Posted on | March 25, 2012 | 21 Comments
For much of my life I have been convinced of one sacred truth. Through all the ups and downs, all the craziness of growing up and education and marriage and divorce, I knew one thing… one imperfect, semi-disputed, seldom voiced truth:
I am not pretty.
I do not say this to get you to disagree with me; I say it because it is how I have lived my life. I have pretty moments, days when I believe my hair has smoothed out nicely and my nose is not, perhaps, as big as I’ve imagined. I have moments where I believe that whatever outfit I’m wearing sufficiently masks my imperfect body and whatever makeup I’ve purchased adequately covers my imperfect face. But these moments are few and far between.
I have always seen myself as a sum of my parts: a too big nose, odd colored eyes, too thin lips. I have never been able to put aside my own critical eye and embrace my face and body and soul for who and what they are. And for all that I’ve been through in the past year, the hardest toll of all was on that small shred of self-confidence that struggled to survive. I wondered often if I was just the type of person divorce happens to… the sort of face, the shape of figure… the aching absence of self-worth.
I realized, a little too late, that my self worth was wrapped up in the package of “wife” … The white dress wedding, the husband, the Sunday dinners, the house with pink azaleas, the children… the child. I was aching for normality, a life that would signal to others that I’m okay.. I’m perfectly normal. I thought the band on my finger screamed to the world “Look! She IS pretty.” To someone. Maybe. When my marriage fell apart, I fell apart alongside, wondering what this new failure meant to who I was, who I wanted to be.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still hurt a lot of days.
As a parent, I want desperately to instill in my son a secure and satisfied warmth about the person he is, both inside and out. I want him to know things about himself, I want him to know the things that are really important… the things I know now about myself that make me beautiful even if they don’t manifest on the instant shake of Polaroid film.
In the past year, I have been deconstructed, ripped down into a bare base of a woman, quakingly lonely and desperately searching for approval… from someone. It took a long time to believe this wasn’t my fault. It took a long time to realize that maybe, just maybe, that “universal truth” I clung to was merely a product of my own fears and doubts. It took a long time for me to learn to look in the mirror and see… me… not a frizz of reddish hair and a blemish of spots and wrinkles. It has taken me a long time to see myself as beautiful, not based on my reflection in the mirror, but rooted firmly in my reflection of spirit.
I am a strong and kind woman. I am a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, who cries perhaps a little too often, and who would rather give all her money to someone else than buy anything for herself. I am a good woman. I have a good heart and a sharp mind. And because of these things, I am beautiful. My hair is still too red. My eyes are still a chameleon of colors and I still have a mole on the side of my face that seems to have created it’s own ecosystem. I still want to lose twenty pounds, still want to tuck and tighten and reduce.
But at the end of the day, I have learned to define my own beauty, and the beauty of those around me. My son is beautiful: perfect in his tiny imperfections, sweet in even his most un-sweet of moments. He will always be beautiful to me, no matter what he weighs or what color his eyes or hair. He is beautiful because I love him; he will stay beautiful because I will always love him… heart and soul, without condition.
Something funny happened over this past year… I learned what it means to be pretty. I learned to love myself, heart and soul, without condition… and in that blossoming newness of clarity, I found my beauty, too.
And for that, I am forever grateful.