A few days ago, Jenna took my picture for my Wanderlings bio.
I don’t know the last time I’ve had a picture taken of me, just me, without a prop or an occasion to give context to the photograph.
I’ll be completely honest, it sent me to crazy-town for a moment. It was somehow too intimate – just me, standing alone with my face and my hair and and my acne and my crooked smile. My instant response was to jump back from all of this, to recoil from the show of me-ness in its unapologetic roar. I wanted to be embarrassed, I wanted to criticize. I wanted to call my mother and reprimand her for not putting me in a helmet to correct my asymmetrical infant head, which I would wager to bet was a pretty linear path to my asymmetrical adult head. I wanted to tell her that I know my teeth were straight enough as a pre-teen, but I’m sort of pissed that we didn’t look more closely into braces.
As soon as I looked more closely, though, I started to see and feel something else. That need to jump back from myself, to be embarrassed and critical of the things that will keep me off of magazine covers, was not erased, but joined by a question I couldn’t quite articulate yet.
Going back for another look with an awareness of my ranting internal voice, I noticed first how happy I look. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and I’m in my sixth week of sheltering-in-place… and I look happy? Then, I noticed how peaceful I look with the trees all around; it looks so normal to have me sitting in the dirt at the base of my dear green friends.
I started to note the peculiarity of this notion that I can celebrate your attributes that make you you and on myself, they’re flaws. I know this isn’t my fault, that we’ve been cultured to seek our imperfections and obsess over them, chastise ourselves for having them, make ourselves small because of them. The hard truth of this is that I don’t get to start helping define a new normal in this realm by exclusively honoring my little sister, my future daughter, or my best friends. Those celebrations are important but the real work starts right here.
I took another look through a new lens with the compassion I’d have for a dear friend. I knew that if I was looking at a picture of a friend, I’d tell her that I like her wild hair, which has never been tidy a single day she’s been alive. I like that it refuses to stay one color that would make it easy to categorize. I’d remind her that, as a person who lives to be outside, why would her wild skin not have imperfections and blemishes from the sun, the change of season, and so much sunscreen? These are her trophies of her wild lifestyle. I’d remind her that her body is wild and strong enough to run up hills and carry a human in some sort of emergency. I’d remind her that her eye color is hard to see because her smile is big and goofy, tending to change the expression of her whole face, and that makes her feel wild too – wildly connected, wildly loved, and wildly lighthearted.
I’d remind her that the wildness of her imperfect physical attributes are just as they’re supposed to be, even if she wouldn’t have chosen them all.
She may as well learn to love them wild.
And finally, I heard the questions loud and clear – Doesn’t the picture look just like me? Isn’t that enough?