program and today I actually jogged further than I have jogged since I was in high school. I feelproud of my achievment so far.
    I look forward to January too. Thankyou

  33. Viktoria
    December 13, 2012 / 5:37 am

    Very good idea for a theme. Personally, I keep a diary, and have been for more than 20 years. Every now and then, usually when I feel down and like I´m in a rut, I will go back and read some of what I have written and try to make some kind of summary, “balance the books”, so to speak. Sometimes I will try to find some kind of inspirational quote or image and use that to focus on certain aspects of my life. It´s a very good tool to work through stuff and get unstuck. Sometimes I will buy a few notebooks in advance and write down “check points” at the end of them, to remind myself to review certain questions or goals I have set for myself. Only one´s creativity sets limits to what one can do with them.

  34. Val Sparkle
    December 13, 2012 / 7:47 am

    I have a deep admiration for all you women who have such challenges with your children. I never had kids, and my stepkids never lived with us, so I got by easy on that part of life. Of course, I’ve missed out on something there, too. Best of luck with le jeune homme.

    One quick thought on makeovers – a few months ago I cut my hair into a modified pixie. I was so bored with the bob I had for years. So. Bored. I had had my hair short before, but this time it just felt like a breath of fresh air. It tied in with finding this blog, and others, and taking more interest in my wardrobe. I guess that was a little bit of a jump start.

  35. December 13, 2012 / 5:05 pm

    Sending good thoughts your way during this difficult time of transition! I’m so sorry it’s become such a challenge.

    On another note, I generally find makeovers ridiculous. Even when I was an Image Consultant, I never called my work that. Change coming from within is more authentic and fresh perspective, as you said, is much more appropriate. Radical make overs are short lived because they are generally overdone.

  36. December 13, 2012 / 5:10 pm

    Oops. I detest this IPad sometimes.
    To continue, I always enjoy your observations and look forward to your new thoughts in the new year.

  37. Marla
    December 13, 2012 / 12:00 pm

    I can understand your situation and have so much empathy for you. My youngest son (17 yrs) has fairly moderate OCD/anxiety which we treat with meds and cognitive therapy. He has been dealing with it since 6th grade. My oldest son is a very high functioning Asperger kid. He is actually doing very well now.
    I am the youngest ones “therapist” on a daily basis which wears me out sometimes but I am more than willing to do it to get him through his difficulties.
    I love makeovers-especially hair makeovers. Really think it’s amazing how someone can be transformed with hair, makeup and clothing.

  38. Rosie
    December 13, 2012 / 8:43 pm

    Last year the “before” was me, an originally dark haired brunette, furiously attempting to keep the white roots colored. 14 months later, the “after” is a gloriously liberated, silver-haired 58yr old. I went cold turkey around the same time as Lisa (AmidPrivledge) with a much more difficult row to hoe. Many hats were utilized. I feel 10 years younger and so much more authentic. Makeovers are good.
    You are a wonderful example of grace under pressure. I too, would love to give you a smile and a hug and share a jug of wine and nibbles. Hang in there.

  39. mette
    December 13, 2012 / 4:05 pm

    I believe you have already started your ” jump “, by sharing your difficult situation at home.
    From experience, I recommend you to express your emotions; when happy – show it, when sad – show it.
    Looking forward to what all you´ll come up with starting next January.

  40. JAS08
    December 13, 2012 / 5:11 pm

    I think a makeover is a personal decision, some people need that jolt to get them out of a rut and others just need a tweak.

    Concerning your son, I have a son in a similar situation. His Dr. put him on Amantadine liquid (for Parkinson) and it made a world of difference. He still has his moments but don’t we all.

  41. December 14, 2012 / 2:16 am

    Makeovers have to be approached with the idea that real change takes time. It’s sort of like taking a trip to Paris thinking everything is going to be just wonderful just because it’s Paris. Then, after arrival, you realize that you’ve brought yourself with you. It’s about attitude.

    I hope, Pseu, that you find a workable solution with your son. The mental and emotional energy you expend is draining.

    I’m always up for tweaking my style and look forward to your posts in the New Year. I concur with your comment about aging requiring more maintenance. January is a good time to begin such a series.

  42. Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell
    December 13, 2012 / 6:50 pm

    I admire you so much. I wish I could give you a hug and a smile. You always seem so positive and I imagine that there are moments in your life when it is a challenge. I have never faced any challenges as you have, but had some different ones of my own and I know that I have been pretty down at times. I look forward to reading your January posts.
    I do enjoy makeover shows, but not extreme ones. It is fun to see someone become more confident and feel better about themselves.
    I believe that what we are all doing is helping each other in our journey through life and as bloggers sharing ourselves makes us stronger together.

  43. December 15, 2012 / 12:55 am

    I’m thinking of you very often. Looking forward to your posts but also, hoping you take the time as needed to manage the home front. With great affection and empathy for this time of life, both yours and his.

  44. Anonymous
    December 16, 2012 / 3:48 am

    I think there is a difference in make-overs — like in Sabrina — that wasn’t a make over so much as it was the physical, external evidence of a change in Sabrina’s world. She had become more sophisticated — it wasn’t just a change in wardrobe — her life changed, she became more confident, she expanded her worldview, and her style of dress reflected her experience and her new confidence. That’s the type of ‘make-over’ that seems more authentic — one that reveals the person inside, rather than the make over that is designed to costume the wearer, designed perhaps to suit their body, or to suit trends, rather than reflect who they are. While there is something to be said about giving the sartiorially-challenged confidence through clothing, you can’t really change the person inside via a new dress — there will always be a feeling of discomfort or inauthenticity. The clothes shouldn’t define the person. The person should define the look.

    • December 16, 2012 / 3:26 pm

      Beautifully stated! Yes, those changes that spring organically from the internal growth are the ones that “stick” and seem authentic.

    • December 20, 2012 / 5:55 pm

      I totally agree! What I like so much about “What Not To Wear” is that they choose clothes for the person as she is now–her job, her family situation, her body–rather than some idealized version. But I truly believe that when you find clothes or a haircut or even a lipstick that flatters the authentic you, it can really make a difference in how you perceive yourself.

      Good luck and hugs to you and your family.

  45. Mary Beth
    December 16, 2012 / 4:11 pm

    When you talk about tweaking or making over our little daily routines, have you ever looked at Flylady.net? Her site changed my life, and got me off the road I was on – the road of a third-generation hoarder. More than that, I stopped feeling like I was always behind, and I took control of my own life.

  46. December 16, 2012 / 11:38 pm

    Sorry to hear about the difficulties with your son. It is so difficult to figure out what will work.
    Make-overs shows are fascinating to watch but I often wondered how thrilled the participants were 3 to 4 years down the road. I wonder if they feel pressure to keep it up or do most of them go back to old habits.
    I personally would rather have a makeover that affects my perspective on life. Sometimes they are more painful but I always feel better when I have ‘grown’ as a person.
    I do enjoy your blog and look forward to you insights in 2013.

  47. December 20, 2012 / 1:21 am

    Susan, I think of you often coping with this situation and my heart goes out to you and your son and husband.

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