That "Beautiful Thing"
It's been one of "those" weeks. If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you know exactly what I mean - one of those "knock you to your knees" flare-up weeks. You know that old saying "weak as water?" Well that would be an understatement. Lord have mercy what a difference a week or even a few days can make! Last weekend I was running on "love" with adequate energy for all that was planned for our Mother's Day festivities. I did what those of us do who deal with fibromylagia or other such illnesses that produce chronic fatigue, pain and flare-ups. I put my engine in high gear and plowed through the weekend trying to make the most of every moment. Then come Monday, "it" happened... the "crash and burn" part of the cycle. I've experienced this thousands of times over the past fifteen years, but I am never quite ready. This one was a "doozie" as they say down South.
As I looked in the mirror tonight at myself, I had to laugh. I wondered who that pale-faced, puffy-eyed creature was! She didn't look anything like that lovely bright-eyed woman that graced my latest profile picture on Facebook posted from Mother's Day. It wasn't just the absence of make-up and perfectly styled hair. No, it was the absence of energy, strength, vitality and well... "health." There was a time on one of these kinds of days, where after seeing myself in the mirror, I would walk away in tears, depressed and discouraged. Usually, I would try to "put on a good face" just in case someone showed up at my door or perhaps just to make me feel better - emotionally anyway. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't because I would feel weaker physically after all the effort and would simply curl up on the sofa, keeping company with the folks on TV until I fell asleep. They couldn't see how I looked and I was too fatigued at that point to care.
Shaking my southern upbringing on a day like this was "tougher than a two-dollar steak" for a very long time for me. Southern belles pride themselves on big beautiful hair, manicured nails and we have a way of being "dressed to the nines" even when working in the yard! Lounging around in pj's or sweatpants, no make-up and bedhead is just not in a southern belle's DNA. To this day, my own mother rarely ever heads to the kitchen after waking up, until she has brushed up her hair, gotten dressed and "presentable." There's something about illness though, that becomes a great equalizer and common denominator for us all. Priorities change in a hurry! I was reading about a study today from Baylor University that said 9 out of 10 Americans pray for healing. It didn't say those that were religious or non, those of certain faiths or not - just 9 out of 10 prayed for healing. It just isn't natural to give in to being sick! Talk about being in our DNA... the fight for health is part of who we are as human beings. NO ONE enjoys being sick or feeling poorly. Yes, priorities change from things that seemed so important or "proper" before an illness becomes a part of one's life.
It took me awhile to "get it..." shifting to a different mindset about myself and life. I had spent so many years convinced that my value was wrapped up in all the things I could do and be. During a time when I was flat on my back due to illness and could no longer run in circles like the energizer bunny, I felt worthless and of little value. In addition, I felt that my beauty was reflected in what I saw in the mirror. If outer beauty wasn't there on certain days, then I didn't feel beautiful. It wasn't until someone close to my heart said something to me. We were reflecting on a day when I had to be at the hospital for eye surgery. He had volunteered to pick me up and drive me there the morning of my surgery. I couldn't wear make-up, couldn't style my hair, couldn't even put on perfume or lip gloss. My friend had never seen me like this! I was embarrassed and wouldn't even look him in the eye. I wore sunglasses even in the waiting area of the hospital. Months later we reflected on the day. He is the kind of person that makes a woman feel beautiful. He often comments on my pictures, or writings etc. On this particular day of our conversation, he had sent me a note and told me I had that "beautiful thing" going on. It was at that moment I felt the courage to tell him how I had felt that day at the hospital. He told me he had seen me at my best and at my worst, and in it all, I had always had that "beautiful thing" going on.
As I looked at my reflection in the mirror tonight, I remembered what that sweet man said to me those years ago. While the mirror this evening didn't reflect the expected perception of "beauty" or even of health, the fact that I had the courage to look beyond what I saw in the mirror did reflect a beauty deeper than what a piece of painted glass could detect. I now have the freedom to not to give in to a desire to put on make-up even though my body needs rest. I have the good sense to realize that my health and strength matter more than specks of dirt on my floor or dirty dishes in my kitchen sink. My physical well-being means more than a writing quota or financial goal. Some things matter and some things don't.
Maybe your body is no longer in perfect shape, your emotions are frazzled, your face pale. Perhaps you have days like I've had this week where it requires energy to simply get dressed or prepare something to eat. This could be from illness, from stress or just from the wear and tear of the years. It might even be that you are in fairly good shape physically, but your responsibilities are heavy on your shoulders. You are pulled at from so many directions that there is no way for you to meet every single responsibility to every person in your life; you "see" inadequacies of some sort when you look in the mirror. Perhaps "guilt" distorts that reflection as well. My suggestion is this. Go to your mirror and close your eyes. That's right... close your eyes and "see what you see!" Think of the loveliest thing in your life. Maybe it is the kiss of a child that adores you - not because of what you do for them but because of what you are to them - you are Mama or Daddy! Perhaps your thoughts go to the smile on your spouse's lips after you've said something that makes their heart jump. That long day at the office or the plant, at home or in the community depleted every ounce of energy in their body, yet in an instant your words of love, appreciation, respect or humor melted it all away. That smile is proof of your beauty or handsomeness! Whether your loveliest thought is the sunset that you watched earlier from the back porch of the house you bought, built or care for, or of the "good morning" spoken to your neighbor when you went to the mailbox; whether it is the warm embrace of a parent who is proud you're their son or daughter, not because of all that you do for them but "just because," realize that what you are "seeing" is beautiful, handsome... breathtaking! Each of us have that "beautiful thing" going on - not because of how we look, what we can or can't accomplish but for what is only "seen" with the heart.