Thursday, April 21, 2011

Looking for beauty, finding it in the last place I expected.

Looking at this little girl with my grown up eyes, I see the freckles and ragged bangs and gappy teeth, but I also see the smile.  That year was the last year before glasses added to the look.

What I don't see is the sadness and the frightened child who was slowly becoming convinced that all the kids in Sunset Elementary could not be wrong. There must be something truly stinky and flea ridden about ME.

Gradually, I was losing the confidence that being raised in a family full of Grandparents, great-grandmothers, Great-Aunts and great-Uncles
had instilled in me.

The little girl who always had a willing audience among family, did not even know what it meant when her mother told her to go out and "Play," and had no idea that the average 5 year old would not want to spend hours listening to me brag about how well I could read, or watch me.  Soon my lack of social skills with my peers made me an easy target for the cruelty that is, unfortunately, found on every playground.
 There were kids I liked and admired, but I didn't know how to tell them, and soon one of them told me, "I can't be your friend, or no-one else will play with me."

I learned to long for invisibility, and even to keep silent if someone else was being harassed, because, at least that day, it wouldn't be me.  I tried to seek help from adults, but my Mom had also been a victim, and a poor, only child, who's mom made her wear knee high socks and long braids when bobby socks and bobbed pony-tails were everywhere.  She compensated by dressing me the way she had longed to be dressed and my bobbed hair and anklets were the only ones in sight.  She also told me, "The boys always pick on the girls they like."  I knew the difference between being picked on, and being threatened and bullied but couldn't explain it to anyone.

Through public school, I shrank inside, learning to feel disgust every time I caught my own face in a mirror, avoiding looking at pictures of me, never making eye contact for fear of the snide, rejection which always came.  Then in 8th and 9th grade, I made a few friends, but I never was brave enough to trust that they really liked me.  In fact I saw it as proof that they must not like themselves very much.  If they could have gotten a better class of friend, surely they would have, or so I thought, and for that I am so sorry.  Years have proven the true, loyal friends that they are.

Art and writing in college finally turned me outside of my own pain to dazzle me with the beauty that exists in this world, all tangled up with the ugliness, so that the chance that you might see beauty or ugliness is dependent upon the eyes that you use to look for it.

As I started to smile at the flowers or lights around me, people would smile back at me.  At first I did not believe it.  I looked around to see who was behind me, receiving a greeting, and when no-one else was in sight, I waited for the attack, that kept failing to come.

 Two people really made me start to believe in myself.  There was Lance, my brother with Down's syndrome and a passion for life.  Then there was a music and Drama student who started car-pooling with me after I answered his ad in the college, "Hot-Line."  Granted, my insecurity added greatly to the drama in his life as he tried to convince me that I was worth loving, but thankfully he never gave up.
Now we live together, and have shared nearly 30 years of marriage, in a world so beautiful that it catches my breath and makes me cry.  We have raised two wonderfully confident children, taught thousands of students, travelled to Asia and Europe and I keep writing and painting and taking pictures.

 Amazingly i can look at my old pictures and smile at who that little girl has become.  I may never be the most beautiful person you will ever see, but I am beautiful, I'm a great Mom, a loving friend and not a bad writer, and most of all, I can help other people see the beauty inside and outside of them.

If this isn't a welcoming place for you, I can Promise that there is one waiting somewhere. It is a big, wonderful world, and when you step out into it expecting to make friends and find beauty, that is often what happens.  And when that is not what happens, remember, things move on, the days change, and the path you take will be largely determined by the baggage you carry with you.

So let go of the fear, leave the self-doubt and loathing behind, and look at first, for just one beautiful thing and one person to flash a smile to.  It does get better.

 The sun will rise again, and last years dead flowers will have left seeds behind.

I wish you all the best in your journey through this world.  When you set forth, take a smile with you, and give one to the small child that you used to be.

Thanks for Reading,



Josh Billings, said,

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

No comments:

Post a Comment