Category Archives: Beauty Lost

Slogging through the Swamps of Rejection: A Veteran’s Guide


Skills: Beauty Lost, Beauty Found, Emancipate Yourself, Make Beauty Not War, Self-Compassion

from Contributor: Laura Eshelman

The past 18 months of my life have not been the kindest.  In the wake of failing to find employment, several fallouts with friends, and getting dumped like a sack of potatoes, I’ve spared no efforts to exorcise the residual “owch”iness of rejection.  Although writing a few letters mean enough to make Stalin cry and stubbing lit cigarettes through photos of my ex provided temporary relief for a while, I am still reticent to say it’s done a darn thing to help me move on.  Whether it’s a romantic partner, a best friend, school or a job that’s told you, “Peace out,” rejection can easily become its own beast to battle long after you stop caring about its source because we too often interpret it to mean we are inherently undesirable, or inadequate.  The harshness of the last year forced me to evaluate a lot of the unhealthy responses I developed to mitigate and protect myself from the pain of rejection—and I maintain that there’s little pain out there that compares.  So, here’s a seven-point plan to help others out there.  It might not speed up the process, but you might save some money on cigarettes.

1) Don’t feel obligated to minimize it Not to be confused with re-evaluating your perspective.  Getting stuck on ancillary details about your rejection, such as how long/briefly you held a position or knew the person (or people) who blew you off, does not help you lurch forward.  It can be hard if it followed a long-term and personal commitment, but it can also be surprisingly painful sometimes even without that, and there may be a temptation to harp on yourself for how challenging the situation feels when it “shouldn’t”.  Whether you were fired from a peon-type job that you held for a week versus a career several years in the making, there’s no biological rule for how much pain one individual to the next is “supposed” to feel as a result—no matter what we hear from third parties (and there’s plenty of those, with mouthfuls of nothing useful to say).  Regardless of how much sense your feelings surrounding a rejection make, acknowledge them without judgment…and once you can do that, it’s time to move on to problem-solving.

2)  Do something amazing One of the most awful things about getting dumped, fired, snubbed, etc. is the sense of sheer worthlessness that you’re often left with in the wake.  If you find yourself questioning your intrinsic value or even struggling with guilt, take a detour before you get to Wallowsville.  Learn a skill, discover a new area of expertise, or get involved in something civic.  Taking up a new or unique hobby doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, especially if it’s volunteering—and that goes for any Good Samaritan act, whether it’s an afternoon at an animal shelter or helping a friend move.  Recently, I began volunteering with a local organization that works to reduce HIV rates by distributing contraceptives and other sanitary materials in low-income communities.  In addition to having fun and meeting people who express gratitude for outreach, it’s also forced me to count blessings I usually overlook.  It’s hard to sulk when you realize how lucky you are to be able to afford a simple box of band-aids.

3)  Do something crazy Sometimes the best therapy for going crazy is more craziness.  Be careful with this one if you are emotional and/or prone to rash decisions (perhaps review them with a more level-headed friend first), but I’ve found that doing something like getting a dramatic haircut, a piercing, a pet, or going on a random vacation can cleave some distance between you and the origin of the rejection while waiting for time to do its job.  This tip is the equivalent of a rebound after a break-up, because it can either be very good or disastrous, which is why I stress wariness surrounding spontaneity.  But when craziness is carried out with a little measured judgment—contradictory though that sounds, I argue it is possible—it can be a great mood-lifter.

4)  Build a pillow fort This is both a literal and a metaphoric suggestion.  Literally speaking, pillow forts are never bad ideas, especially if you are feeling at odds with the universe and/or have little money for entertainment.  Symbolically, they represent a cushioned safety-zone from harmful elements, and a return to simpler times.  Nothing makes me want to turn into a kid more than when the ‘real world’ shows its ugly side, and what kind of heartless element shuns a child?  Sometimes this is a good method for self-acknowledgment when we’ve gotten distracted by something that causes us to put our own preferences on the shelves.  The “pillow fort” strategy doesn’t have to necessarily involve childhood nostalgia, either—namely, it’s about re-affirming that you still deserve to feel comfort, no matter what has precipitated a rejection.  Rediscovering lost, forgotten-about pleasures is my own preferred go-to.  Watch an old favorite feel-good movie that you’ve forgotten the lines to, hit up a longtime friend who you haven’t talked to in a while, find an empty playground to take over, or drink something soothing from your favorite mug (as long as what you’re sipping doesn’t compound your problems).

