My husband and I were on vacation in Hawaii when I figured out who exactly I wanted to be. She stood at the top of a staircase, in the perfect floor length gauzy yellow dress, its material fluttering away from her slightly with the fantastic mix of ease and mana. She was tanned and tranquil with a buttery yellow frangipani tucked behind her ear. Her hair was loose and ruffled amusingly by the breeze coming right off the ocean. Her lips stayed parted as she breathed it all in, the open air courtyard, the ukulele player strumming and singing down below her and the crash of the surf that echoed in the hallways, windows and pathways cut out for that very purpose. She looked relaxed and yet ready for anything and I wanted to be just like her. It took me a moment to realize I had reached a mirror; the girl in the yellow dress was me.
At this very moment I am wearing a fourteen year old tee-shirt that proclaims my senior in high school status. My jeans are fraying and over their left front pocket is a dab of pizza sauce which missed my mouth tonight. My hair is in a messy top-knot (and not the sexy co-ed kind), slicked up for the utility of combat against the oppressive summer heat. I am left to wonder where the girl in the yellow dress went. She is still in there and I know that I usually call on her when I resemble her least.
There are so many mixed messages when it comes to beauty. Though I have survived being a teenage girl, becoming a mother made me that much more ferocious in my desire to dismantle a single sense of worthiness. Only recently, I have come to realize that it isn’t a singular thing. It’s funny how the lesson just continues to unfurl until we start to pay attention to it. There is beauty in doing things for the very first time and in mastery. It is in the limitations that we confront and the ones we manage to circumvent. It is there in speeches and in silence. Beauty knows when to slip your hand into another’s and when to walk away from a person who will only let you down.
My yellow dressed self wasn’t beautiful because she was thin (I wasn’t) or her makeup was expertly applied (I didn’t have any on), it was her presence that drew me in. She was ready to take on the world but she didn’t need anyone else to buy into it. She knew exactly where she was and who she was and that the love that surrounded and sustained her worked in alliance with her biggest dreams. The only thing that makes me sad when I think of that version of me against pizza-sauce jeans me is that I actually forget that fact sometimes. Instinctively we know who we are, what our purpose is and who is there to support us, but we get busy and distracted and we turn away from that, stumped when we find ourselves off course.
It is my sincere hope that you have had the opportunity to really see yourself in your best light, not just in a time of loving someone else, but in the fully aware beauty of inhabiting your own skin. If you haven’t seen yourself that way yet, I implore you to keep looking, you will find it. I would like to say that I will be waiting for you there, at the top of that staircase in the yellow dress. But there is a girl approaching in a class of ’02 tee-shirt who looks like she could use some help with setting her world on fire and this is a discussion we just can’t reschedule.