April 24, 2014

Living Well—Flawless

 

DRAWING BY DAN MAZUR

Living Well—Flawless

When my daughter was born, I couldn’t stop looking at her. I’d never seen anyone or anything so beautiful in all my life. Perfect little fingers, toes, eyelashes. Soft skin, sweet smile; a little bundle of loveliness. And those eyes! Clear light blue like a summer sky.

When my son arrived, it was the same. I was a goner. For three full weeks, I became a danger on the road as we eye gazed for long moments, completely unaware when the lights turned green. I couldn’t help it. He was perfection personified. Eyes the color of night, the pupils all but invisible amid pools of dark blue. It astounds me that I began my life the same way.

I’ve seen pictures of myself. I, too, was the cutest little baby, bright-eyed and brilliant. My eyes are somewhere in between my children’s, more like the ocean than the sky, a medium, muted blue, but just as clear and penetrating. I have one photo of myself at age two. I’m kneeling on a kitchen chair, staring down the camera while my four-year-old sister blows out her birthday candles. I was amazing. I was perfect! What happened?

At some point, I lost my confidence, my sense of “I own this place; I can do anything,” and I began to doubt. I began to doubt the people around me, and I began to doubt myself. I began to wonder how I ended up here, and what it would take to survive this wild and wacky ride. The grownups did some uncool things. They did not act like the wise ones I’d imagined. I came in with a fairytale idea that adults would be magical mentors in this strange new world of human adventure. But they were not. They were flawed...and wrinkled. How did that happen?

I believe we all arrive perfect. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I came from the factory with all my parts shiny and in good working order. Then, over time, through the clumsy way people love each other, my ears got chewed, my eyes got scratched or lost, and my fur became threadbare, much of it rubbed off from rough handling. Bottom line, I had flaws, and they showed.

Sometimes I want to start over. Sometimes I wish I could at least start over with my daughter. Sometimes I say the Serenity Prayer: doing my best to accept what I cannot change, have the courage to change what I can and enough wisdom to know the difference. And sometimes I just want a facelift or some botox.

Through many years of work, I’ve come to accept my inner parts more, but the outer stuff is more difficult. I don’t like the way aging looks. It’s like a progressive disease. Everyday I get a little older, and I can’t stop the train. I’d need an Age-a-holics Anonymous meeting: “I’m Sage, and I’m powerless over aging.” “Hi, Sage! Keep coming back. You’re in the right place.” Sigh.

Perhaps as we age, the inside gets shinier as the outside dulls. And the eyes remain the window to the soul. Perhaps perfection is not the goal.

A friend of mine tells me that perfectionism is a disease that keeps us in misery. It creates procrastination, dismisses real accomplishments, and sucks our dreams dry. It also denies real beauty, acceptance, and life.

My mother tells me that if she were in a relationship, she would want to show her worst stuff first and get it out of the way, because she’d rather be comfortable and not worry about anyone’s judgment. It’s good advice, even if she does live alone with a poodle.

A male friend mentioned that whenever he tries to put forth a certain image, he is lying. That makes sense too.

Why not simply be ourselves? Why not put the cosmetics industry out of business? Why not accept our flaws, including the natural process of aging?

When I go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, invariably a checker will call me “Miss,” even though I could obviously be his mother. I’m sure he thinks of this as a compliment. I don’t. I’ve earned the title, “Ma’am.” As a girlfriend said, “If everyone tries to look young, how will we know who the elders are?” Good question.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I came in perfect. I am still perfect. Perfectly flawed. I will embrace all of me with love. I will receive the gifts I am given with grace. I will allow myself to be celebrated. I bought flowers, because in reality, it’s not about being beautiful; it’s about seeing beauty. It’s not about being perfect, but seeing perfection. That’s what these baby blues are for—not how I look, but how I see. As I practice, I can be a sane, loving adult, and in time, hopefully, be one of the elders I came here expecting to meet.

Sage Knight is a local author, editor, and spiritual counselor. Please visit her at www.SageKnightWrites.com.