I remember sitting on the beach in La Jolla doing the beach-bunny thing while my boyfriend surfed the waves with his friends. I was in high school at the time. I was full of my youth, full of myself. I was lookin’ good and I knew it, even if I did get insecure from time to time. Youth rocked (so we thought).
I remember a woman walking by who caught my attention and the words I said to myself:
I hope I’m like her when I get older.
She was probably in her 50s or 60s. Hard to tell. At 16, everyone over 30 looks old. She was very tan, wrinkly and very round like an apple on two poles. She had a long gray braid down her back and she wore a bright orange one-piece swimsuit. She was walking with no noticeable trace of self-consciousness. She was out there, hiding nothing. She was absolutely beautiful in her ease.
“She wrinkled, but she lovely” (1)
I wanted to be like her when I grew old, to feel free and comfortable in my own skin, happy to walk along the beach in a swimsuit. I wanted to keep my long hair. In those days, I held the assumption that you had to cut your hair short after your 20s, because all the magazines advised us that short hair “lifts the features and gives women a more youthful appearance.”
I remember a moment out of time during one of my many hikes in the Grand Canyon. We’d just spent two nights at Phantom Ranch and were coming up the Bright Angel trail. At one point, nearing the last portion of the hike, we rested, taking in the stunning view of the Coconino sandstone walls rising toward the rim. Standing at their base, feeling very small, I felt their grandeur suck all the air right out of my chest. I was mesmerized, immobilized. And then I heard myself utter:
This is so beautiful! God made this and God made me, so I must be beautiful too!
The tears rolled down my face and I felt the first healing of the wounds of years of self-denigration as I received the truth of Beauty with a capital B. It was an epiphany, a moment of insight. It was one moment to combat the constant bombardment of cultural youth worship.
“You are so beautiful" (2)
I remember standing in line at a drug store looking at the faces of models and celebrities on the magazines filled with make-up tips and the latest diet craze. I’d just come back from a mirror-free week of camping in Baja. I was still in travel-daze, that feeling of having been to another planet and back. I remember wondering, “what is this all about?” I also remember that a week later, it was all too familiar again.
I remember hearing a woman in the gym locker room say to her friend that, although she had smile-lines around her eyes, she felt lucky that she didn’t have that sagging jaw line that other women get. I remember the first time, 10 years later, that I looked in a mirror and realized I was one of those less fortunate ones. I remember when the first age spot showed up right near my left eye. I can’t fathom how many times I’ve used my fingers to pull my face taught in an attempt to see what I might look like without all those wrinkles and sags. I walk around feeling 25 and then catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder “Aak! Who’s that?”
“...man you're old Getting old Old Getting old.” (3)
I say that I want to age gracefully. I used to think that meant aging slowly and remaining youthful in my appearance. You know, the kind where people are amazed to find out how old you really are because they think you are 10 years younger.
Now, I hold aging gracefully as being filled with grace.
Something has washed over me in recent days. Something about surrender. Something that snake is teaching me. (The second striped racer crossed my path this week) Snake is about transmuting poison. I want to transmute the poison of comparing myself with air-brushed women in media or women half my age into the golden grace of self-acceptance; loving myself exactly as I am: curvy, sagging, with cellulite, healthy, strong and wrinkly, and ok, with a lot of blond highlights.
“Will you take me as I am, will you? Will you take me as I am” (4)
I am beginning to know my Beauty:
The Beauty we all are and can’t help but be
The Beauty that can’t be bought by dialing a phone number scrolling across the bottom of the screen during an infomercial.
The Beauty of our stories of triumph and grief.
The Beauty of our scarred, courageous hearts and wild, winged souls.
The Beauty of being completely and wholly ourselves, loving and nurturing ourselves.
OK people…listen up!
No more holding ourselves as problems in search of the next solution.
No more berating and shaming.
Everything is our mirror; the soaring redwoods, the majestic mountains, the silvery moon, the deep brown earth, the billowy clouds. I want to be that kind of Beautiful. I want to stand tall, know my majesty, light up the darkest of nights, be a solid place to land, and dance across the sky on a windy day.
I want to hear myself say to me, “You are Beautiful” and receive the gift and grace of that in every cell of my being.
Something tells me I don’t need botox to do that and I think my thighs can walk the path of Beauty without liposuction.
Who will walk this path with me?
Suggestions for remembering your Beauty:
- Find a tree, sit beneath it and listen. It will tell you of your Beauty.
- When you look in the mirror, let your heart be your eyes.
- Treat yourself as you would the most beautiful of orchids; nurture yourself completely.
- Listen to your self-talk. Track it for a full day and then a full week. Write down the most common things you say to yourself that are unkind or mean. Change the way you speak to yourself. Give yourself the respect you deserve.
- Do the “I love you” exercise I wrote about in an earlier posting.
- Look for Beauty everywhere. It will show itself to you in the most surprising ways.
- Listen to this song and imagine God/Source/Divine is singing it to you. Let it in. You are So Beautiful!
Songs referenced in this post:
(1) “Trinkets” (Emory Joseph) on Bonnie Raitt’s Souls Alike
(3) “Old” on Paul Simon’s You’re the One
(4) “California” on Joni Mitchell’s Blue
Copyright(c) November 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved