This is part of a series of posts on body image

This is, by far, one of my favorite thoughts on body image I’ve found on the internet over the past few years. It is interesting to hear what some people think about her words. More than once I’ve heard people say: wow, she sure is mad! Well yeah, I think that it is an angry poem but more than anything else there seems to be a ‘never again’ and ‘not my daughter’ kind of feel to it. And I like that very much.

However, what I really like the most is that it makes you think very seriously about the word ‘pretty’.

Recently I had my gall bladder removed. It was the first time I’d been under general anesthesia. First surgery ever (apart from wisdom teeth) and I was stunned at how difficult even routine surgery can be. Anxiety before hand, financial issues to sort through, digestive changes and foods that must be limited or eliminated altogether, wound care and scaring are the tip of the iceberg. Anesthesia wrecks havoc on your ability to feel like yourself for a long time after wounds begin to close up.

Truth is, your body is violated in surgery, even if it is only by the instruments, and it takes a while to stabilize again and move beyond that trauma.

After the surgery was over, after I came home and rested, after my aunts who had graciously come to take care of me had gone home, I stood in front of the full length mirror in my guest bedroom looking at the gigantic bandages.

Now, this is probably one of the world’s most amazing mirrors because somehow or another it is propped up against the wall in just such a way as to reflect the person gazing into it as ever so slightly slimmer than they actually are.  Quite a good deal slimmer. I would love to have it in my bedroom but I dare not touch it, lest it lose its magic! But standing there looking at my bandaged, weakened, exhausted body I was not as impressed with its usual transformative, Mirror of  Erised abilities.

Instead I was impressed with my very own human body!

Wow, I thought, someone cut into this body in four places, stuck a camera and other instruments inside and plucked out an organ! And yet, here I stand!

Here I stand.

As the days of healing time passed, the bandages came off to reveal a gigantic purple bruise as big and round as a doorknob on my belly and three other puckery pink and purple gashes. They were hideous, of course, but strangely beautiful, too. It seemed like they changed colors and shapes every day as my amazing, scarred, overweight, out of shape, beautiful human body healed itself. My Body Healed Itself! And I will never, ever see it the same again.

We often spend so much time worrying about pretty that we miss what is beautiful. It is like the word ‘nice’. Be nice. That’s such a trite thing. A bit like pretty. Vapid vapor at best. Mostly I think what we want people to be is kind. Now that’s a word with some depth. Like beautiful. Nice and pretty are what we want to be so that we can be liked by others. Kind is what we do for others and beautiful is about who we are.

The surgery wounds are, for the most part, healed. The remarkable bruise has long since faded and new skin seals what once opened to release one of my damaged organs. There are scars in every one of those places…. and scars are not pretty. But wow, they sure are beautiful!

This is the second post in a series on body image. If you have a story or wish to write an essay about your own experience with body image to post on this blog, please contact me. I would love to read it!


I Want To Write A Story

I want to write a story.

It will be fiction, of course, and probably not very good because I’m not a fiction writer.

But I still want to write it.

 It would be about a little girl who grew up being driven by curiosity to explore everything she came into contact with. She would do things like read the encyclopedia and collect maps and be excited to visit the Library of Congress. She would have a life that, if viewed from space, would look like a maze with lots of lovely dead ends that were really cull-de-sacks with fabulous treasures and knowledge and experience.

There would be tragedies, of course. There are always tragedies in any good story. But they would be tragedies that would make our heroine stronger, multi-faceted. Mysterious. Maybe a few scars, too, because they are cool. She would have her heart broken several times and struggle against those who believed she was too independent and too strong. Sometimes those heartbreakers and those she would struggle against would be the same people.

Then there would be this point in the story when she thought she’d discovered all there was in the maze and we would think so, too. Then, suddenly, she’d open another door and there would be a whole new part she’d never seen before! It would be a turning point. She’d meet lots of people who’d also been heart broken, torn apart, scarred. We would all discover, right along with our heroine, that her super power was really only possible because of all the parts that had come before—especially the hard parts.

And then she’d make a friend who liked her not because she would be just perfect if she were less independent and strong and less mysterious but because she was independent and strong and a little mysterious. But not because she was a heroine. Just because she was herself.

Then, there would be this moment when she would see the entire maze of her life to that point as a whole. Just like she was seeing it from space. She would realize it wasn’t a maze at all. It was a labyrinth and all along, she’d been right where she was supposed to be.

And then, just as we think she’s come to the end of the labyrinth, she opens a door and finds a whole new part she’s never seen before.

It would be good. And it would be fiction.