Monday, August 03, 2009

Through the Mirror Dimly

I know you as homely - plain, even ugly, overweight.
No matter what I say or do...

And then I see you one night, and I think, "Is that... ? It can't be, but..." Because you're beautiful - you're lovely.
I never wanted anything so much
As to drown in your love and not feel your rain.

Your large eyes shining bright with tears, dark lashes sweeping sad across your cheeks. Pretty nose, pretty mouth, pretty pink lips pushed forward in a pout, because you just don't get it. Your hair falling around your face, framing your soft skin almost glowing in the evening light, curling at the ends where it falls across your shoulders.
... just the way I'm supposed to be.

You hug your arms around yourself, not because you're cold, but because you're scared of what this means.
You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.

Your chest rises and falls with each shallow breath, your ribcage expanding and contracting just above your narrow waist, widening out to your rounded hips below. I follow them down to your legs, and I notice your weight shifting from one foot to the other, moving throughout this examination, wanting it to end, but not willing to end it.
Here I am, and I stand so tall...

Have you always been this way? Is this what others see when they look at you? What does it mean, that I never saw it?
You loved me 'cause I'm fragile
When I thought that I was strong.

When I see you tomorrow, will I still see you this way? Or will you have changed again, back to who you were before, back to who I thought you always were?
It never takes too long.

Which one is real?
You're on to me...

What if I've been wrong about everything? What if you're better than I thought, stronger than I thought, smarter than I thought, kinder than I thought? What if you can do more than I ever gave you credit for? What if you've been doing it all along, and I just haven't seen it, because I just wasn't looking? If you aren't who I thought you were, who am I?
You're neither friend nor foe, though I can't seem to let you go.

Why does it bother me so much that you might be more than I thought? Why do I need you to be so small, so worthless, so blank and empty and weak? Why does it hurt my heart to think that I might have missed what's been there all these years?
Something always brings me back to you.

Because if you have been less, if you have been small, or worthless, or blank or empty or weak - if you have, it's my fault. My thinking made you so. I thought, therefore you were.
You touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone.

I'd like to say I'll stop, but I won't. I will think it again.
The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down.

I will convince myself that I was wrong, that I never saw you this way at all. And I will convince you, too.
I'll still feel you here 'til the moment I'm gone.

And the next time I see you this way, I'll turn away faster, so I won't have to wonder why my reflection doesn't look like me anymore.
Set me free, leave me be.

I don't... I don't know how to be the person I saw tonight.
I live here on my knees as I try to make you see...

I need you to be who I expect to see.
I don't want to fall another moment into your gravity.

I know.
But you're on to me
And all over me.

I'm sorry.


[Words in italics from the lyrics of Sara Bareilles's "Gravity."]


Rowyn said...

Thank you for sharing. I love that song, and the way she sings it always touches me, as did your writing. "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?" -Hillel

unmitigated me said...

That beautiful girl? That's who we see.

Major Bedhead said...

If you're referring to yourself as plain and ugly and fat, I would like to sit you down and give you a talking to. You are lovely. Inside and out. Truly.

Rachel said...

You are beautiful. Even when you feel you're not.

(Yeah, I keep telling myself that, but it gets easier as time goes by.)

tpiglette said...

I've been trying to figure out what to say here, but you know me and words...we don't get along so well. :-P

On this side of heaven, I think we will always struggle to see ourselves as we truly should (erring in both directions, really!). Luckily for us, God is all up in that business. He sees all that stuff battling it out inside you - but above it all, He sees you as lovely and beautiful and worthy. *He* thinks, therefore you are. And you are because He treats you like so - as his daughter, made in his image.

*hug* Love you, dear friend. (And I love that song, too. That's amazing the way you used the lyrics in this post!)

flutter said...

you are beautiful

fjd said...

Have you ever noticed that some students will cling to a self-image of being dumb, essentially as a way to avoid the responsibility that being smart entails? If you know you're smart, then you have to work hard in school and learn and go on and do worthwhile things, all of which is often hard. But if you think you're dumb, then you don't have to try hard at all or do anything really, because -- well, hey, you're dumb, right? Nothing would come of your effort anyway.

I bring this up because it's sort of an ordinary, everyday example of why one might cling to feelings of worthlessness. Having worth entails responsibility. When you have worth, you have to go out and do something with it.

On a separate topic -- and here let me note that I recognize this post is about far more than physical beauty, but this is supposed to be a comment, not an essay (heh: not that that is stopping me from pounding out manuscript here like I'm being paid by the word) -- let's chat about looks for a moment. Say a bunch of people tell you you're pretty, over and over, right? And let's say that nonetheless every few months you find some way -- poetic or wistful or snarky or whatever -- of saying you're not pretty. A person who tells you you're pretty with some frequency is left with two basic hypotheses: (1) you're feeling down -- totally understandable: a good time to bring up the fact that you're pretty; (2) you don't value that person's opinion of you: you don't care what the person thinks of you because you don't think much of that person. Perhaps there are other interpretations, but I can't think of any right now. Now, assuming hypothesis (1) is the correct one in general, to protect your admirers' feelings, perhaps whenever you feel ugly and want to write about it in your blog, you ought to put in some sort of footnote: "I'm so ugly*", and then the asterisk leads to a footnote: "*Ok: I'm not really ugly, since people whose opinions I value say I'm very pretty. I guess it's more that I have something stuck in my eye, so everything is blurry and my pretty self looks like a big blob in the mirror. Also my eye hurts."

Lara said...

fjd - Actually, I think it's more that physical beauty is subjective. Personally, I don't find Johnny Depp all that great, but I understand on a rational level that many women do. The fact that in the face of continued, "Oh, Johnny Depp, SWOON!" type comments I still don't think he's very attractive most of the time (though there may be an occasional moment here and there) doesn't mean I don't value the opinions of some of those women very much. It just means that you can say it over and over again, but it won't necessarily change my opinion.

It's the same with anyone else, not just celebrities. If I think someone isn't very pretty - for example, ME - and a bunch of other people say they do think that person is pretty, I respect those opinions. I don't think they're lying, I don't think they're stupid, I don't think they're blind. But I also won't necessarily agree.

I don't love this about myself - the fact that I almost never find me pretty - and contrary to what you might think, it has gotten WAY better over the years. And the bottom line is that while I hope people understand that I do respect their opinions even if I disagree with them, and I hope that they choose to stick around and keep reading and remain my friends in spite of my often low self-esteem - well, this is my blog, where I put my personal thoughts and feelings, and if it bothers other people to read them, or if they feel their comments aren't valued, they can leave any time they feel the need.

I wonder if any of that made sense...

fjd said...

Yeah, I see what you mean. Women: so complex.

Lara said...

fjd - There's an understatement! :-P

tali said...

There's a Buddhist-inspired couplet I learned from a guy I met traveling (he had a whole book of these types of things to say during various ordinary daily things, and this one for looking in mirrors was one of my favorites):
"Beauty is a heart that generates love, and a mind that is open."