When I was 16 years old, I weighed 80 pounds less than I do today. I had double the amount of hair on my head that I do at age 53 (and it was brown, not gray) and half the amount of hairs on my chin. Yet for some unimaginable reason, when I was a teenager, I thought I was fat and ugly. Not only did I believe it, I felt it – physically. I spent every moment of every day feeling huge, gawky, clumsy, and out of place.
My latest release, Water Lily, addresses the subject of beauty – inner, outer, perceived, actual.
The main character, Michelle, has an “ah ha” moment when she’s helping her thirteen year old niece, Theodora, pick out clothes from her cedar chest to wear to a retro day at school.
From Water Lily:
The jeans she’d worn in high school fit Theodora to perfection. The top accentuated her niece’s small, high breasts and the indention of her waist. Her first thought was that she’d been insane to be dissatisfied with that body, that beautiful body. She’d grown up believing she was unforgivably fat and inherently unlovable, when all the time, she’d looked like Theodora did now? She reeled as the truth peeled years of misconceptions from her eyes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty these last few weeks. I recently attended my 35th class reunion and – well, to be honest – no one looked as beautiful as they once did… at least on the outside. Conversely, I spoke to some people who are – have become – truly beautiful, on the inside.
Age has a way of refining us, of making many of us more beautiful. Others, including some who have retained much of their youthful beauty, seem to have become bitter, brittle, hardened, and haggard, traits that make them appear unattractive both inside and out.
It raises a lot of questions about beauty in my mind. What makes a person truly beautiful? Does a person have to believe they’re beautiful for others to perceive them that way? Is loving yourself a prerequisite to being lovable? To whom is a woman beautiful when she’s had a breast removed and lost her hair to chemotherapy? To those who already love her? Or can her inner beauty shine through so strongly that even strangers take notice and are drawn to her?
I don’t have the answers. I do know that in nature’s grand scheme, a beautiful water lily rises from the murky, watery depths to blossom in the sunshine.
It’s taken me most of 35 years to start to believe that I am a beautiful person. Working on Water Lily these past few months has given me some “ah ha” moments of my own as I’ve contemplated what it is that makes a person truly beautiful.
As a result, I’ve started looking at – seeing – people differently. I’ve started to notice the beauty that’s in my own back yard, to see beauty in the ordinary, everyday things that surround me, to appreciate people who are beautiful on the inside even though they may look a bit crusty on the outside.
I dedicated Water Lily to the friends, family members, and acquaintances in my life who have helped me to believe I am beautiful. Their ongoing love and encouragement means the world to me…
I’ll leave you to think about beauty on your own, but in case no one has said it recently, you are truly beautiful.