We Are Gorgeous

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Gentle Reader,

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a woman who is ever going to grace a magazine cover. There’s a white streak in my hair, growing more prominent with each passing day. That same hair is typically unruly, unless I have the time and inclination to spend an hour smoothing it with curling irons and other torture devices (usually don’t). After seven surgeries, I’m covered in scars, some more prominent than others. I have a high forehead and small facial features. My eyes will never be in perfect alignment. Got a few wrinkles here and there. Freckles in odd spots. Skin plagued by dryness and eczema.

All of this used to bother me.

These days my attitude can be summed up in one question: Who cares?

I’ve mentioned that I switched to a largely vegetarian diet at the beginning of this year and that I took up an exercise regimen roughly 7 months ago. Neither of these choices were driven by a need to comply with some vague, ever-changing beauty standard. Yes, I’ve lost weight and dropped a dress size, maybe two (depends on the day and how much chocolate I’ve eaten). But that size is not four – and it’s never going to be.

Again, who cares?

I do the clean eating and the weights and the cardio so that my liver will stop being all inflamed and ticked off. (Hasn’t happened yet).

I see women of all ages, shapes and sizes who waste precious hours condemning themselves for not being able to achieve the look of the models in photo shoots. How long before it finally sinks into our heads that they don’t even look like that because Photoshop? How long before we realize that starving ourselves really isn’t the answer? How long before we stop allowing others to define whether or not we are beautiful?

Instead of compliance, let’s shoot for confidence.

I love fashion. It’s never wrong to put together a great outfit or try a new lipstick. Enjoy, if that’s your jam. If you don’t like that, great. And, yes, women should take the time to exercise and eat right. Not because we need to prove something to the world, but because we see ourselves as being worth the effort self-care requires.

But if you’re 5 feet, 6 inches – why feel bad that you aren’t taller? If your eyes are green – why feel ashamed that they aren’t blue? If you have full eyebrows or sparse eyebrows, a curvaceous frame or a lanky one, straight hair or curly, big lips or thin, dark or pale skin, narrow feet or wide, if you like sparkles or prefer a gray t-shirt and blue jeans – it doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

You’re beautiful.

Every time. Every day.

Walk into the room with your head held high. Believe that you have a lot to offer – because you do.

I’m over allowing anyone telling me that I’m “less than” because my hair grows throughout the day (especially if it’s humid). I’m over strangers telling me to “smile more.” (A particular pet peeve). I’m over fad diets. (Seriously. You need food. Real food). I’m over apologizing for being intelligent.I’m over worrying about whether or not I intimidate others.

I’m over feeling bad about myself.

I wish I would have figured out this confidence thing, I don’t know, about 20 years ago, but it is what it is. I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth but I do know I don’t want to spend it concerned over whether or not someone likes my jeans. I like my jeans. I’m just done with caring about opinions that don’t amount to a hill of beans.

You, dear lady reading this today – will you join me? When you look in the mirror, will you smile at yourself? Because your face was crafted by the skilled hands of the Master Designer. When you go into that meeting, will you speak up? Because your voice should be heard. When you put on that dress or slip those pins in your hair or zip up those boots, will you do so knowing that you rock whatever style you’ve chosen? Because you do. You do rock it.

Here’s to us, of the gap-toothed grins and the thick thighs and the hands gnarled with age. Here’s to us, of the frizzed-out hair and the eye wrinkles and the crooked noses. Here’s to us, of the flat butts that squats will never round out and the raspy voices and the Bohemian flair. Here’s to us, of skin as dark as coffee and pale as winter snow and all shades between.

We are gorgeous.

Nothing less.

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Finding My Voice

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Gentle Reader,

Something has clicked for me.

It began on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, referenced in this post. I certainly don’t think that social media is the place to air each and every thought and emotion. I don’t think blogging is the appropriate place for that, either. Nobody likes a constant stream of word-vomit. Discretion and wisdom are necessary in the online life (not to mention the “real” life). It’s important to consider what and how we share. Some things are great for general discussion. Others should be kept between trusted friends and family. Still others are meant to be hashed out with God alone.

So I’m not about to pontificate on every issue under the sun. But neither am I going to go out of my way to avoid voicing an opinion.

I’ve been doing that. Keeping silent. Honestly, part of that is because I think a lot of what passes for urgent these days is just a waste of time. People need to get off the computer and go do something worthwhile. Volunteering at the shelter has really changed my perspective. There are much bigger things going on in the world than what kind of meat to eat or if meat should even be eaten at all.

But it’s more than that. My friendships span a wide spectrum. Vegans and carnivores. Atheists and Christians. Pro-vax and anti-vax. I’ve often been reluctant to “like” or “share” a post because “what if so-and-so sees I did?” I’ve shied away from leaving comments because “what if so-and-so gets angry?”

And then the clicking.

First, I realized that it made no sense whatsoever that I would allow others the freedom to share their views, even views that I highly disagree with or find offensive, while not allowing myself the same freedom. Second, I realized that if a friendship falls apart because of differing takes on such trivial matters then it wasn’t really a friendship to begin with. Third, and perhaps most crucially, I understand the difference between attacking a person and criticism of a stance. No longer do I tolerate someone who chooses to be insulting on a consistent basis but I don’t at all mind someone who challenges my way of thinking. If I can be challenged, then I can challenge others. That’s healthy discourse.

All of these thoughts were subconscious. I haven’t been able to articulate them until today.

The third point in the above stirs me. We as a society have conflated personal attack and ideological criticism. We assume that anyone who holds a different position is saying something nasty and personal. We don’t know how to handle relationships that aren’t 100% square in all things. All too often we run away from anyone who dares to disagree. That bothers me a great deal. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone thinks exactly the same as I do. Heaven forbid I ever start to think that I can’t learn anything from anyone, that my way is the only right way. (Obviously I’m not talking about Jesus here, so don’t even start to think that I’m saying something about all religions being equal).

Disagreement is normal. It’s fine. It doesn’t have to be vicious.

I’ve chosen to step out and share my thoughts about some controversial things on my Facebook page. I said the Affordable Health Care Act is a joke because it’s not true reform at all, though I hardly place all the blame for that on the shoulders of the President. I said that I’m tired of articles that talk about how much the Church sucks because the people who write them are largely of my whiny, lazy, self-centered, entitled generation; a generation who, as a general rule, refuses to acknowledge its own responsibility in anything. I came out as a pro-vaxxer. (This last one may actually lose me some friends and I seriously don’t get it. I don’t understand why this is such a heated topic. Or even a topic for debate at all. But again, I fully support everyone’s right to think that they want).

You know what?

It felt good.

So, so good.

I didn’t call anyone names. Just said what I thought. It’s fine with me if other people disagree. We can talk. If they don’t want to talk, if they want to walk away, that’s fine, too. Sad, but fine. I have no control over anyone’s response.

Maybe it’s because I’m 30. Maybe it’s because I had a tumor. I don’t know. I’m just done with being scared. I’m so, so, so tired of letting other people have that much influence over me. I’m disgusted with the stupid, ridiculous fights I see over minute, ultimately meaningless details when there’s a lost, broken world dying for truth. I’m over all of it. Sure, I’ll tell you what I think and I find a new sense of freedom in that, but I’m not going to fight about it. I have better things to do.

Frankly, so does everyone else.

My journey to faith. (15)