Lessons From the Velveteen Rabbit
Today I ugly-cried over my new driver's license photo.
I sat in the car holding the paper with my face on it and cried in despair. Then I got mad because I was crying about it in the first place, and cried some more. I said unkind things. I made harsh comparisons, and as tears kept falling, swore off any future events where a photo ID is required.
Later, as I walked down the street with cars swooping past, I felt an old, familiar desire to hide and apologize to strangers around me. I wanted to say, "I'm sorry you have to see me. I'm sorry you have to look at me. I'm sorry to be visible in your world right now." I wondered what the saleswoman thought as my hips brushed past her fragile wares. Would I knock them off? Crash into glass vases?
The photo is heinous and feels like photographic evidence that I am a fraud. It sits in my wallet saying, see this, oh people of the earth! This is what she looks like without control over angles or lighting, filters, retakes or hiding her double chin. That picture is my truth and I do not love it.
What do you do with truth you do not love? As tears spilled today I thought about Lush Folk & the words I share here. I am passionate about guiding women into loving their bodies and their lives, especially when they do not have the body or life they desire. I am passionate about the language we use, the words we say about ourselves, and how we describe our flesh.
Yet here I am, struggling to find something loving to say about mine. I feel tender because of my abundant curves. I want to run & hide and not be seen. I feel like my driver's license is now the barometer of all that is true and real. Anything less—anything less horrific—means I'm not being real.
And I want so much to be real.
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”—Marjorie Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
So even though it's pretty messy right now, I just want to say this:
No matter how we feel about our bodies in this moment, or how hard we struggle to find something even a little bit kind to say, these moments don't need to own us.
We can let them be. Just be. Let the tears fall. Let the feelings rise. Let the energy move through, because otherwise it will get stuck and surface another day. These feelings are messengers. These tears are quiet petals falling, the bearers of everything we ache for, hunger, and desire. These moments are tender invitations to love.
Right now, I can't love my new driver's license picture. But I can accept the invitation, even if it is awkward and achey, to stay in my body. I can give her what she needs. Rest, a warm meal, a luxurious sip of water, an early bedtime. I can give her gentleness. I can choose not to subtly punish her for giving me an unflattering photo, but to stay soft and present. I can choose compassion. Like the rest of us, she just wants to be accepted & loved. And of all times, especially now—not when she loses the extra chin or doesn't huff so much coming up the stairs. Not waiting for the days she's glamorous or graceful, socially-acceptable and pain-free, or happens to find a good angle with the light just right. Today I can enrobe myself with love. I can embody myself with YES.
On my arm, a swirly tattoo reads, “Grace always embraces.” It is grace that sees what is really-real, grace that finds loveliness in the frayed seams of life, grace that flows like rivers of honey and laughter. It is velveteen grace, rooted in power, love, and truth. And I hope that soon, long before the day most of my hair is loved off, and white whiskers adorn my chin, and my bare breasts clang together like church bells, this grace will be all I see.