"Mirror, mirror on the wall - who is the fairest one of all?" ~Snow White (1937) [There are many versions of this quote. I chose the most well-known from the Disney animated feature as opposed to one of the many literary versions. They all say basically the same thing.]
I have never been one to cater greatly to appearance ... my own or those of others. However, for some insecure reason I have yet to identify, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my own. Appearance, that is. Nonsense really : beauty radiating from within and all that jazz. Still, I don't feel as though I am myself. The shame in that reality is that I haven't felt like myself for many, many moons now.
Last week while violently ill with the flu I did little. I slept ( a lot). I read (when I could keep my eyes open). I ate (barely - just enough to stay alive). I also discovered that daytime television is bloody awful. Truly bad. And still, a gem of the true reality of life and situation occasionally makes its way into the media ... something relevant to someone. It was while I was ill that one of these moments took place. While flipping channels absent-mindedly I stumbled across a segment where actress Valerie Bertinelli was reading a passage from her new biography Losing It. I felt compelled to stop and listen. I listened. When she was finished I backed it up (thank you DVR). I listened again. I backed it up again and repeated the relisten/rewind cycle several times. I gasped. I wept. She was describing her thoughts on seeing herself in a particular performance and how disturbed she found her appearance. Her sentiments too closely match my own and the eloquence of her admission ripped through me. Here are here words:
"The sight of myself was too much for me to tolerate. 'Who is that?' I blurted out. 'Who is that fat, ugly, old woman?' A few days later I began to visualize a new me - the person I wished I could be and wanted to be both inside and out. If it's true that your thoughts can affect your place in the universe then I was going to give the good ones a try. See, there's the weight you see on the scale every morning and then there's the weight you carry around inside that make your feet drag, your shoulders hunch and your eyes look down. One makes you look miserable. The other makes you feel miserable. Beyond the picture I envisioned in my head, I really prayed for a lightness of being."
I never considered myself "the fairest of all" although there was was a time (long ago) where a type of attractiveness shone through. I did not see it then. "Clueless," would be the appropriate adjective to describe my awareness of my own appeal in those days. It is an analysis of old photographs that drive that realization. Innocent and painfully naive I found myself led astray (betrayed by the mania of my own mind) and mistakes were made.
Pregnant and married (notice the order) at the age of twenty, I had no idea what the future years had in store for me. Ravaged by time, child-bearing, mental illness, psychological abuse, self doubt, unavoidably long hours spent in profession after profession attempting to provide for my family and eventual divorce - I find myself much altered. Emotionally and physically: the years have not been kind.
"A witty woman is a treasure; a witty Beauty is a power." ~George Meredith, Diana of the Crossways
A year removed from my divorce, I am beginning to discover certain aspects of who I am as a woman that I thought were long abandoned ... lost. Moments of isolation can often bring with it the joys of rediscovering the true nature of oneself. I find that I have retained a certain level of confidence as well as my sarcasm and (dare I say) sassiness among other aspects of the woman I was raised to be. I am beginning to match with my own aspirations for myself on the inside. Those who know me well have been able to bear witness to my return and I have received a number of "welcome back" sentiments. It is almost as though I was living in an alternate universe for twelve plus years. Yes, I am back and the 'lightness of being' mentioned in the above passage is returning. I must admit to myself that this is more important than the reflection I see in the mirror because, on the outside, I still do not recognize who I am. I am ready for the inside and the outside to coexist in harmony.
There is work to be done.
"A cultivated woman, a woman of breeding and intelligence, can enrich a man's life immeasurably. I have those things to offer and time doesn't take them away. Physical beauty is a passing transitory possession but beauty of mind, richness of spirit, tenderness of the heart, I have all those things." ~A Streetcar Named Desire, Film (1953)