I watch as Christina Aguilera belts out her signature song on TV.
“YOU are BEAUTIFUUUUUUL…in every single WAAAAY!”
She’s hitting all those remarkable notes, deep and throaty, delivering a performance for the ages. And she’s looking right at me.
“No matter what they SAAAAY…!” Yes, Christina, yes, I nod.
But what I quietly ask myself is, “am I really, Christina? Am I beautiful, no matter what “they” say?”
I can only assume that the “they” she is referring to are all the mirrors in my house, and those mean-girl voices in my head.
A few years ago, I watched helplessly as the dewy ship of youth sailed right off the edge of my left cheek into the scalloped abyss of my sagging neckline. The skin on my face hit an elasticity breaking point and woefully wailed, “enough is enough already!“ It then launched a fervent campaign against my attempts to “smooth things over.” Since the age of 45, my wrinkles have actively procreated every night. Despite the “birth control” cream I religiously massage into every nook and cranny on my face, when I peer into the mirror each morning, I can count (and name) all the little newborn baby offspring wrinkles that spray forth from the corners of my eyes (like rays of sunshine). Only they aren’t beautiful (like sunshine), Christina, because they are wrinkles.
And my body? Well, let’s see. Despite the hours I put into firming and sculpting it, I could still supply the world with snarky, patisserie metaphors all day long. Muffin tops, sweet rolls, buns, biscuits, flapjacks. Things made from malleable dough are fitting descriptors for my various (but oh so luscious) lady lumps.
With self-deprecating, jabbing humor, my “mean-girl” voices would make a few “retaining wall” jokes too. They would quip that these days, even the Hoover Dam itself could not hold the “reservoir of time” that is my bountiful, “womanly” figure. Perhaps they would wise-crack that the Lycra fabric of my super-sucker underpants (yes, underpants) deserves some sort of an award for its strenuous “containment work,” since it does, indeed, stretch beyond its limits to encompass the tsunami that is my belly. The accomplishments of that miraculous material are worth a mention, at least, because there is always a bit of fear present regarding its viable strength – some trepidation (if you will) over the likelihood of “infrastructure blow-out” over relentlessly being put to the test.
I suppose that if I saw myself as only a body and a face, the answer to the question I asked Christina moments earlier might be, “no, no…not so much.“
But as I age, I realize more and more that a body and a face are not what makes a person beautiful. Beneath the layers of decay, the other, less popular, less explored parts of a beautiful person are simply waiting for their turn to shine. Yes, Christina, I know you can sing the word “shine” like nobody’s business, but could you can it for a minute? I’m trying to make a point here. Though I’ve been taught to think a certain way about what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I’ve come to understand the beauty of what my mind and soul offer is what matters the most.
And my mind is indeed beautiful. Here and now, edging closer to 50, my mind has become akin to a Jackson Pollock painting, intricately streaked and splattered with ideas, love, adventure, and possibility. Yellows, and reds, and blacks. One might say that it’s popping with energy, and curiosity, and kindness. But, it might also be described as pared down. I’ve discarded most of the detrimental games that made my life overly complicated and cluttered. My mind is now more of a simple Fun With Dick and Jane early reader, than Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I know what moves me and what doesn’t. Simply knowing what I can and cannot control is a beautiful feeling.
And my soul? My soul isn’t looking for ways to hurt itself anymore, for ways to snuff itself out. It’s no longer yearning, nor chaotically milling about. My soul has weathered its fair share of hardships, but it has become calm, cool, and collected during these ever-changing times. In a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, the part of my soul might best be played by the always-versatile actress Diane Lane. I just feel like she would get it right, you know? My soul exudes beauty because it has both matured and blossomed.
They (the mirror and the voices) will continue to scrutinize and judge my face and my body. They can’t be totally subdued, as much as I’ve tried. And while my face clings to every last drop of moisture I give it, and my body steadily turns itself into a bake shoppe of assorted, jelly-filled goodies, I know that neither really matter when it comes to my beauty.
“Beautiful” is the light that shines from inside of me.
As I brave the elements of “my journey through the ages,” I remain happy, healthy, and alive (cue the music, please). While my face and my body begrudgingly descend from their peak, the beauty of my mind and soul will surely continue to rise.
Okay, Christina…you can go ahead now – close your eyes, point to the heavens, and bring it home…
“The sun will ALWAYS, ALWAYS…SHI-YI-YI-YI-YINE!”
Yes, Christina, yes.
No matter what they say, they sure won’t bring me down today.