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“Wherever the end of this year takes you, let go of the hatred. Don’t blame the lettuce. Just love. Just understand.”

Endings.

One spiritual master said that as we approach endings, the soul goes into temporary hiatus. It pits how well – and if- its earthly mission has been carried out during the period of time under review.

If it has, there is a sense of lightness, euphoria, satisfaction. If the soul’s path has been ignored, forgotten, waylaid, the emotional result is often a muted shade of sorrow.

Which brings us to the end of 2011.

And my teenage daughter’s New Year’s Eve dress. We went shopping for it yesterday.

Besides the cold, the outing did not present any noticeable or immediate challenge. Holiday shoppers were out in thinner numbers this year. All we had to do was find the dress, get in and get out. Easy.

I watched my daughter pick out the clothes she would finally try on, judging them instantly for their ability to camouflage the body features she doesn’t like and accentuate the ones she appreciates. Selections in hand, she got in line, determined and hopeful. A little chatty, at first. That was at store number 1.

But store after store, and dressing room after dressing room, the excitement of finding her perfect dress morphed into something dark. Something happened as she went back into the dressing rooms from which I could not protect her.

Self-hatred.

As she peered into the mirror, looking back at the image of herself in the holiday garb manufactured in Turkey, China, Taiwan that were all supposed to make her feel beautiful and special, all she saw was ugly. All she saw was fat. Too much here. Not enough there.

She glared at herself. With every piece she slipped on, she felt more despondent. With every piece she took off, she felt more hatred. It broke my heart to see it. But it would have been cowardly to look away.

It wasn’t the clothes she hated.

It was herself.

Her body. Her thighs. Her belly, her breasts. Her face. Her hair.

She hated it all.

And I remember, watching her during the ride home, how that had once been me. Seeing her self-hatred reminded me of when and where I had set up my own. In the dressing rooms of my life. I remembered how in those dressing rooms, I had wanted to see a princess and found a toad. How I had always seemed surprised, and usually disappointed, that the person staring back was not some fantasy goddess, but me. Just me. Only me.

Sometimes the mirror staring back at me was a dance studio mirror. Or the rear-view mirror. The bathroom mirror, the morning-after mirror. The divorce mirror. The mirrors of another’s eyes. Dressing rooms all the same. Hatred, all the same. What I remembered, watching her, is that all that self-hatred goes somewhere and comes out in a thousand little acts of self-destruction. Roads not taken, or kindnesses, withheld.

Words would have stung had I conjured them and drawn forth the tears my daughter was working so hard to hold back. I kept silent. I kept vigil. And, I bided my time.

We, the women who judge or have judged ourselves so cruelly, know that when we see it in others, self-hatred is like a dog fight. You have to get in close enough to pry the dogs apart before serious damage is done, but you have to do it carefully.

Not long ago, I was talking to my husband about one of my shortcomings, and he, wise and wonderful man that he is, sent me this.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”

I don’t know who wrote it. Maybe Abraham. Maybe Jerry and Esther Hicks.

But, I know that the attitude this text suggests we have, the kindness and care it defends and promotes, is a lot healthier than hatred.

Back home, I ventured downstairs, knocked softly on her door. Sat on her bed.
“Look,” I said, “I know who you are and I know what you have inside of you. I see your beauty every time I look at you. I see who you are becoming. And, it won’t matter right now how much I tell you. Because the thing is, this fight isn’t between you and me. It’s between you and you. And of all the relationships that are going to matter in your life, of all the loves you are going to have, the one relationship you are going to have to get right, because all others will depend on it, is the one you have with yourself.”

She looked up, if barely. Wounded. Still angry. Still dressless. Suspicious.

“Instead of hating yourself, use that energy to bring about the changes you want to make. Give yourself what you need, starting with a hand. Starting with a chance, starting with a little space. A little kindness. A little slack.”

Then, I kissed her. And I hugged her. And I paddled back upstairs.

I’m not your mom. I may not know you. Maybe, if we met, we’d be friends. One way or the other, if you’ve ever wrestled with a dressing room of your own, I’d tell you this.

Wherever the end of this year takes you, let go of the hatred.

Don’t blame the lettuce.

Just love. Just understand.

Let that love and understanding carry you and me and everyone we love past this year’s end.

Let that be the start of a really new beginning.

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