This blog post has been a constant stream of dialogue in my head for a few weeks now. And I dedicate this post to someone who means the world to me who is undergoing her own struggles with what it means to be alive, to be beautiful.
It begins with a scar. The huge scar that came out of surgery. There’s no hiding from it. It’s unbelievably prominent but in the shape of a somewhat loveable half moon and to me that makes it bittersweet.
As I look in the mirror those first few days after surgery, all I am initially able to see is ugliness and it sets off an outside voice….
Who prescribes beauty?
The voice is insistent. It demands that I consider the question thoroughly.
Is it society? There is an acceptable norm, for sure, but where did that derive from? Who the devil first set it up?
The voice changes shape a little. It becomes sweeter, more understanding.
Who is dictating your scar is ugly?
I write about this in the present tense because the struggle is still in me. The voice is present in my present…
I think I have an answer. There is another slow, small voice and that voice is mine. It comes from deep within, whispering, insistent. And in those first difficult days following surgery, if I lean in as far as I am able, I just about catch hold of it. It makes me shake a little and I start to cry….
That scar is a curve. You said so yourself. Were you not the one to label it a half moon?
I smile at this and the voice continues….
A curve is dance. Dancers make lines and curves with their bodies in the air. That scar could be beauty.
Yes, it so could. Because you define it. You acknowledge the shape, bless it and turn it into some kind of music. You let it sing. And you know that if it sings, you live.
My inside voice comes and goes. I encourage it to stay only to beg it to leave again. I both need it and I despise it. Luckily for me, it sticks around. It becomes stronger. But still there are some days I don’t want it and some days I crave it. There are some days I play hide and seek with it and some days it completely escapes me. Looking into the mirror as an ex-dancer, that mirror is both my friend and my enemy.
It was through looking in the mirror that I first learned how to acknowledge my body, how to manipulate individual muscles to make shapes on the ground and in the air. The mirror helped me to dance. It helped me to live.
Some days if I close my eyes I can see my surgeon. There he is in the operating theatre making an intricate dance with his hands and a knife in order to fix what is broken inside me.
So there is dance. Always there is dance. And there is movement. And with movement comes life.
In tough times, you are stronger than you could ever believe. The human heart and soul are capable of incredible things. Whoever, whatever it is that comes to touch you, to slip alongside you in your darkest moments, is precious born. If your faith is strong, you would call it Faith or God. If you are a believer in guardian angels then it is your angel lifting you up from behind. Perhaps you are precariously held together by the rising of the sun each new day. It isn’t really about who or what it is, it’s just the fact that it’s there and freely available to you when you call out in need.
But back to beauty. It will be a struggle for me to accept myself as I am now. But its something I will continue to work on, firstly for myself and the relationship I want to continue to have with my partner, and also for the person to whom I dedicate this blog post. This is a society rife with cut-throat ideas on what is an acceptable body-shape. What is the face, the image you should carve out when you step outside your door and face the world? If that’s a tough world for an adult to live in, it’s an impossible one for a child.
Kids are like sponges. Many of them are incredibly sensitive. And they’re smart too. They hear not only what you say, but what you’re afraid to say. They hear the real truth whether you like it or not. And it’s not just the girls, it’s the boys too. You may say you’re perfectly content with the way you look, thank you very much, but you hardly ever eat pudding and you always quietly count calories when you think no one’s looking. Or perhaps you come at the mirror wearing a coat of armour, wielding a sword and a fake smile because you feel so meaningless that day and you can’t take the hurt. I’ve done that many a time.
Kids see all of it and they lap up any incongruence. So as an adult and an aunt, I feel I have a responsibility. My first struggle is with myself. And it is for myself that I will mourn the body I had and slowly learn to love the body I have now. Is it so very different? Some may say not. But I feel the difference and even if it’s incremental, I need that necessary adjustment time.
And it is truly about love. If I can get myself there. Can I look in the mirror and face with ultimate kindness who I was, who I feel I am right now and who I am still becoming? Can I be gentle on myself in the process? There is sadness mingled with joy. It’s like looking for a rainbow after a storm. For sure it’s out there somewhere, if you can but find it. I don’t for one minute assume that any of this is easy, because it’s not. But there’s beauty, there’s red-raw honesty in all of it. There’s truth. There’s movement. And there’s life. It’s not in any way shaped by impossibly rigid societal norms dictating what is, and what should be the culturally acceptable body shape.
That is what I want to pass on to the next generation. That is what I, as a woman want to offer as an alternative to those sensitive souls caught up in trying to carve their bodies into a shape dictated to them by a force they don’t truly comprehend, some kind of elusive god or goddess who promises much on a glitter-filled plate but delivers so little. And it doesn’t matter that they see my struggle. For the struggle is real, it’s truth and ultimately, they understand that. It aligns with what they know, the experiences they’ve had when they’ve felt even for a single second that they truly belong on this earth and that this earth is actually their home.
It is their home. They deserve to belong here. We all do.
And I want to say….look, just look this way for a minute. Scrap that cultural, societal, media rubbish that dictates you should carve up your body a certain way. Scrap the body judgement of yourself and those around you. Scrap the diet for diet’s sake. Close your eyes to the barrage of airbrushed images you face every day. There is an alternative. For sure it’s not an easy one because it demands that you face your demons head on, but it’s actually worth it.
And to someone in particular I want to say, if I show you what I know, what I’ve learned and you show me all that you know, then together we’ll make something that’s beautiful because it’s real. And yes it’s true, being real, being honest can hurt like Hell, but you can breathe that way. Breathe like you truly belong on this earth. Plus you get to be yourself. And there’s nothing quite like that, I promise. You are a smart, beautiful and amazing human being and until you can see any, or all that for yourself, I am proud to continue to see it for you.