5)  Find meaning in this Remember how Marty McFly’s hand started to disappear in Back to the Future after altering his parents’ pasts almost costs him his own existence?  Not the most pertinent example, since that more to do with plutonium politics and magical DeLoreans than coming to terms with rejection, but I use it because most of our most treasured experiences and relationships come from delicate circumstantial happenstance.  Take a moment to think about the people and opportunities that have sprung up in the wake of being ditched at some point in your life.  Some of the richest friendships in my life are with those who offered allied support after others unexpectedly flew the coop.   It’s a cliché adage, but doors don’t close without opening one or two others on impact.  Sometimes in retrospect, rejection becomes less of a door slammed than a bullet dodged.

6)  Be patient with yourself.  At all costs.  To anyone’s knowledge, yelling at an injury to hurry up and heal has never, ever worked.  But nursing it can be especially hard if you feel you’ve gotten the short end of the stick, and some wounds are particularly prone to infection.  If you’ve been laid off or fired from a successful business, or your old flame starts dating someone else, the temptation might be to decide that the world is out to screw you and to add an extra shot to your mug-of-something-soothing.  I don’t think it’s necessarily unhealthy to secretly hope that your rejecters fail at life (and for your sake, I sure hope they do), but preoccupation with revenge fantasies or those abstract “why me”s definitely prolongs harm, like repeatedly picking at a scab.  The best result you’ll get is a scar, and who wants a constant reminder of lost dignity?  Which brings me to point seven…

7)  Fake it ‘til you make it This one sucks.  Point blank.  But eventually, after trudging through one day after another, going through the motions, and doing whatever necessary to keep your head propped upright, there will be a morning when you wake up and don’t immediately think about this latest rejection.  Before you know it, there will be another morning like it.   And another.  The time lapses may seem long and arbitrary at first, but they will pick up succession until you can usually count on feeling normal and out of pain.  Rest assured, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you again down the road, but always make sure that the people who leave you are the ones missing out while those who support you are cashing in.  For instance, executives at Decca Records Company dismissed a small-time band in 1962 by stating, “They have no future in show business”; unfortunately for Decca, the band called themselves the Beatles, and that quote is now one of history’s most laughable. Living well is the best revenge of all—and it doesn’t have to be a fantasy.

mauiAbout the Contributor: Laura Eshelman is a 2008 UNC Asheville alumna with a BA in mass communication.  She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice from UC Denver and holds a master’s certificate in domestic violence studies.  Laura is an avid writer, political junkie, and an advocate for various social justice causes; at present, she is an intern with Witness for Peace Southeast and volunteers with NC Harm Reduction.  She enjoys travelling, cooking, hula hooping, and long walks up steep mountains.

Image: Leah Joy

Finding Truth in a House of Mirrors

Skills: Beauty Lost

from Contributor: Laura Eshelman

I’ve spent some time trying to think of the period of my life where my sense of beauty got loose and fell off the key ring where I kept other valuables: my sense of ethics, loyalty, compassion, etc.  I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I never had a “beauty” key.  It was rarely difficult, if I gave myself a little time, to summon up the other virtues my parents and life experiences instilled, but beauty was the anomaly.  When I try to manufacture a proper definition for it now, I remain stuck in the same superficial vacuum as always, which has widened over the years:  Disney versions of beauty gave way to Hollywood and MTV, to real-life catcalls, to Victoria’s Secret, and then to an eating disorder which declared that even Victoria’s skinniest thong was too large if I was really that determined to be “beautiful”.  Of course, even the darkest Gothic romanticist might have raised an eyebrow at synonymizing beauty with a bony girl bent over the toilet night after night, and even I knew at that point that I couldn’t apply any conventional meaning of the word to my situation.

