Rarely have I ever been able to get even the slightest handle on what I look like. When my husband and I are out, be it at the mall or the museum, I set my sights on someone in the distance and whisper, "is that me?"
Yes or no, he whispers back and I nod gratefully as if by process of elimination we will eventually narrow down the entire world one woman at at time, until at last I find myself looking back. Sometimes he'll even give me a preemptive "NO!" before I even ask like with football players, giants, dwarves and certain bipeds. "That's NOT you," he'll say. But how can I know for sure?
Mirrors and photographs lie. And my brain not only lies, it gives me contradictory lies. In fact I'm pretty sure my brain wants to keep me so preoccupied with wondering what I look like that I'll never get anything else done at all. Because, other than the horror of being hideous fundamentally programmed into every woman I know regardless of how she actually looks, what does it matter? A friend of mine tells me she's tired of being judged by the men who look at her. Frankly I'm just tired of judging myself.
During my massage this week I thought how deeply intimate it was to lie naked on a table and let someone touch me while my eyes were closed and hers were not. What did she see, stretched out before her? It could have been anything from the Venus of Willendorf to Tinkerbell to The Thing. Who knows? Not me. I forced myself to relax into her loving, healing touch because I needed to release the acute pain in my right hip more than I needed to come off as a super model cheerleader slathered in almond oil. "Your body knows exactly what it needs," she told me when it was over. And it was miraculously true. My hip had released the pain. My body, yes. But my mind?
Yesterday I spent 30 minutes looking at old and new pictures of myself trying to makes sense of the gap. The gap between how I looked then and how I look now. The gap between how I thought I looked then and how I know I looked then, now, looking back. A fifty pound gap. A six size gap. The current pictures tell a truth I haven't fully accepted. But then again, that always seems to be the case with whatever current set of pictures there is.
A friend told me she hates having her photo taken when she's traveling because it jolts her out of the unfolding experience within. I took a yoga class with her once where, for almost the entire practice, we were instructed to keep our eyes closed and move on faith into the darkness. It was beautiful and moving and part of me wished I could go on living in the dark forever. But I can't. It turns out that for at least half of the day I live in the light. Almost as if by design. Should I ever meet myself in the netherworld in between, I hope to God I know it's me.