setting up shop in your own skin

It’s rare that you’ll find a photo of me around these parts, much less one of me wearing an outfit, as that’s not the sort of thing I’m into, however, I was really happy yesterday and I wanted someone to capture that happiness. Two friends paid me the kindest of compliments; they said that I was one of the good ones, while at the same time acknowledging that we rarely compliment one another’s character. We might remark on a piece of fabric a friend wears or the way in which they’ve styled their hair, but do we pause and tell someone that they’re kind? Do we ever sit across from the ones we love and tell them that they’re good people? Or do we take our friendships for granted, tacitly seeing the irony in this because we’re all too often besieged by so many who lack grace, humility, kindness and compassion?

You should know that I debated for hours whether to publish this photo online. I hate being photographed (I once told Marion Ettlinger that she needn’t bother asking me to smile for my author portrait) because it’s easy for me to dissect my every flaw. I guess it’s true that we are cruelest to ourselves, and while I’d like to say that I’m completely at home in my own skin, I’d be lying. I’d be telling a half-truth, because part of me will always (will I, always, I wonder?) look at photos like this one, and think: wow, I was small.

I also have to remind myself that when that photo was taken I was one year sober and white-knuckling it. But sometimes the reality gets crowded out by an image of who we used to be. Funny how time rearranges itself.

I read something today, which put my heart on pause:

You are enough. Without covering your face. Without starving yourself or obsessing over one too many cookies. Without Nair and a never-ending series of disposable razors. Without pinching at muffin tops or squeezing into pants one size too small. Your worth is not found in the un-clumped application of mascara or the bold swoop of eyeliner across a lid pulled taunt. You won’t find it behind the Spanx at Macy’s or on a shelf at Sephora. Instead, it is tucked gently inside of your humanity, waiting to be discovered.

The author was responding to a woman who told her that she’d be prettier if she’d use makeup to cover up her lines. And I think about the a priori justifications we make for ourselves with regard to our state of being–thin is beautiful, painting makeup on ourselves to hide, rather than to pronounce, is beautiful, etc, etc–and I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted. I’m a 38-year-old achieved woman and I’m exhausted thinking about my body. I’ve published a book, will likely publish another, was a partner in a company, is a successful consultant, but still. I hold a master’s degree, but still. I’m present for the people whom I love, but still. I bake, cook, and share this love with others, but still. Over the past decade, I’ve tried to be self-aware and be a better human being, but still. I’d been sober for seven years, relapsed for two months, and didn’t beat myself up because of it, and haven’t drank in a year, but still. But still the whole of myself, my character, is weighed against the weight of me, and I’m aware of it (no really, I get it), and I’m trying every single day to focus on the intangible weight on one side of the scale versus the physical weight on the other.

I try to focus on the fact that after this photo was taken, I spent time with a woman whom I adore, and another woman who’s going through a tough time professionally, and I made her laugh.

I focus on the happiness that leaves marks all over my skin, gets buried there, climbs its way in.