Christina Aguilera is belting out her signature song on TV:
“You’re BEAUTIFUL…in every single way…”
She’s hitting boundless notes, deep and throaty, delivering a performance for the ages. And she’s looking right at me.
“No matter what they sayyy…”
Yes, Christina, yes.
But am I really, Christina? Am I beautiful, no matter what “they” say? I will assume when you say “they,” you’re referring to all the mirrors in my house, and the voices in my head.
A few years ago, I watched helplessly as the dewy ship of youth sailed right off the edge of my left cheek into the scalloped abyss of my sagging neckline. The skin on my face (especially around my eyes) hit its elasticity threshold and basically told me enough is enough already. It then launched a full-blown rebellion against my attempts to “smooth” things over.
Since the age of 45, my wrinkles actively procreate every night, despite the “birth control” cream I religiously slather into every nook and cranny. When I peer into the mirror each morning, I count (and name) all their little newborn baby wrinkles spraying out of the corners of my eyes (like rays of sunshine).
Only they are not beautiful, Christina, because they are wrinkles, and wrinkles aren’t allowed. These days, I operate a remarkably productive wrinkle farm. It’s my new thing. But guess what? It’s all perfectly fine because my wrinkles are certified 100% organic, which is something that makes me proud.
And my body? Well, let’s see: Despite all the “work” I put into “firming and sculpting” it, I could still come up with jabbing patisserie metaphors all day long. Muffin tops, sweet rolls, buns, biscuits, flapjacks. Things made from malleable dough are fitting descriptors for my various (and oh so luscious) body parts. I could also (if attempting self-effacing, snarky humor), make a few “retaining wall” jokes. I might quip that even the Hoover Dam would not halt the flow of time that is my bountiful body these days.
I might even wise-crack that the Lycra fabric of my super-sucker underpants (yes, underpants) deserves an award for working tirelessly day in and day out, straining to contain the tsunami that is my belly. The levees are indeed well-built, but they are not perfect, and there will always be a bit of fear present regarding the viable strength of their construction — some trepidation (if you will) regarding the possibility of “collapse” when they are put to the test.
I suppose if I saw myself as just a body and a face, the answer to the question I asked Christina before would be, “No, not so much.”
But as I age, I understand more and more that my body and my face are not all I have. Beneath the layers of decay, my other, less popular beautiful parts are waiting for their turn to shine (Yes, Christina, I know you can sing the word “shine” like nobody’s business, but maybe you could can it for now, OK? I’m trying to make a point here). And though I’ve been taught to think a certain way about what is beautiful, I’ve come to understand that what has always mattered most is the stuff that’s going on with my mind and my soul.
My mind is indeed beautiful. Here and now, my mind is akin to a Jackson Pollock painting, intricately streaked and splattered with ideas, love, adventure, and possibility. Yellows, and reds, and blacks. One might say that it’s popping with energy and curiosity and kindness. But my mind could also be described as “pared-down.” It has shed most of the detrimental games that made my life way too complicated and cluttered. It’s now more of a simple Fun With Dick and Jane early reader, than Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I know what moves me and what doesn’t, and that is why my mind is more beautiful now than it has ever been.
And my soul? My soul isn’t looking for ways to hurt itself anymore, for ways to snuff itself out. It’s no longer yearning, nor chaotically milling about. My soul has weathered its fair share of hardships. It’s become calm, cool, and collected during these ever-changing times. The part of my soul might best be played by the always-versatile actress Diane Lane in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. I just feel like she would get it right. My soul is more beautiful now because it has finally blossomed.
They (the mirror and my inner voice) will continue to scrutinize and judge my face and my body. I know I must work overtime to keep them subdued. And while my face clings to every last drop of moisture I give it, and my body becomes a bake shop of assorted jelly-filled goodies, I will try to remember that they aren’t the only things beautiful about me. I am happy, and healthy, and alive (cue the music, please). And I know that while I brave the elements of “my journey through time,” I will continue to be beautiful anyway, in both mind and soul, no matter what they say.
“So don’t you bring me down todayyy!”
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