I think of trying to “find” an understanding of beauty again, even though I technically never lost it.  What comes to mind is one of those eerie “House of Mirrors” funhouses at an amusement park, a discombobulating, noisy place full of patrons and shrieking sound effects, maybe clowns to make the stretched reflections on the warped mirrors even more garish.  One mirror might make you wonder whether your forehead was always that large.  Turn around, and it’s not just your forehead, but your whole head that’s monstrous.  Another pivot, and your body suddenly becomes too short, squat, frog-like.  One more, and it is shrunken, while your arms and legs have grown to ogre-like proportions.  Grasping at inner beauty in our culture seems equivalent of trying to find truth in a house of mirrors without a prior understanding that it is the design that is distorted, not you.  To make it more complex, everyone else in the funhouse is equally preoccupied and confused, thus finding guidance or support is as much a challenge as making sense of your strange environment.

Without knowing for sure, my best guess is that the only way to find beauty is to get the hell out of the funhouse.  Shut off excess stimulation, turn off the commercials, escape the clowns, go out to the freaking woods, find quietness for thoughts.  I do not know whether I will ever be able to define what makes a person truly beautiful, that is, inside and out; I will give credit to anyone in my generation who even tries.  But I think I know how to identify and cultivate it, which (I hope) is ultimately more important.  I equate it with sensory perception, joy, and meaning, all rolled into one.  In other words, beauty isn’t the rainbow, but the circumstances that caused you to get stuck in traffic during the storm that precipitated it, when you might have otherwise been inside and comfortably ignoring the sky.  Beauty isn’t the bird’s eye view of the mountain range, but the satisfaction of being alive enough to hike to a peak and take it all in.  In fact, there were a few moments during treatment for my eating disorder when I could peer into the mirror—a flat, objective one—after weeks of hard work and at least entertain possibility of “Beautiful?”

I can offer no antidotes for our cultural prescriptions of beauty, offering only that I am one victim of them among millions.  To anyone who wishes to go questing for a “beauty grail”, to discover the truth of the term and bestow enlightenment forthwith upon others, I say, Godspeed and better luck than most of us; as for myself, I’m covering my ears, eyes, and yelling, “Shut up,” at the clowns until I can find a way out.  But for what it’s worth, I know there are doors all over this crazy house, and I will keep checking the doors until one presents itself.  I am damn tired of mirrors, and sincerely miss the fresh air.

About the Contributor: Laura Eshelman is a 2008 graduate of UNC Asheville and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in criminal justice from UC Denver, with a prospective graduation date in spring, 2013.  She lives in Durham with her friends Ryan and Cassandra, and their cat Bella. You can read more about her recovery journey and the foods that delight her on her blog: Would You Do This At Home?

A Velveteen Rabbit

Skills: Beauty Found, Beauty Lost, Defining Beauty

from Contributor: Mountain Selkie

Fifteen years ago, I was sexually assaulted by a boy that I had dated off and on throughout high school. On that humid summer night, my world-view seismically shifted and left my heart, mind, and soul in a schism that has taken years to begin to reconcile. Reflecting on the idea of beauty and what that means to me is something that has had my mind reeling for months- ever since Heidi first asked me to write an entry for the Reclaiming Beauty website. I know now that my understanding of beauty and what that means to me is intricately tied to the transformation, or perhaps, reclamation, of my heart and mind after that tragic experience.

That summer, I graduated high school and was excited about attending college in the fall. Growing up, I had been loved by, nurtured, and provided for by two loving parents and a large extended family. I was surrounded by friends and sweethearts. I had a very naïve concept of what it means to be beautiful, or even what beauty really meant- my view was one that was force-fed by mass-consumerism, teenage pop culture, and the fundamentalist, rigid Baptist Church that I attended throughout my childhood. Like most teenage girls of my generation, I thought beauty was primarily grounded in appearance and a specific attitude that required being sweet, shallow, superficial, and flirtatious. I wanted to be beautiful. In hindsight, and I now know now that I was. Stunning even. But at the time, I mostly thought that I was ugly- I hated my feet, my hair, my body, and my height. I hated that my eyes weren’t blue or green, just murky. I even hated my short pinky finger and my knees. Though I was athletic, trim and muscular, and wore a size 8, and that I was 5’8 and weighed a healthy 135 lbs, I thought I was fat and I would starve myself and binge and purge. I longed for that thin, lithe body that I was never genetically pre-determined to have, short of famine or complete malnourishment. However, the opposite sex still found me attractive. I didn’t go very long spans of time without having boyfriends, potential love interests, and crushes. Though I inwardly hated so much of myself and struggled with anxiety and depression, most people remember me as someone who was outgoing, friendly, goofy, and easy to be with, most of the time. My family might remember me during my teenage years differently and acknowledge the tough time I had growing into a person who feels deeply and struggled with most aspects of life. While my life wasn’t perfect and I had my personal struggles, I was blissfully ignorant of the potential tragic repercussions of being innocently beautiful. I was preoccupied with being “wanted” and “desired” and enjoyed the frequent attention that I received from boys, feeling like this gave me power and a sense of purpose.

