In my youth, beauty was a non-issue and definitely not my focus—whatever focus I did have. In the past, my life decisions were made without-a-thought, out-of-the-blue, riding-a-whim.
By the time I entered my first beauty pageant at fourteen, I was a full-blown misanthrope–I disliked and distrusted people. Their opinions carried little weight on my self-image, thoughts or actions. I did what was right in my own eyes.
This philosophy freed me from taking pride in, or credit for, others’ labels of my physical attributes. This belief system also shackled my emotional development. (I discuss these in my book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity)
I gleaned from both my parents to be true to myself, to the best I understood at the time. Though, I don’t believe either of my parents read Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was of the same opinion when he said, “Insist on yourself. Never imitate.”
At sixteen, I remember my mother coming to me with an anonymous letter. The letter contained the warning that because of someone’s “rumored” lifestyle, I was going to ruin my reputation if I continued spending time with her daughter. That’s one of the hazards living in a small town. I had heard untrue rumors about me, too.
Mother read the letter aloud to me, then asked, “What do you think you should do?” My answer was that it was no one’s business what I did or who my friends were. I was going to remain her friend. Mother tore up the letter.
This was the girlfriend who informed me, as I returned from walking the ramp at a rehearsal for a pageant we both entered, “You have a big ass, but it looks good.”
It wasn’t that I really had a big butt. It was my twenty-one-inch waist that emphasized my thirty-five-inch hips filling out my red pencil pants. (It was the sixties.) Anyway, I knew she meant it as a compliment, and I didn’t take it as an insult. We were friends. She was expressing her thoughts. And, even if I did have a big butt, she thought it looked good.
The point being: I knew that people thought I was beautiful. These were the first words crossing their lips upon our meeting. Whatever part of the anatomy being appreciated, I was aware of people staring, even of strangers walking backward to get longer looks. Remember: I didn’t think people had much sense so I interpreted it as silly, just their opinion—not the absolute truth. My critical eye zoomed in on characteristics I considered problematic.I didn’t consider myself beautiful. I considered Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Dianne Carrol beautiful. Today, I consider Selma Hayek, Heidi Klum, Gong Li, Mellody Hobson, and Laila Ali as beautiful.
SCI is hard on the physical body. Though I would like to look as I did in my forties, even my fifties, I’m not an advocate of needless surgeries, drugs, and injected poisons. I love and respect my body’s faithful service these many years living from a wheelchair. Although the physical fact of beauty has faded, I can honestly say that I am beautiful. I now know what true beauty is, and I behold myself from a totally different standard, from a totally different perspective.
Beauty isn’t only a physical attribute. Yes, it can be seen in a human face or body and, in addition, it can be seen in the majestic full moon or a promissory rainbow, in Santana’s rock guitar and Latin percussion, or in Yo-Yo Ma with his cello. I believe the secret of beauty is in excellence—in doing or being your best.
In being at the right place at the right time, the moon does what it was created to do; it reflects the sun. At its most glorious, it’s full. Its other phases may not be as spectacular, but to reach its splendid fullness, it waxes. Hmmm. Are you in a new phase or growing toward your fullness?
For a rainbow to form, an alignment of three things must occur: There must be water droplets in the air in front of you, the sun must be shining, and the sunlight must be behind you. As the result, as the sunlight penetrates into the front of the droplet, it bends or refracts for the first time; as it exists the back of the droplet, it bends the second time. (Double rainbows occur when the light makes a return trip through the back and out the front of the water droplets. How breathtaking is that?)
Hmmm. The beauty of a rainbow can only be observed when sunshine peeks through the clouds, after or during a rainy day.
For the virtuosos in their fields, it took passion, and practice, practice, practice. I believe the moon passionately reflects the sun, and that the rainbow is God’s passionate promise.
What makes you stand out? What is your passion, your beauty source? As a rainbow, it may be shining through a struggle making you so.
Today and tomorrow, look yourself in the mirror; behold the beautiful you. Find a feature, a mannerism, an inherent gift that you like. Whether it is the color of your hair, eyes or skin…an artistic, mathematical, musical or rhythmic talent…height, health or humor, say, “Thank you_______ (don’t be single-minded; mention a few. None are jealous.) for serving me. I love you. I AM beautiful.”
Trust me. It’s true.
Let’s talk…about you. I’m listening.