Friday, May 8, 2009

A question of beauty.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. Kahlil Gibran
Today is, "We'll Show You Beauty Day." Created in 2000 by New Moon Magazine in response to People Magazine's publication of the 'world's 50 most beautiful people', We'll Show You Beauty Day celebrates the beauty within all of us. We'll Show You Beauty Day asks each of us to celebrate the beauty beneath the surface by bringing it out and letting it sparkle in the light of day.

I thought it appropriate to celebrate today as yesterday, my eldest daughter, Alexis, and I had a long discussion over lunch about beauty. How it affects us. Its perceived gifts and burdens.

Alexis is a beautiful young woman. Clear, alabaster skin, delicate features, deep dark eyes, petite frame. No matter where she goes, someone inevitably will say, "Oh my, you are so beautiful."

"But someone could also say, 'you're ugly'," she told me yesterday over our favourite pear and Gorgonzola pizza at Cilantro.

"Who has ever said you're ugly?" I asked.

"A girl in school once told me that," she said. "She told me I was stupid and ugly."

"Then she didn't 'see' you," I replied. "She only saw what she wanted to see."

Ultimately, someone else's opinion of me is none of my business. Just as, whether or not the world thinks I'm beautiful is not really all that relevant to my life -- Am I beautiful in my heart for me? Am I sharing my essence with love and grace? Now that's important and relevant.

Growing up I was often told I was beautiful. It was an uncomfortable position. Being beautiful didn't sit very easily on my skin nor my psyche. In my family of origin being beautiful was almost a curse. "Don't be vain," was the oft spoken admonition from my mother if one of us spent time looking in the mirror. Other than my brother of course who out of the four kids, (3 girls, 1 boy) spent an inordinate amount of time fussing about his appearance in the mirror.

Beauty was a double edged sword in our home. We all had it. But the fear of others taking it from us abounded. "Boys only want one thing," my mother would remind us. "Just because you're pretty doesn't mean people like you."

My eldest sister won several 'beauty pageants' in her teens. My parents held those photos in great esteem, displaying one in particular on the living room wall for years. It still hangs in my mother's apartment fifty plus years later.

Today, my sister is still beautiful, but her beauty doesn't come from a crown of tiny fake diamonds on her head or a ribbon strung from her shoulder. Her beauty comes from within. From her caring heart, her gracious ways, her generosity and kindness.

Alexis is beautiful to behold. It cannot be denied. As a young actor, beauty, like youth, is a great asset. She didn't ask for her exotic looks. She didn't ask to be beautiful. It is just part of her. An appendage which, like an arm or leg, plays a role in how she moves through her day. It's up to her, to me, to all of us, to use our gifts and talents and our appendages, to create value in our world, no matter in what regard the world holds our face. It's up to each of us to create beauty in everything we do and say, in how we are in the world. It's about how we look at life and treasure our journey, not how we look while travelling along the road.

As a young woman, I struggled with my beauty. Did people see me? The person? The being beneath the pretty face, the big brown eyes and perfect smile? Did they actually care about the me inside or just the fact I was easy to look at and looked good to be around?

In my struggle to figure out how people saw me, I spent a lot of time thinking about what other people thought of me and not enough time being who I wanted to be. In my fixation on other people's thinking, I limited my ability to be me. I bought into the myth that how I look is more important than how I behave or who I am within me. I kept looking for my value in what other people thought or how they treated me. People didn't undermine my sense of worth, I did.

It's the challenge of being considered, 'beautiful' beyond the norm of everyday life. To acknowledge it is to be thought conceited. To deny it is considered false modesty. I had no tools to carry it with grace.

Growing into my face has taken a lifetime of building up of character from the inside out. Today, my beauty appears on my skin in delicately etched lines that speak to the life within me and the life I've lived. My 'character lines' express the beauty of my character within me. They show the laughter that has lifted me up and the tears that have spoken the words my heart did not know how to speak.

Beauty is not heavy when it radiates from a heart that is broken open in love. Beauty is simply the value I create when I stand true to all I am and share with open arms and loving heart all that is wondrously divine and inspiring in my world today.

In the wise poetry of Rumi, I find my answer, "Let the beauty we love be what we do."

Let me love myself enough to be beautiful in all I do.

The question is: Do you judge yourself in the mirror, looking for something you're not or denying something you are? Are you willing to be the beauty you want to create in the world?

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