Friday, April 30, 2010

Beauty is a Battlefield

Recently, I began digging up some of my better older blog posts and publishing them on DivineCaroline. The best-received one, called "I was Never Ugly" was picked up for their front page for about a week, and talks about how, after looking through photos of myself as a kid and teenager, I realized that the belief I had always had that I was ugly was never true.

I just read this blog post on a photographer who is focusing his efforts (ha!) on highlighting peoples' differences in an attempt to point out the inherent beauty in those differences. I applaude this project and others like them that points out the Big Media Lie that we all must look like Barbie and Ken Zombies in order to be considered beautfiul.

Think about it: Do you know anyone who doesn't flinch when they see a photo of themselves?

Returning from a wonderful beach vacation a couple of days ago, I had the experience of viewing about twenty photos of myself in a swimsuit, taken while I was cavorting on the beach. My companion, a former photojournalist, was simply having too much fun to put the camera down, so I got to see myself in all sorts of ways that would make most women squirm, cry, or hide their heads under a blanket. And I was tempted, believe me. I had to keep asking him "Do I really look that chunky?" and he kept reassuring me of that old cliche that the camera puts on 20 lbs. I don't know if that's strictly true, but I choose to believe him because the alternative is that I need to do something about my diet (gasp!)

I saw myself in mid-stumble, sunburned, with a huge zit coming out on one side of my face; saw myself with flabby thighs and chicken wings, a really weird sunburn line on my back, and with my lips pursed in that way that I do that really doesn't look good, with one tooth sort of halfway poking out from behind one lip. I saw my craggy face from years of acne, my belly from enjoying cheese and cocktails too much (especially on vacation!), and with my eyes squinting in the sun.

But I also saw my huge laugh and my wide eyes that matched the color of the sea, I saw myself embodying true pleasure and enjoyment in the ocean, laughing as I danced with the waves, saw myself searching for shells like a little girl, saw myself playful, carefree, and sun-, wind- and ocean-blown.

In my earlier blog post I talked about rewriting my inner belief that I've always carried with me, that I'm ugly, and thus unloveable. As I continue to struggle with that old belief along with others about being too weird and insane (fed to me by too many self-help books and a culture and boyfriends who gave me the message that deeply felt emotions and having emotional needs are a sign of instability), I realize that it's not that one or the other story is true. It's that they all are. We are all ugly. And unbelievably gorgeous. We're all unstable and messed up. And wonderfully loving, sane, balanced, and good.

Maybe part of the struggle that so many of us experience is in this idea that we should NEVER be less attractive than at other times. That we should NEVER make mistakes, stumble, get upset, or make demands. Perhaps the problematic belief is that we are not allowed to be imperfect. But perhaps the imperfection IS the beauty.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Entiendo

A very small poem.

People say
let go, let go, let go.

I don't understand
what that means.
Today, to a recently ex-lover, I wrote:

Some talk of heartbreak, and I was thinking this morning that for me, it's worse than heartbreak. I feel my soul has shattered. Is there such a term as 'soulbreak'? You're right, I shouldn't feel this way, I should feel totally secure and whole in myself and never need another person to mirror my wholeness to me. I shouldn't need, I shouldn't want. But I do. It's real and profound, not something I can decide not to feel. What do I do with that?

I realize that this is how I am: I fall deeply, quickly, madly in love. Then the separation crushes me. But isn't the crushing simply the natural other side of the coin from feeling such love, giving so much of myself? Then should I not feel the love so deeply in order that I not feel the pain? Is that the answer? Why? Why should I not feel this deep, deep love for another, such that I would give him my soul, my everything? Is it really bad to feel that way? Is that why I've met so few men willing to open to me deeply? Because they're so afraid of this pain? The message we get is we shouldn't feel this way. But I do feel this way, it's who I am. I am so utterly giving that I give everything - even the bad stuff, even the insecurity and the fear and the anger. I hold back nothing. And isn't that the essence of all this enlightenment stuff? That if we are to be totally accepting of everything, that means EVERYTHING. The love and the laughter and the breakfast in bed, AND the sadness and the night terrors and the rage. I always thought of myself as not very passionate. But what if I am, actually, VERY passionate? I give everything, can hold nothing back.

The people around me seem so dead, so closed down. You weren't like that when we first met, and that's why I was so smitten with you. You allowed me to see your soul. Being closed off from it now is excruciating. it's like someone shut the blinds in a room on a bright sunny day. I understand why, but I miss the sunlight on my skin.

In writing this, I realized something profoundly. That my gift - also, my curse - is that I give so deeply of myself that I open myself up to deep wounding. That I give so deeply of everything I possess, even when it's painful or dark, that I can hold nothing back. I simply can't. It's not in my nature. In my realization, I felt the deep, very faint stirrings of true acceptance and love of myself.

I always thought of myself as a bumbling idiot on the path of love, not very passionate, not well-schooled in the art of love, not giving enough or confident enough or sexy enough or manipulative enough to find and keep a partner, and as a mind-blind person with very little psychic ability, and as someone so self-obsessed that others tend not to respond to me, tend to not want to connect. I always figured I'd have to get used to being alone, though my deepest wish has always been to have a life partner, a partner on this path.

And yet there are always the few people who do respond to me, do seem to see me as a valuable being, who respond surprisingly and don't seem put off by my fear of closeness, my constant emotional turmoil, my sometimes distance. I've never understood what those people see in me. Maybe my emotional generosity  is the answer. Maybe the part of me that I always thought of as overwrought, overly emotional, pathetic and childlike is what people respond to when they respond to me.  And maybe the fact that the people I connect with are few and far between is actually because in our culture, deep emotions and deep honesty are frowned upon, seen as self-indulgent, too uncomfortable and too potentially painful. But maybe that's my role: to feel and express deep emotion, to give everything, even the dark stuff, to practice not holding back, even when all the messages I get in our culture is to hold back, to move on, to get over it, to be happy and peaceful, to seek contentment, enlightenment. Maybe my attempts to pretend everything is OK even when everything is decidedly not OK, because that's what I think people want,  is actually the wrong instinct.

What if my ability to feel this deeply, to be wounded in the heart over and over and yet to continue to open, is a gift and not a curse?