Everybody is exquisite. Truly, stunningly beautiful.
I keep learning one concept over and over again. As a counselor, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist, a writer, and in my own life.
This week, I am collaborating to combine story with photographs. Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble, I was sitting with the photographer discussing our model choice for the project.
“Wow she’s lovely.”
“Yes very photogenic.”
“And she’s athletic.”
“Yeah, the long torso implies that she was a gymnast. Bone plates shortened.”
“The other model has longer legs … “
“Let’s use both. Different looks.”
“The differences will spark more ideas.”
We grinned at each other. Two people in their 50s, feeling great about our work and about being able to see the possibilities, sweet possibilities of two very different body types. I went to get some lemonade. Walking back to our table, the beauty of every person in the store stole my breath away. I teared up. We could have used any person in the store. A cascade of memories followed the joyful epiphany.
I thought back to my first husband, initially an art director, now directing TV commercials. He was so very persnickety about how each feature of the model had to line up with his vision. I left the marriage for many reasons but there was a defining moment for me one night.
I never felt good enough, pretty enough with him. He was always checking out other women. I always felt lacking stacked against his model choices. A big issue was my weight.
“You could have made it as a model if you lost 10 pounds,” he said repeatedly.
After seven years of this, I snapped.
“I am a size 8 not a size 4. Get over it. I have other things to do with my life than live up to your celluloid ideal of beauty.”
He had stepped back. I hadn’t yelled but stated the words with a flat and factual voice.
Something changed after that. From then on, I did not let him take my power nor define me. Read that sentence again. The important words were, “I DID NOT.” The power dynamics shifted in our marriage – based upon a realization of my own worth. I wanted to be in relationship with someone who saw the beauty of the entirety of me.
After years of practicing compassion, I came to the conclusion that we had loved each other as best we could at that point in our lives.
I met my second husband when I was working my way through graduate school. Uncharacteristically, I was a size 4. I dated Rod for four years. He did not judge me; he would gently point out when I was judging him. I had unconsciously incorporated the behaviors of my first husband. With much effort, I learned to accept all the parts of him, not to judge him based on one aspect of his being.
A year before our marriage, two things happened. First, I became very ill. Treatment included medications that added twenty pounds to my body.
Second, I had to get a copy of some divorce-related papers from my first husband. The phone call to my ex went something like this.
“I don’t know where the papers are,” he said.
“Well if you remarried, they are probably near your marriage certificate. In a lock box? A file?”
“Oh yes, I remarried. You should see her. She’s young, beautiful and stylish.”
“Aaah. This is why we divorced,” I yelled.
Not my most graceful moment as I took the phone and beat it against the strong metal desk bringing my fiancé rushing into the room. He took the phone from my sweaty palm, said to my ex, “Call back when you have the papers. We’re getting married soon so we need the papers.”
Two years later, on our first anniversary, when I was well and had shed most of the 20 pounds, I felt I could ask my second husband, “Why didn’t you say anything when I gained the weight?”
“What would it have helped? Anyway that’s not all of who you are.”
I didn’t know what to do with his statement of acceptance and love.
Now I know what to do. With every person, I look for his or her one, at least one, beautiful attribute. My heart meets them from that place whether I say something about it or not.
This week, I will thank our models for their courage in showing themselves to us. I will bring them water, sandwiches, pasta, fruit, and brownies – their choice.