All of this, of course, led up to the date rape. That night, I was so scared and afraid that I went into autopilot, never consenting and repeatedly saying “no,” and crying throughout the whole experience. I have blocked out aspects of the rape and cannot recall the penetration. I was horrified and I remember shutting down and withdrawing into myself. Even though I rejected him, I was also too afraid of what could happen if I fought him off of me. He was a track star and could have outrun me in a heartbeat. I learned after getting in the car with him that night that he was on some kind of drug and that he wasn’t himself. I feared for my safety, and submitted to his force so that it would be over and done with, retreating deep into myself in hopes that it was a bad dream.

That night, my childhood ended. Date rape is no way to lose your virginity, or your childhood. That time period is almost a black hole for me- but just as a rotting corpse eventually becomes amazing fertilizer, it played a huge role in the more sensitive, aware, and passionate person I have become. The very next day, though, the monster had the nerve to call me at my parents house and asked me if he could see me again. I screamed at him and told him to go to hell, but he kept saying that he was sorry, but he just couldn’t help himself- he said that “he wanted me so bad, that I was so beautiful, that he had to have me.” Shaking in fear and outrage as he said this to me while I was home alone, I screamed at him and told him that what he did was rape, and that if he ever wanted to see me again, he’d have to apologize to me in front of my father and let him beat him to an inch of his life. Those were the last words I ever said to him. I puked my guts out and smoked pot until I was oblivious, fighting the growing ongoing panic attack that was becoming my life.

And then, the anger, the self-loathing, and the shame really began to sink in. I truly believed him, that it had to be my fault- if I hadn’t been so beautiful, so friendly, so trusting… I really believed what he had said. I believed that it was my fault that he did what he did- it was what I had coming since I had teased him and rejected him and left him helpless. I was consumed with fear and anxiety. Only two weeks after this happened, I started college and left home, struggling to make sense out of this nightmare but also too afraid to tell anyone. For months, I told no one what had happened, not even my best friend. Coming home at night, sometimes I would see his car parked at the church that I would have to pass by to get my parents house, knowing he was waiting to see me again. My blood would curdle and I would want to scream- instead, I’d smoke pot in my room with the exhaust fan in the window and try to get over my fears. Six months later, there would still be calls to my parents’ house where no one would speak and I knew it was him. In fear of him being on the other end of a call, I wouldn’t even answer the phone unless I was specifically expecting to hear from someone. I was afraid that he would hurt me again, afraid that he hurt my family, and afraid that if I told my parents, I would have to get the police involved. If I told, I was sure that my family, friends, and the police would all confirm what I already believed: that it was my fault. I was so afraid of him, of myself, and this kind of thing happening again with someone else. I was paralyzed with fear- the only way to numb my pain was abusing any substance I could- pot, alcohol, snorting painkillers, and one time, even cocaine… but by far my most dangerous drug choice was food. Food provided not only a comfort, but also a vehicle that could drive me out of this body that I believed had seduced a rapist and had betrayed me. My own body, my femininity, my beauty could not be trusted – it could not be unleashed, lest something worse would happen. I could no longer trust my own self and was quietly imploding with debilitating panic attacks and spent nights sleeping in my closet or embracing reckless behaviors to take a break from myself.

