Friday, April 22, 2011

The Color of Confidence

confident in blue

Cyanotic, the state of showing cyanosis or a bluish color of the skin is common amongst those of us with certain congenital heart defects. The extremity of cyanosis is individual patient dependent, but any degree of being "blue" can turn anyone against the cool color when it comes to a sense of fashion.

Up until very recently, I wouldn't go near the color blue (outside of denim). Or rather, I wouldn't let the color blue near me, on my body in the form of make up or apparel. I feared the clashing with my skin, which though has long been devoid of traces of cyanosis, is a constant reminder of just how sickly a child I was.

I can hear my mother's stern, yet matronly voice twenty-some-odd years ago telling every authority figure whom had the honorable displeasure of supervising me, the fragile kid, be it teachers, mother's of friends, summer day camp counselors, after school day care teachers, gym teachers, babysitters, you name it. All of them received the lecture.
"Now, Rachael is usually very good about limiting herself and listening to her body, but sometimes she doesn't realize she needs to stop and rest."
The frightened individual with that inevitable "Oh god, what did I get myself into?" look in their eyes invariably goes against their gut instinct to flee and asks, "How will I know?"
"You will have to watch her very carefully because her nails and lips will turn blue. That means she needs to stop and rest."
I wonder what people do when they turn green, as my temporary authority figure is doing right at that moment. Sometimes they try to play it cool, but it's that distinct shade of chartreuse that always gives them away.
"For how long?"
Mom is less concerned now; she's given the pivotal line of direction.
"Oh, until she looks normal. She'll let you know if it's something more to be concerned about. You have my numbers."

Until. She. Looks. Normal.

cyanosis this!

I knew I never looked normal, and as a child I embraced the difference and displayed an array of mismatching clothes that kept the prissy, clothes conscious girls far away from my end of the lunch table, and hopefully, distracted enough with my clear tastelessness in apparel that they would not notice those moments where I ran a little too much and the skin around my lips drained of its usual olive tones and turned a deep, bruise purplish blue.

Endurance building outdoor play mingled with the wonders of medical science in surgeries and medicine gradually decreased the cyanosis and my health improved, though never (and never will be) the quality which those born without complications experience in life.
As I began to develop a sense of fashion outside of what could easily be pegged drug addicted anime bag-lady, I drew close to certain colors and styles.
Except blue.
It just triggered too many memories of being in a pool and being embarrassed by my mother or another adult when they loudly pointed out I needed to stop playing Marco Polo, climb out, and shiver on a cold metal bench as I enviously watched my peers splash and play. Because my vocal chords may not have indicated that I am lacking in oxygen but my LIPS TELL ANOTHER STORY!

Don't get me wrong, when not in the nauseatingly boring shade of navy, blue is a splendid color. I am a rainbow fanatic; I love all colors fairly equally. My favorite color is constantly changing, which made for interesting name-calling inducing outfits but I still loved them. Hating blue on me was a subconscious act; I wasn't able to verbalize why I steered clear of it until recently. The brain works in funny ways sometimes, and mine decided to both self-therapy and rebel against my aversion to blue sometime in 1999 when it gave me the brilliant idea to dye my hair blue. Which I did. And thankfully do not have any pictures of.
Of course, it faded into a lovely shade of sea green and clogged up my best friend's shower drains for a solid four weeks while visiting them that summer, but it was a step in the cerulean colored direction.

Slowly, very slowly, I inched towards blue. The next big step was the purchase of Ben Nye eyeshadow in turquoise and Cosmic Blue (pictured here) when I began to frequent clubs circa 2002-2005. Then a couple of stockings/socks, which at the time I was scooping up by the dozens. Two years ago I made a bold step by moving to nail polish. I say this is bold of me because my fingernails were actually the first indicator of something amiss with my heart/blood/oxygen. Using nail polish always irked my mother, who has an irrational fear that by painting my nails I was taking away the singular tool that would give us ample warning that death was imminent. In fact, I would cover all but my thumbnails, leaving them as the dual windows to act as the proverbial "blue" flag.


Finally, the biggest step was to come when, in 2008, one of my best friends chose blue as the main color of her wedding and bridal party. It meant a bright blue floor length bridesmaid dress and no matter how gently I steered my friend in the direction of purple, blue it was and damned if I was going to thrown down with a bride. I'm glad I never confessed my insecurity over the blue matter, as it was the final breakthrough I needed to embrace the color and feel comfortable enough to even consider blue as an option when perusing through the clothes racks.

I have made a truce with the color blue, and while the color red is traditionally the color associated with confidence, I find I am most secure when I can step out in teals and turquoises. It may just be a color to everyone else, but to me it symbolized a world of medical pain and unwanted difference which I am now at peace with, serene as the clear, blue sky.

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