I was looking through Marc’s flickr account tonight hoping to find some pictoral inspiration for a new blog design. No luck. I did, however, run across a number of gems of the video and picture variety from days and years gone by. What I gleaned from that trip down memory lane? “Be happy with what you have when you have it, girls. Because gravity is merciless.” In other words, (Marc and) I have aged A LOT in the past four years!
Oh well. Such is life, I suppose.
I ran across something else, too. At our wedding reception (12.5 years ago now), we got people to write comments/advice/memories to us on their place cards. I still have them all. This one was from a good friend from church who’d lead the worship team I played drums in for years:
“Dear Marc! I recall once at family camp someone remarking how everywhere Dixie went there were always a lot of other people around, particularly guys! And they wondered why! I remember saying; “Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen her smile?!”
That’s one thing I’ve always known about myself. I have a good smile (if you look past the Osmond-family teeth — or maybe it’s the teeth that makes the smile?!). My physics teacher in grade 11 actually stopped mid-sentence during one class to tell me that I had a most remarkable smile.
So, yeah, I believed the card because I knew I had a good smile.
But. A few months ago I was visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She told me that her husband (who was a few years younger than me in youth group) and his friends would always ask if “Dixie Dynna was going to be at youth group,” because — get this — they thought I was so pretty! Ha!
I was shocked. I wouldn’t have believed her except I know she (and her husband) wouldn’t make that up.
You see, I spent ALL of my growing up years thinking I was quite ugly. I know most people go through an awkward stage and most people are unhappy with at least part of their looks. So maybe I was like most kids. Except at the time I didn’t think that most kids were going through the same thing I was. And what I was going through was thinking that I was ugly and that no boy would ever like me. As a result, all the pressure was off and I was free to hang around and be funny with just about anybody. You see, there was no pressure because there was no hope.
Looking back now I know that I wasn’t ugly (besides that really bad haircut I got right before grade 10). But I still have a hard time believing that other people saw me as attractive. So when I hear stories like the above it kind of floors me. And I wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had thought there was a hot chance to have a hot chance with a guy.
In a way I’m glad I lived in that oblivion. I mean, I know it was detrimental to my self-esteem. And I know it took a lot of years for Marc’s perspective of me to help shape my perspective into something positive. (Come to think of it, we’re still working on that. He got quite annoyed the other day when I referred to my body as “revolting…”) But I am also glad that I was spared the hormonal drama of dating in high school — of looking for acceptance and worth in the eyes and arms of another. Because I’m quite certain that even if I’d been confident enough to think a boy really thought I was pretty, I would never have had the confidence to stand up for myself and be myself when those attentions turned physical.
I don’t know. Maybe a completely unhealthy, warped self-esteem for all those years was just as damaging as any indiscretion or mishap with a boy… but I really am thankful that I was saved that bit of heartache. Even if it was replaced by a different kind of heartache. A heartache that often still looks in the mirror unsatisfied. And, as I get older, it’s replaced by a new kind of heartache: the heartache of regret for not appreciating and being thankful for what I looked like and who I was for all of those years. All of these years. Because I’m doing it still. Especially as my body struggles and sags and spreads its way through the 30s.
I’ve really come a long way in accepting who I am and how I look and how I “grow,” but it is still a struggle for me. It’s difficult for me because now I see that I used to have it so easy, and yet I was so dissatisfied. I’ve always been dissatisfied. Dissatisfied looking back (because I should’ve appreciated what I had), in the present (because I’m not where I used to be), and looking forward (because, really, it’s only going to get more difficult; like I said, gravity is merciless).
I know these are really trivialities. There’s so much more to life than how good we look while we’re living it. And, really, when you think about it, most of the good moments of life are the moments where we look anything but our best (hello?! childbirth?! wedding night?!).
I know that ultimately the way I look and how much I weigh does not really matter. But, the perspective that I take on all of it DOES.
I feel like I should just be able to make some sort of pledge and promise to never look back with regret about how I used to look and what I didn’t see in myself. But, the truth is, I’ve had probably a good 25 years of conditioning to be dissatisfied. And, the funny thing is, I’ve probably only come to be happy with my body since becoming a mother (and we all know the roller coaster ride your body lives out in those years!).
So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep struggling with this. But these little glimpses from my past (and Marc’s continual love and affection and acceptance — that boy is nothing if not accepting! — of me) show me that there is another way to look at me. I’ve always been one for honesty, even if it hurts. But maybe the really honest thing is that I didn’t look so bad all of those years, and I was the one who was wrong.
Maybe the toughest pill to swallow is not about my looks, but about the fact that I’m wrong.