As years went on, my appetite for self-destruction with drugs and alcohol waned. I was gaining weight and feeling safer with a barrier of what I perceived as undesirability. I still believed that my body could not be trusted- it had betrayed me, “asking for it” and could not be trusted, but I was getting wiser and stronger. I desperately tried to rewrite the story of my sexuality – I thought that maybe I just needed good sexual experiences to erase the rape. Sex with friends and partners still required alcohol to prevent me from crying throughout sex, and it didn’t help. It only added to my sadness. My body, my sexuality, my power… it all became a weapon that I used against myself and I was secretly imploding. I punished myself with sex I didn’t want and food that I couldn’t stop eating, booze I sometimes couldn’t stop drinking, or pot that I sometimes couldn’t stop smoking, and of course, with whatever other weapon available to reek havoc on myself that was available at the moment.

There were times that I thought I could put it all behind me and just chalk that night up to just “being all in my head,” and lying to myself, saying that “maybe it didn’t really happen,” and all sorts of other self-destructing thoughts that denied my desperation and my need to make sense of this so I could heal. I began talking about it, even as early as six months after it happened, but mostly with a detachment that created a false illusion that I was “strong” and a “survivor.” I never really allowed myself to feel anything but disgust with myself, often masked with bitter humor and more and more weight gain.

Then, at some point, I decided that I would really have to be fat, if I was ever going to trust someone I wanted to spend my life with. That way, I would know that he loved me for who I was and not what I looked like. Becoming “real,” like a velveteen rabbit, somehow became an obsession for me in this process. I believed that I could not be beautiful and real at the same time. Maybe I still don’t, deep down. But I got this idea that I would be “real” no matter what it takes and I would love fiercely and boldly. No matter what. A velveteen rabbit for life.

My weight still increased, but my heart opened back up. Most of my college years were misspent with ill-suited relationships and friendships that were, for the most part, not genuine and short-lived. I poured my heart into my pets, a few sacred friendships, and into my studies in hopes that I would be a head and a heart that could transcend a body. During graduate school, I met a man who would later become my husband – a man with his own hardships and struggles who had a tough time with loving himself and being vulnerable to others. He, too, had a fun-loving spirit who wanted to be loved and cherished, and after a long tenuous courtship, he was willing to try again with me. Finally, I had a relationship with a man who understood me. A man that would appreciate a healthier-bodied partner, but decided to love me for who I am, who I was, and who I will be. This love healed many of those broken parts of myself, but the healing didn’t entirely come from the love that came from him – primarily, it was the love that I felt, that I made, that came from within me that has done the healing. Being loved so well has allowed me to begin to love myself as well.

Fifteen years later, I could say that I have transcended- that the wrinkles and the grey hairs that keep emerging and the pounds that I have yet to shed have all helped me realize that real beauty comes from within. I have learned that beauty is truly about “being real,” or at least about striving to be real even when it hurts and doesn’t appear to be the wisest or most self-preserving way to live. To me, choosing to be present and remain with an open heart in this life requires that one tries to embody the life of that dear little velveteen rabbit from my favorite childhood story – knowing that only loving and believing in yourself that you are worth it can make you real. These days, I believe that true beauty comes from an inner power that can be so fierce it can shoot love lasers out of your eyes and make your enemies quake in their boots. I am no longer vulnerable or worried about him hurting me. Well, most of the time. Often, I dream about having a conversation with him that involves him asking for my forgiveness and me granting it, knowing that I would likely have a much less-meaningful life if it hadn’t happened. Sometimes, I feel sorry for myself and believe I missed out on having the reckless fun in my youth that can only be shared by the innocent. But mostly, I pity the guy – he has to live with what he did to me and other women that I have learned about in later years. I, too, have to live with it, but it has given me a rich opportunity to become real through pain and sadness. Regardless, I have learned that true beauty has so very little to do with what you look like, but everything to do with what you exude. Beauty is, at the core, an inner power that is rooted in a sense of justice, that is compelled by love, and driven by an understanding that we are all connected. That beauty comes from being real.

