Love after Love

One of my kindreds shared in her blog this morning that she has no inner “picture” of herself. That when asked how she views herself, she came up blank. That even walking by a mirror brought forth no real image. As I was formulating a comment, I realized how prevalent this is, especially among women. I don’t know if it is because we live so much of our lives for others, or if it is because we shut down in discouragement because of the constant barrage of images shoved down our throats that dare to insist we must look a certain way to be acceptable or desirable.

I’ve had self-image problems, myself. In fact, that is one of the most joyful graces of aging; the letting go of impossible standards. It sets me free to be comfortable with whom I am. To love myself: both my skin and who I truly am under it. I grieve for younger women who are under so much pressure and so unhappy with themselves when in truth they are gorgeous, vibrant and pulsing with youthful vigor.

I thought about how I would respond when asked what mental picture I get when asked how I see myself. I decided to try it. So I asked myself, “Who do I see when I think of me?” Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m as critical as the next woman when I look in a mirror, seeing what I deem to be “negative” aspects of my physical person magnified while hardly noticing what I actually admire about my looks. Naturally, I thought this critical spirit would taint my inner image. Or that I, too, would find emptiness, a void instead of a picture. It took a moment, but I did get a very definite mental picture. And it delighted me! I saw myself sitting on a cushion, round and merry, with a beatific smile and a joyful twinkle in my eye. This was most pleasing to me. I will cherish this inner image to bring out and gaze upon when tempted to judge my appearance by anyone’s standards but this wise, inner visionary.

Laura, this poem is for you. Let it soak into your heart. Just as the oak is already encased in the acorn, the fullness of all you are rests within you, even now. Even now, as you stand at the door with your hand tentatively reaching for the latch.

Picasso-Girl-Before-A-Mirror1

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott

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