Beauty of A Woman, Garden of Steel Magnolias

Love Letter to My Wrinkles #BOAW2015

August McLaughlin Beauty of a Woman

I offer my reflections as part of August McLaughlin’s Beauty of A Woman Blogfest.  Go here to read other posts in the blogfest and a chance to win exciting prizes.

A few weeks ago, I found my passport picture from college.  I will admit that my first reaction was dismay at the changes I saw in the mirror. My second reaction was how much I dislike people immediately judging others by their appearance.  I have endeavored not to do so in my life, but realized I was judging myself harshly. Today, I stood before the mirror and wrote my acceptance of one of my “flaws.”

Dear wrinkles,

Today I looked at you without allowing my eyes to glide past you, as I so often do when checking my makeup or brushing my hair. I looked at you with loving acceptance. First I noticed my eyes. I will not call you crows-feet, you wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, as you do not remind me of crows, but of the years of smiles given my parents, siblings, husband, children, grandchildren, friends, and strangers. You provide the context, the setting, through which my spirit shines.

Next I noticed you, wrinkles bracketing my mouth, serving as a reminder of the polarity of life, the tension between happiness and anxiety, both mirrored in your folds. You are a testament to the pleasure and closeness of shared laughter and smiles. However, when I crease my face with worry, you are a visible admonition to release what I cannot control.  I gradually feel the effort of contracting those muscles, and force myself to breathe, to relax, to let go.

A few years ago, I saw a college classmate whose face was bare of wrinkles, her flesh stretched over her cheekbones as if she were twenty-five, not twice that age.  I realized then that you, my dearest wrinkles, carry the character of a person. You are part of me as much as my brown eyes or short stature.  You are my history, carved visibly in my flesh, the official documents of my life more than any birth or marriage certificates set down on paper.  How could I not love you?

With all my heart,

Elizabeth

EM

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Garden of Steel Magnolias

BOAW The most beautiful woman I ever met

Closeup decorative grunge vintage woman with beautiful long hair

This year I am taking part in August McLaughlin‘s Beauty of A Woman BlogFest.  She will list links to all of the blogs participating in the fest on her blog. Stop by for fun, inspiration, laughs and more. You may also win one of two $50 gift cards, so go on over—after you’ve read this post.

Among her topics, August suggested the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met.  I met that woman, whom I will call Kathryn, when I was a sophomore in college, at a small women’s college in the South.  I had gone to college a year early, and felt a bit like a misfit, so when I noticed Kathryn sitting alone in the dining hall, I asked if I could sit with her.  When Kathryn looked up at me, I realized in part why others were avoiding her. Her face was oddly misshapen, with a very small jaw, and her hands were knotted as though arthritic.  Although several women stared covertly at her, no one was obvious, and all were well-mannered enough not to say anything mean to her.  However, it was clear from the space everyone left around her that they were uncomfortable.  While I noticed this difference about Kathryn, I am drawn to people’s eyes.  Her eyes were clear and beautiful.  My mother always said the eyes were windows to the soul, and that old canard was true in Kathryn’s case.  There were depths of pain and wisdom in them, but her wit and kindness also shone through them, pure and blue as the sky after a snowstorm.

Kathryn smiled and invited me to sit at the table.  I learned that she was several years younger than most freshman, which created a further bond between us.  Intelligent and quick-witted, she seemed to ignore the combined avoidances and sideways glances of the women around us.  We found several areas of common interest and similar backgrounds during that meal and many others that followed. We came to be friends, although several of my other friends continued to avoid her.  There was always a space around her, a sort of benign neglect zone that moved with her.  Despite this reaction, Kathryn never felt anyone was unkind, saying she realized how different she looked and it was normal for people to shy away from her.

After a few weeks, she told me that she suffered from Progeria, which is a rare, rapid-aging disease.  Most people with the disease do not live beyond their teens, which is why she had gone to college early.  When I replied that I couldn’t imagine bothering with college in her case, she shrugged and said she had nothing better to do. In the time I knew her, she never complained about her pain, never felt sorry for herself, never felt slighted.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Kathryn concentrated on doing whatever she could for her small group of friends.  At the end of that year,  an acquaintance asked me in private how I could stand to look at her.  I was stunned, because I had truly forgotten Kathryn didn’t look like the rest of the freshmen. I saw Kathryn, not what her disease had done to her. She  was the kindest soul I ever met, and a far better person than I could ever be.  She taught me volumes about self-confidence, acceptance, and striving for one’s goals.  She was hands down the most beautiful woman I have ever met.