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] 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 often happen 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… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams BiancoThe Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real



Skills: Beauty Lost

from Contributor: Kimberly Jones


Performed by: Kimberly Jones & Heidi Houser

Lyrics: Kimberly Jones

Music: Heidi Houser

Art: Brad Pope

Video Editing: Matthew Clark

Searching for the right life,
I thought this was what my pathway showed,
The reflection was so clear,
Who is this?
Surely not me.
Bracing myself for the adventure,
Full of melodies and blank walls,
Counting the numbers in my head,
It would all add up in the end.
The darkness is closing in,
Where do I begin?
Starting with the voice inside my head,
Hopelessness settles in,
Lord, help me realize who I am,
Losing sight of the dream,                              
Feeling lost like a confused lamb,
Help me realize who I am.
Discovering the secret,
The secret that’s been hidden,
Behind the contagious label,
One day it will make sense in my head.
The darkness is closing in,
Where do I begin?
Starting with the voice inside my head,
Hopelessness settles in,
Lord, help me realize who I am,
Losing sight of the dream,                              
Feeling lost like a confused lamb,
Help me realize who I am
For so long this life was a lie,
Years quickly passing by
The darkness is closing in,
Where do I begin?
Starting with the voice inside my head,
Hopelessness settles in,
Will I discover who I am?
Search again for the dream,                            
Today is the day to destroy the dam,
Help me realize who I am.

Remembering Original Beauty

Beauty Lost Collage Card (2011)

The Fall 2011 Reclaiming Beauty Playshop is going strong! This session we are using the myth of Demeter and Persephone to explore Beauty Lost/Beauty Found through Persephone’s fall into the Underworld and eventual rising up as its Queen. We recently did an expressive arts exercise using Collage Cards. One card was to depict our personal fall into the Underworld – our Beauty Lost. The second card was to depict our essence before the fall – the beauty that was part of our childhood innocence – our Original Beauty.

I was glad to have engaged in this process with the group as it helped me deepen my understanding of my own Reclaiming Beauty process. The original Beauty Lost exploratory questions include: “When did you stop singing?” For me, that question goes straight to the heart of my journey because as a musician/songwriter that is exactly what happened to me from losing a sense of my own beauty – I stopped writing songs, stopped playing my guitar, stopped singing. As I depicted in my Collage Card, silence was a way to avoid the pain of the grief, sorrow and suffering from my life experiences.

In 2006, when I was first exploring the Beauty Lost questions, I wrote the following in my journal which I titled “Reclamation Proclamation.” (always have had a flair for the dramatic – it’s part of my original beauty!)

My essence is orange. I know it is. Fiery orange, yellow, red, swirling with aliveness. These questions, even just speaking them, make me feel a sadness in my heart. I think of my dad, my family having breakfast in Rhode Island, during a time where I was feeling very disconnected from who I was. He was looking over at the young girl, about 5 years old, at the table next to us. She was on the edge of her seat, eating voraciously, she could barely sit still she was so in awe of the delight of life. She would let out one burst of glee after another. And my Dad, looked over at this little girl, and looks at me, and says, ‘Heidi, she’s just like you were at that age…’ And tears filled my eyes because at that moment I remembered who I was, and how disconnected I felt from that being inside my heart… I can feel so deeply, and for years I was consumed with only melancholy. A heart-breaking thing, then,  to be reminded of who you truly are, a delight-filled being of joy. The 20’s were a journey for me, and I know at what point in my life I stopped singing. And forgiveness of myself and others will free that delight and creativity. And my baby, by my side, opening myself back up to the flow of creativity that is who I am when I am at my best – the Princess of Wands with the wisdom of the Queen of Wands – that is my what’s happening now. Oh little Heidi… you are still a part of me, and the wisdom of my 30’s, and the groundedness, will be the synthesis, the integration, the Art of my being. 

Original Beauty Collage Card (2011)

my essence is fire, delight filled, delight full, oh… please come out and play

thank you for seeing me, dad, helping me to be and to remember

thank you to yoga for reconnecting me to delight every day

even if you can’t hear it, my heart still sings its’ love songs to life

(2/22/06 – age 30)

What are your experiences with remembering/reconnecting to your Original Beauty? Please comment to join the conversation.

Try the Collage Card process: Beauty Lost and Original Beauty. Then please share them with the Reclaiming Beauty community!

