This Is 40
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
This post is many days in the making, 52 days to be exact.
I wanted to write it on my 40th birthday.
I just wasn’t ready until now.
Because these words are about my outside.
On that late June morning when I entered my fifth decade and embarked upon another jaunt around the sun, I wanted to capture the moment in some way. I felt hopelessly limited in my ideas. All I could come up with was one: taking a photo of myself, and the thought made me nervous. I really detest having my picture taken. I’ve never felt confident in how I look in photos, even when a professional is behind the lens. If I am in a social setting and a camera comes out I shy away, even in the company of family and friends. It was difficult being followed by a photographer for a full eight hours on my wedding day. And I fly into a panic when anyone tags me in a photo on Facebook.
Nevertheless, on that day I committed to a smart phone “selfie.” This is the end result.
This is it. This is 40. Not a hint of makeup, save for a quick swipe of Burt’s Bees light pink lip balm, so my mouth wouldn’t disappear against my face. I desperately wanted to hide behind the perfect illusion that only cosmetics could create; but I needed to be honest. I needed to be me.
I first posted this photo to Facebook, amongst the love and kindness of family and friends. That was hard enough, and I was just too ashamed to post it here. I don’t expect anyone to understand this. All I can say is this: illness can, and does, fuel a complicated relationship between what is on the outside and what lies within. I know how I am supposed to think and feel. But I can easily get down about my often flat, lackluster, thinning hair. My perpetually tired eyes. And my sometimes lifeless, pale skin.
When I first saw it, I cringed. The usual narrative ran through my head. My nose is too long and too big. My eyes are too small and too far apart. My hair is so flat and ugly. My skin looks old. I was, literally, getting sick to my stomach. And I carried these terrible thoughts with me for far too long.
As usual, time does have its way. I just wanted to stop, stop the madness and hatred that lupus and pain and everything else had stirred up inside of me. Because there is the illusion I see; illness and what I think it has done to me. And then there is the truth. That I am, in fact, beautiful.
Because we are all beautiful.
Not long after I pushed through my initial fears and shared this image on Facebook, a beloved cousin of mine had a few precious words for me.
“Allyson, when I look at you I see your mother.”
She could not have possibly given me a higher, more loving compliment.
Have an amazing day, friends. And always know you are beautiful, inside and out.