59/365: i am not my hair

it was a few years ago now that a man in france, i think he was a greek tourist, commented on my hair, comparing it to my dog's. we didn't understand each other well, or maybe not at all. but he said it with a big smile on his face, wasn't being unkind.

what? i thought to myself, my hair is white? like daisey's? but IT WAS! it was growing out white. after decades as a bottle-blond. 

it took years for all the blond to grow out long enough to be chopped off, leaving only gray. it was an uncomfortable, and not very pretty, process.

these days i hear frequent comments on my hair. strangers regularly stop me to offer compliments, recently at the airport. i have grown into my gray hair, and am no longer upset, at all, by people noticing it. it is what it is, and i try to take care of it. keep it healthy and hydrated. that's all. 

daisey goes to the groomer for haircuts much more often than i, and comes home with such closely cropped fur that she looks almost naked, like a large rat, not as cute as the furrier version. but she looks out of those innocent eyes with the same love and openness. i still look in her eyes and each time remember, she is just as she was before the hair cut. she is NOT her hair.

and i am not mine.

 

a fact of beauty

about 90% of the time, i am not photogenic. even my friends will attest to that. some people are, some people aren't. i'm not. and i accept that, since there's really nothing i can do about it. it's like having blue eyes or being tall ... genetics, traits, facts. i have other gifts, but photogenicity is not one of them. 

this photo, however, does not have me cringing when i look at it, at myself, the way many photos of me do. the high angle is better for my round face, reducing some of the roundness. the lighting isn't great but the blues are pretty. 

but this photo is about waaaay more than colors and angles. 

the juice is in my eyes, behind my eyes. my whole self, my inner self, my soul and spirit Self is right there. i am present. i am grounded. i am in my body. there are so many ways of describing this state of being.

ten years ago, i had no idea what this meant, being "in my body." i thought i WAS my body. 

years of study, and evolved friends and teachers, and spiritual experiences, and oh so much work and practice have all helped me to not only understand this concept, but to actually feel when i'm in my body and when i'm not.

some people have a much easier time being and staying grounded/present/in-their-bodies. often those with past trauma or super sensitive nervous systems have a harder time. i find that people who work with their hands are often more grounded than "intellectuals." and surprise, surprise, i'm one of those folks who has to work at getting out of my head, being present and staying in my body. 

i like this self-portrait because i can see my Self, my soul, shining through my eyes, my clothes, radiating. i see me, the real me, not the outer me, not the photogenic or not-photogenic me.

i really see me. and i find myself beautiful. because spirit IS beautiful. fact.

and i'm learning how to say it, to state it. without the outer getting in the way. without my head getting in the way.

i. am. beautiful.

you are beautiful

 myriam

"you are beautiful!" myriam exclaimed as i walked into camp registration. who me? she can't be talking to me. we proceeded to have a transformative conversation that night: beauty is about letting ones inner light *shine* through. it is not about what's on the outside, the physical ... it's all about what's on the inside. i know this t-h-e-o-r-e-t-i-c-a-l-l-y but, ohhhhhh, i could see the storm brewing. so THIS is my secret reason why i came to camp.

i've known for many years that i am not my body and that i (and everyone and everything) am soul, spirit. i had my spiritual awakening the night my mom passed 9 years ago. 

but it's a whole other thing to really grok ... not when i look at others, but when i look at myself. many/most/all? of us are so hard on ourselves and so loving with others. we see their inner beauty. we see their hopes and dreams and tenderness. but when i look in the mirror, i see chubby cheeks, small eyes, thin lips, extra pounds, and on and on. and i hear my mom's unknowing words of many years ago jangling around in my head ... "i wouldn't consider you beautiful, but you're interesting-looking."

what i so needed -- and didn't even know i needed -- i got from myriam the first night of camp, so naturally, so very effortlessly: you. are. beautiful. 

the minute our hosts tracey, myriam and jen started talking, i knew this experience was going to be about so much more than the technicalities of photography: intentions, secret wishes, poetry, permission, passion, sharing, seeing and being seen, gratitude. and beauty.

before reading several soulful poems out loud to the group, myriam mentioned "this is especially for hillary" more than once. she could see that i really needed to get this. i know this poem well, but i obviously needed to hear it again, and apply it to myself: 

 

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

~~

 

when i looked at every single one of my fellow shutter sisters at camp, i could so clearly see their beauty:

wendy 

siobhan ria


stef

when i asked tracey the first night which class i should take, "composition" or "self-portraits," she blurted, "you? self-portraits." 

my comfort zone stared me down. i knew i had to do this, to go toward the scariest thing.

fortunately i was in safe hands. taught by the lovely meredith, i learned that making self-portraits is not the height of narcissism as i had thought in the past (this judgment a sure sign i was really just scared of it). now i know it's quite the opposite, in fact. making self-portraits is a high act of self care, self love. of really seeing my inner self and honoring that. of seeing my truth, my story, not other people's stories about myself. about seeing my inner beauty. ohhhh. 

self-portraitohhhh. so THAT'S why i came to camp.

to learn that i, too, am beautiful.