I have long been a lover of quirks. Things that are just a bit off, these are the things that catch my eye, and make me grin. I am often heard uttering the words, “That is so weird. I love it.” And when my darling and patient husband finds out I might think some movie or TV star is attractive, his response is usually, “That guy? He’s so goofy looking.”
I don’t know if it is a distrust of things that seem too perfect, or just that I find perfection a bit, well, bland. A smooth, newly paved road is a delight, but don’t you always look forward to going over that one bump that wakes up the butterflies in your belly? I even find myself smiling when I catch a typo in a book. It reminds me of the people involved in the work; it reminds me that things don’t have to be just right to be valuable.
Now. Go ahead and ask me if I apply this same notion to myself in any manner. If I look in the mirror at the things that seem “off” to me, and think, “How cute. How quirky.” Ask me if, in a conversation with someone who seems light years smarter than me, I open my mouth to ask a question without first telling myself how stupid I must be not to be able to keep up. Ask me how often I talk myself out of opening my mouth at all.
The first time I wrote about my daughter Chloe, it was in a post titled “Disarming.” If you have not read it, I would love for you to do that now, because what I am writing about today has so much to do with that post. I even linked it up for you, so if you click on the title, it will take you right there.
Having dropped my battle armor after her diagnosis of Rett Syndrome, I imagined I would not have to fight in the war over body image, value, and any of these things that burn into a girl’s soul. Some things rolling around on the internet lately have caught my attention, though, because, you know what? I am a girl.
We are being told not to talk to little girls about their beauty. We are told not to tell them they are pretty. (Here’s a story prompt for you: little Susie was never told by her well-meaning parents that they thought she was beautiful. She heard the word applied to art, to music, to books, to food even, but something about her must not have stacked up enough to warrant such praise. How do you imagine this story would go?) It is not our desire to be considered beautiful that needs to change, it is our perception that beauty is only one thing, and that beauty as a single dimension will bring us value.We are in a battle with photoshopped advertisements, and trust me, I am right there with you, but in the same breath we criticize someone whose clothes don’t fit quite right by muttering “No one wants to see that.”
After I had my son I stopped wearing make-up. It wasn’t out of a newfound level of confidence that this came about. I was so disgusted with what I saw in the mirror I simply imagined that make-up would only draw attention to what I really wished no one could see, which was, namely, my whole face. I hope your heart just broke, because mine does when I think of it. But after that brokenness, I healed up in a new way. After years of getting dressed and wearing make-up for “someone else” (as in, what will people think of me when they see me) I now get all gussied up because I think it is loads of fun to put an outfit together. I find it interesting how make-up in different shades and contours can shape my eyes. It is not vanity for me, anymore, but creativity.
A friend asked me today why I once dyed my hair blue, and I knew right away. It wasn’t rebellion, or inspiration of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which is what he was wondering. It was a way for me to leak out a little of the colorful mess bouncing around on my insides.
It’s just a small step in the peace-making process. I’m still making peace with all that is in me. And as I struggle to make peace, I sometimes too easily believe the lies that knock around my brain, beckoning me to believe them. The lies are a cadence that measure the steps with which I march into battle. They whisper, “too-much, not-enough, too-much, not-enough, too-much, not-enough.” I am too emotional, not strong enough. I am too hard, not gentle enough. I am too distracted, not focused enough. I am too shy, not bold enough. I am too foolish, not smart enough.
I keep this battle to myself, mostly. But let me tell you, nothing ignites ire in me more than seeing someone start to lose their battle. That’s when I show up to fight. That’s when I no longer care that the blue might start to leak out before I can control where it might land.
When the tenderness of a friend is being taken advantage of by the lies within her, when her knees start to buckle, and she can no longer look up to face her enemy, that is when I know. The armaments I dropped because I did not imagine I needed them to defend my own daughter, not over this, are lying at my feet. And with eyes trained on that enemy I am reaching down to pick them up.
Each too-much, every not-enough, I am looking at you. You are trying to hide her true value behind a smoke screen of lies, but you never banked on the fact that she was not alone. Each time you try to convince her she is alone, I will be there. And you will be proven wrong.
Sweet readers, do not be afraid to show your battle scars, even the ones still healing, even the ones still tender from the fray. Because someone is looking at you thinking, “I could never have it all together like that,” and the lie that you’ve got it made is telling them they are too much. They are not enough. Fight for your friends. Fight for strangers who hold in common with you the burden of the battle. And if you are holding on to something in an effort to have everyone believe that you’ve got it all together— drop it. Just drop it. And take someone’s hand instead.