33 and Counting
I put off doing self portraits for a long time. I said later, when I've lost five pounds or my skin is a little bit clearer, after I've soaked my face in anti-wrinkle cream, after eight hours of sleep, and my eyes are no longer bloodshot. But weeks went by and then months, different versions of pink, purple, and blue hair. It was easy to put off, to avoid looking at myself through a lens but my thirty-third birthday came and went, and I realized that if I didn't do it now I probably never would.
And I wondered if I should share any of this at all.
I've never thought of myself as enough. Or worse, too much; too emotional, too needy, too loud. It's been this strange mix of not enough or too much, never one thing or another and lacking balance. But nothing exceptional. I skated along, not expecting to be loved for who I really was and worse, not thinking I deserved it. So I never really learned to love myself.
I know that I'm not alone in this. I've had countless conversations with friends, usually after several glasses of wine, and the topic is always hesitantly broached, a tentative word, because we not only feel alone but guilty about feeling this way. And we shouldn't. We deserve to be loved for being too loud or too quiet, for the things that make us uniquely us. We deserve happiness written in neon across our lives.
That's something I've been working on; self love. I've reached a point finally where I know myself, where I'm comfortable in my scarred skin. The way I got here was bloody; I've slashed my way through life, and I fought when I should have walked away. The things inside that drove me toward self destruction have quieted and I've made a kind of peace with my past. The saying, the thing that everyone says, that I've said myself more than once, you wouldn't be who you are today without being who you were then, is true. And how can someone love you if you can't love yourself?
I'm changing things a little bit at a time, starting in the small places of my heart and mind, changing everyday until they're part of the best version of myself. New Years resolutions without the stroke of midnight and the inevitable back slide.
I start with this: I don't mind an extra five pounds because I love sno cones and eating french fries with my babies. And the amazing donuts from Pioneer Kitchen in San Francisco. I don't mind the stretch marks, pale and shiny across my hips because they are from a point in my life that I'd never change. I don't mind the scar at the base of my throat or the one running through my right eyebrow. I don't mind that I have a terrible singing voice and I'll sing anyway, even when my daughter puts her little hand across my mouth and whispers stop. I don't mind that sometimes I question myself, sometimes I look around and worry, because those moments are the ones that push me to work harder, to be better.
So, I sat in front of my camera and smiled and practiced my serious face. It was hard for me to look over the images later, to see a collection of imperfections. I know that someone else looking at me wouldn't see what I do because what I'm dealing with is the voice inside. But right now I love my tattoos and pink hair. I'm learning to embrace the rest.
Sometimes it's good to have a reminder, to have someone say you are enough. If you haven't heard it yet today here it is. Never doubt it.