I looked in the mirror this morning and gave myself the same little “verbal acceptance speech” I’ve been giving myself since all those wrinkles and all that gray hair showed up. “This is you. This is your face. This is how you look. You’re beautiful just the way you are.”
This time however, instead of seeing in the mirror only my 76-year-old face looking back at me, out of the blue, I suddenly saw a collage of all my faces looking back at me.
My face that time I was voted to be in the fashion show in high school. That face peeking out from under the big straw hat I wore to my girl friend’s wedding. That face the night my first husband and I went out to dinner for our anniversary at what was for us the “most expensive place in town.”
What happened to all those faces? Where did they go? But more importantly — where was I when they were around?
I stood in front of the mirror, putting my lipstick on and realized suddenly that while I was so busy learning how to accept my aged/mature/senior face and thinking of it as beautiful — I’d never accepted all my other faces while I was on my way to this age.
In fact, I had abandoned all those other faces of mine.
“When,” I asked myself, before I turned say, 70, did I look in the mirror and ever say, “This is you. This is your face and your gray hair. You’re beautiful.”
I couldn’t remember ever saying it to myself once and with that awareness a sadness came over me. I could almost have cried. It was a feeling akin to feeling the loss when a loved one dies, not necessarily of all the loved one meant, but also of how many opportunities you had missed to tell them you loved them.
Funny. How many times in my life had I put mascara on my eye lashes and said “What thick, beautiful eye lashes you have?”
I’ll tell you how many time. Zero.
What I said instead was always, “You don’t look bad for (fill in the age).” Or, “Nobody will notice how fat your cheeks have gotten, or how dark your teeth are, or how puffy your eyes are.”
I stood in front of my mirror this morning and realized that for all of my life I’d pretty much abandoned myself — my home — my body — my face. And as ridiculous as it may seem, I felt grief.
How could I have done such a thing? Why? For what purpose?
I had lost so much. I had lost the opportunity to love myself only to find myself now, at what could arguably be called “this late stage.”
I am reminded tonight, later, after I’d let this all sink in, that It’s probably a good thing to have had this awareness. In fact, it is more than probably a good thing. It is certainly a good thing.
In grieving for the beautiful face I’d never let myself see — perhaps I can connect with it, with she who wore that face.
Perhaps I can ask her to forgive me for my absence, my criticisms, my blindness, and when I look in the mirror going forward, I can see, instead of only an aged, 76 year old face, all my faces at once.