Youth and Beauty

I had a conversation with a friend the other day; she is a woman who probably has a couple years on me, but not many.  At one point she stated, “Although it hasn’t happened to you yet, when you lose your youth and beauty…..”  What she said after that, I don’t quite remember, nor does it entirely matter, but the initial phrase struck me and revisited me over the next days.

There were two reasons it struck me.  The first being, the woman sitting across from me making this statement is someone I consider beautiful.  I didn’t get the impression she felt bad about herself, this seemed just matter-of-fact and in no way to be insulting herself – a fact.   The second being that I feel that I have lost my youth, and I don’t consider myself beautiful – I’m fine, and maybe even attractive, but not beautiful and certainly have looked prettier in my younger days.

Over the following days, from time to time this comment would ring in my head – most of the time while looking in the mirror.  I got to analyzing this comment and overall feeling that most women seem to have sometime after 40 (some earlier, some later).

My conclusion is that I don’t think women do lose their beauty – I think they become more consistent between their outward appearance matching their internal essence.  I believe that is why I considered this woman who made the comment beautiful – maybe years ago she received a “cat call” or in some way received clear attention for her physical beauty.  However, those that spend any time with her, see the beauty about her – that her soul is expressed through her eyes and smile, her heart is revealed by her conversations and actions, her child-like excitement over someone else’s anticipated successes and growth is electric, radiant and the entire package is beautiful.

When I look in the mirror and see my reflection, I no longer see the attractive younger me – this is true.  I do believe for any of the outward beauty I had years ago, it was undeveloped and a bit awkward with any careful examination – luckily not something required for cat-calls!!  Today I see an attractive woman of substance.  I walk with confidence, I speak with conviction, I listen with empathy- not anticipation of my next comment, I laugh with my soul and cry with my heart.  True beauty.

As I lose my youth and youthful appearance, I believe I am revealing a beauty of greater substance and one seen and felt without the eyes.  We all like to look good and present well, but this beauty that comes with self-discovery and age is beauty I can own and be comfortable in because it is truly me, and a reflection of all that I am.

The next time you look in the mirror, I encourage you to see your full beauty, the one born through your experiences and knowledge of who you are and willingness to share yourself with others.  I believe this is where the most exquisite beauty lies in each of us.

Mother’s Day Musings

I remember hearing a quote from Phylicia Rashad a long time ago (note this is paraphrased based on my memory).  She was expressing her gratitude that by being a parent she had been granted a front row seat to the development of this little life, and how blessed she felt.  I had never thought about parenthood in quite that way before.

At the time I was a very young mother, and although thrilled by being a mother, did have my good and bad days as we all do.  I knew I had a very important job; I was to protect and care for this life, teach it values and impart whatever wisdom I could to it.  I did not, however, recognize all that it would provide me.  This viewpoint of being gifted with the opportunity to watch a little being learn and create themselves was a new one and something I’ve kept with me throughout the years.

At this time, my children are both now grown and in their 20s (well, my son turns 20 this year).  I have tried to enjoy and appreciate each stage of their lives, from the discoveries of basic everyday items, to things that were new to them that directly affected them in unexpected ways, to their developing opinions about the world around them.

I do have moments when I look back and think, I was so busy just trying to get through day-to-day I missed some very important moments  or rushed the children through those as we did not have time to discover the ant on the sidewalk because the grocery store was closing.  How many more moments might I have missed without those wise words?  Being a young single mother struggling through those early days, I can imagine many more would have been overlooked; I am immensely grateful for receiving those words of wisdom when I did.

At times when I disagree with my children now, I still hear those words from Phylicia and am learning to reframe my thoughts to be able to recognize, it is my honor to be in this front-row seat.  To hear the actual theory that goes behind the decision or comment is a gift regardless of my opinion.  To be able to listen, with immense pride, to the exciting and important issues my children have chosen to give their time and energy to is an incredible opportunity.

The greatest joy in this journey of parenting for me is to see who children become.  Which lessons had the most impact on their future?  What did they absorb from what I did and not what I said?  How much are they like me, and how much are they different from me?

I have never received such a gift as that of a front-row seat in the development of a child.  It is a gift I will cherish forever, and some day hope to have the opportunity to have a second-row seat in the next generation.