Dear Woman In The Mirror,
When I saw you looking at me with tired eyes and frazzled hair the other day in the airport mirror I felt bad for you. And I am sorry for that. I looked away so I didn’t have to keep looking and judging.
You see when I first saw you, I appraised you harshly, critiqued the lines on your face, pale color, and the clothes you wore. I was cruel. Perhaps you knew that, I saw the way your eyes teared up a little as you turned away and pinched your lips together. I didn’t want to hear your story and I am sorry.
Perhaps if I had listened I would have heard that you just came back from spending time with your children. It would have mattered to me if you had told me that it makes you cry when you have to let them go, let them grow up and live their lives on their own. Motherhood is hard, you want your babies to stay close to home and snuggle in your arms when the world is on fire. But when your children grow up you have to settle for being an onlooker to their lives and you can’t sweep them up and shelter them from harm.
You looked so tired, the kind of tired that makes your head swim. You were dragging your things around and looking like all you wanted to do was to crawl into bed and let the waves of sleep drown you. I suppose if I understood what illnesses your body was fighting under the layers of and exhaustion I might have offered to help carry your bag.
I don’t understand what you are going through. Because on a regular day I get up, get a shower, try to get some exercise, and enjoy my day. I go out with my friends, enjoy my work, and I don’t have to think about being sick. Most days I don’t think about pain being a part of every step, eating to make sure my liver or heart is healthy, or planning out how long I can be out before I need to recover.
I feel bad that I looked at you and thought that you could do better. I shouldn’t have mocked you for not putting on make-up, carrying extra weight around the middle, or for simply growing older. We are all growing older by the day.
From a distance I didn’t see that your body is strong and beautiful, that it gave birth to three wonderful children and adopted others as your own. It was impossible to see the struggle that you’ve gone through to be the woman you are now in spite of the past you left behind. I simply disliked your hair, cut short because the meds and Lyme disease make it fall out. I wasn’t kind about the way you were limping, your foot in pain after standing too long and walking too much. I just wanted you to move faster, be something you are not.
When I saw you, I saw an old woman and not the young girl that I consider myself to be. You wear sensible clothes, and understand that make-up doesn’t make you a beautiful person. The 22 year old girl that once stood there had no idea that one day her perky breasts and flat tummy would not always be there, instead she’d willingly trade both for more days rocking babies and baking cookies with her children. That girl would come to see that her health wouldn’t always be something she could depend on and she should take advantage of her energy and fight while she had it instead of wasting it on crying over lost boyfriends and uncomfortable shoes.
I hope you will forgive me as I learn to see you for the role model you are for others who are also learning to love themselves no matter their dress size, no matter their health conditions or age, no matter if they are strikingly beautiful or damaged in ways others can’t understand. I hope that if I keep telling you that you are going to be okay, that you will accept that and fight to make it so. Please don’t give up and stop fighting because even if you don’t see it right now, people love you and want you to be there for their important moments in life. Your daughter will want you to be there the day she gets married and your sons need you to be the soft place that comforts them when they are hurt. You can’t let go, you have to keep fighting.
So dear woman, dear self, please forgive me for letting other people define beauty instead of looking at who you are and seeing you for your worth.
P.S. You looked FABULOUS when you were out with your friends, laughing and having a great time. You should do that more. Enjoy your nap and feel better.