In the months after my divorce, I fell out of bed each morning, rushed through basic ablutions, and got my two little boys off to preschool as fast as I could. Home again, after work and never-ending errands, it was suppertime, bedtime for the kids, housework, go to sleep and begin cycle again.

Everything was rush, rush, rush—no time to think, no time to plan. Every decision, no matter how small, took on tremendous weight. Every problem gained enormous proportions. Each day brought a new disaster, a fresh taste of defeat to my mouth, a new problem to deal with. Every day I would wonder when I'd wake up from the nightmare.

My apathy was clearly visible on my faceOne Thursday morning in the midst of it all, I found myself heading for work half an hour early, thanks to a ride I'd gotten halfway across town. I needed to buy suntan lotion for the kids, so I walked into a nearby pharmacy and stumbled across the cosmetic department.

"Can I help you?" the saleslady asked.

I hesitated, caught off-guard by the unexpected attention, and thought of how awful my face had looked the last time I'd glimpsed it in a mirror. I thought of the makeup kit I hadn't touched in months, and of the person who never wanted to see my face anymore, so why should I bother looking pretty anyway?

"Here, come," she said. "We're having a buy one, get one free sale."

I had never been a makeup person. A bookworm through high school, I was a wallflower at every party I ever went to. Not that I minded—an introvert by nature, being on the sidelines suited me just fine. It never seemed important to keep up with everyone else. I had my own rich inner world, and I came from an intellectual family to boot, so there was never any pressure to "look the part." After high school, I learned the rudiments of makeup use, but it felt unnatural to me, so I stayed away from it.

The first time I ever had a formal makeup lesson was shortly before my marriage. The person I'd hired to do my makeup for the wedding showed me how to use lipstick, eye shadow, and blush. Several years later, seeing an ad in the neighborhood rag about a free makeup session, I decided to give it a try, in an effort to boost a flagging marriage. No dice. When my plan failed, there went my interest in all things appearance related.

A mistake, apparently, because my apathy was clearly visible on my face. Within minutes, the salesgirl, whose name tag read "Sarah," had picked out the right moisturizer for my skin, found me a lip gloss and lip liner that suited my coloring, and supplied me with mascara, blush, and eye shadow that made me look more sophisticated than I'd ever dreamed of looking. "This is all you need for the next year," she said.

I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered who she was speaking to. Surely not the rundown, emotionally depleted divorcée who'd accidentally stumbled upon her department a few minutes before. This was someone else entirely.

I don't remember if I thanked her or not. Still feeling dazed, I paid for the purchases (it was a miracle I had enough money on me) and continued on my way to work, clutching the pharmacy bag in my hand. The reception I got when I arrived was quite an ego-boost—my coworkers assured me that I looked great, so it seemed that Sarah had done something right.

I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered who she was speaking toAlong with the bag of supplies, Sarah had taught me how to take care of my face properly, which, living in the Middle East, was no small thing. Forced to look in the mirror each morning, I found myself reaching for that bag again. A little lip liner, a little lip gloss, the deep brown mascara which matched my fair coloring better than any glossy black had, concealer to cover those dark circles under my eyes… I looked like a different person.

Funny, but looking in the mirror each morning, I found myself beginning to smile again, even if just briefly, at that woman looking back at me. I was no longer the hurt, pain-filled girl I'd been before that fateful Thursday morning in the pharmacy; now I was a woman who knew how to make the most of her looks, without being flashy about it. I knew how to look, at least on the outside, like I had it all together.

One of my coworkers tells me that she always makes an effort to look good, even after giving birth, because no one wants to look at a shmatte. While I can't pretend to be on that level, I hear the wisdom in it. It's important, sometimes, to put on a nice face to the outside world. Because when you do, you might start feeling better about your inside world as well.

Getting over the trauma of my divorce wasn't an easy process, not by a long shot. It took months, even years, for the bleeding to stop, for the gaping wounds to heal, for my life to feel normal and natural again. But looking back, I see that morning in the pharmacy as one of the turning points, a day that gave me the impetus to keep going.

Appearances can be deceiving. But they can also be transformingNowadays, when I look in the mirror each day, I'm happy with what I see. I may not be beautiful; I may still be hated by that anonymous somebody on the other side of the world who turned his back on me several years ago. But I can look pretty and put together, and I like that. It gives me control over a small part of my world, and that control enables me to define myself as a person striving to do her best in G‑d's world, rather than as a rejected wife and a failure at marriage.

Appearances can be deceiving. But they can also be transforming. I don't think I'd even recognize Sarah, the salesgirl who changed my life that day in the pharmacy, if I ever saw her again, but I owe her a great debt of gratitude—for giving me the keys to my new self.