Yesterday was a token “busy day” where I had three obligations packed back-to-back-to-back. I don’t allow these days to happen as much anymore, to preserve my own sanity, but sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Long run (18 miles) followed by Track Club picnic/meeting followed by family dinner at our house. I had a moment to sit down and open a beer as dinner cooked and everyone was in their own zones of media enjoyment around the house and I thought, I’m taking a picture of myself and my beer to celebrate wrapping up an insane day.
When I opened the camera I was in a terribly lit spot in the kitchen and when I saw myself on the screen I thought, Ugg. That is terrible. I tried to turn to a better angle but because I was sitting on the kitchen island (What?) my options were limited and every direction I turned I was…to put it honestly for you…repulsed by myself.
God. My skin is so red. Did I get sunburned even though I had on sunscreen and wasn’t in the sun? Is this just the general Zoot flush that I hate so much? Why does my nose look so big. Jeezus. Is that another wrinkle? I really should wear makeup sometimes. I’m so terribly shiny and oily. I’m hideous. I can see all 18lbs of weight I’ve gain since January stacked in my ugly fat face…
I’m thinking these terrible things about myself as I’m twisting around for better lighting (Maybe different lighting will make me presentable…) and getting frustrated and then even more upset that I couldn’t even find light that would make me like my face in the slightest bit and then I kinda just caught my own eyes and for a split moment I didn’t see the hideous blotchy skin or big nose or vein in my forehead. For a split moment I saw a 41-year old woman who ran 18 miles that morning with a friend, then hung out with one of her favorite communities of which she works hard as a volunteer, and then bought groceries and came home to clean and cook for her extended family.
But in that moment, I stopped insulting the woman looking back at me from the phone. And it hit me that I was insulting her in a way I have never insulted anyone no matter HOW much I hated them. I saw her face and I replayed the last 10 seconds of insults I had been spewing in her direction and I just felt terrible for her. How could I talk to her like that?
And suddenly I found myself thinking of her like I think of the other women I love in my life. My friends, my coworkers, my family, and most importantly: My daughter. I thought about what I would do if I heard someone talking to any of them like I was talking to the woman on the screen in front of me. And my heart crumbled. If I ever heard someone telling my daughter she was ugly, or being disgusted at my friend’s wrinkles, or meanly commenting on my family member’s weight gain – If I heard anyone talking to any of the women I loved like I had just been talking to the girl in the screen – I would be outraged. I would stop them harshly and yell at them for talking to this beautiful woman like that. I would profess my own adoration for that women – be she friend or family – and I would send the hateful person away because NO ONE deserves that kind of talk, but most especially not someone I love.
And I started crying.
Because I felt terrible. I looked back at the woman in front of me, now with a face contorted in tears, and I apologized to her. I commended her for all of the amazing things she does every day. I told her she was beautiful and it had nothing to do with her skin or her body, it was because of the love she had in her heart that shined through in all of her actions. The beauty was because of her capacity for empathy and compassion. The beauty was because of her intellect and wisdom. The beauty was because of her caring. I told her she glowed with the love she had for the people in her life and she should be lauded for the positive energy she puts in the world. I told her she had beautiful eyes and that nothing else mattered. Not her skin tone or her wrinkles or her weight gain. None of it mattered because her beauty spilled out from a place beyond the wrinkles in her face or the vein in her forehead. The beauty came from her soul. And no camera could capture that, no matter how great the lighting.