I leave you with a wish/a prayer that my Mom offered me in my Senior Yearbook –

May there always be a song in your heart,

~ Heidi

Tagged , ,

A Striking Resemblance

Skills: Beauty Lost

from Contributor: Stacie Moore

I’m 12
I’m in science class. I’m wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, feeling uncomfortable in my skin. I just know I gained five pounds back over Thanksgiving. Nathan is sitting beside of me. He has taunted me for years. Something I say pisses him off. “Whatever, you’re still just a fat-ass,” he responds. I feel something intangible break inside of me. I know this: I’ll starve myself if that’s what it takes.

I’m at the dinner table with my whole family. I go to get seconds. They talk about me as if I’m not here. “She could afford to lose a few more pounds,” my dad says. I’ve been losing weight all summer as it is. I say nothing and stare down at my plate.

I’m 11
I’m in homeroom. Three boys, sometimes my ‘friends,’ are trying to knock me out of my chair from behind. Even all together, they can’t do it. My chair barely moves forward. “Damn, she’s fat.” They laugh, saying this and other things. I pretend to ignore them; I listen to their insults.

I’m in the backseat of the car. My father and his girlfriend are up front. They are taking me to my brother’s house, where I live. I want to stop and get dinner first. All that will be at the house are frozen pizzas and Hot-Pockets, which I hate. I’m whining, asking to stop. We get stuck at the red light, and my father screams at me: “We’re not stopping just so your fat ass can get a cheeseburger! So shut up!” I’m scared of the yelling; most people in my life yell, but he usually doesn’t. I stop begging and begin to cry.

I’m 10
All of my cute, skinny, popular friends have boyfriends. They hold hands and go to the movies in groups on the weekends. I’ve never had a boyfriend—they don’t like me that way. I can just make people laugh, but I’m not girlfriend material. I know I’m not like my pretty friends. They all wear clothes from Limited Too—a store with no outfits even close to my size. I pray and ask God to let me be one of them. I’m disappointed because I wake up every morning and I’m still me.

I’m 9
My brother makes me go to the YMCA with him. I hate it. He goes to lift weights and I walk around the track by myself. I’m bored. I want to leave and get lunch. Once we leave, he gives me some advice: “Now, you’re smart. And smart people can be really successful. But if you’re fat, you won’t get a good job. You won’t get chosen. You’ll end up living in a trailer and working at McDonald’s, eating Big Macs for the rest of your life. Now that’s not what you want, is it?” No. That’s not what I want at all.

I’m 8
I’m in dance class. I like being here. It’s fun and makes me laugh. I’m in tights, leotard, skirt. I look in the mirror at the other girls. Their outfits look better. Their bellies don’t stick out. I feel very round. I don’t want to be in a leotard anymore.

I’m 7
My brother’s girlfriend is driving me somewhere. I grab her arm and ask if I’m beautiful. I expect her to say yes. But she hesitates before she says, “Of course.” I don’t quite believe her.

I’m 6
My mother dies.

My sense of beauty began to die then.

I resemble a woman who disappeared
I see a face in the mirror I don’t
recognize—a stranger
a face that left
a face in so few memories
a face and a body
that became sick and silent
This body I inherited
but was never taught to love
She’s a being rarely mentioned
a body in a grave
a body,
if we are to be frank,
I seem to have tried to follow suit.
To disappear, become entirely

run away, forget,

    be ill, silenced
heading toward disintegration
and a grave
This was mirrored to me
and then I was left without due care
Lonely, perhaps I gravitated
toward what I’d been given
reinforcement came in
to try and prove that was,
the way I should go
Gained weight
Put on a show
Screamed until
I learned to hush
Turn inward
Keep everything in

I took unexpressed grief over beauty
& saw it, & myself, as ugliness

Images: photographer Julian Bialowis

The Girl Who Lost Her Twirl

Skills: Beauty Lost/Beauty Found

Contributor: Crystal Mays

There once was a girl
Who had forgotten her twirl
and spent most of her time
caught in a mind-made whirl.
Where her house sat
and all around that
the forest grew densely
blocking out the light immensely.
So dark was this place
not even a bear showed it’s face.
The air didn’t stir
nor did the songbirds dare sing.
This was not a place
for a girl to twirl.
For many a year
she had known only tears
to express herself
and all her sorrows.
She always wished
for a better tomorrow.
One day as she stood outside
and thought about all she had cried
she glanced down
and began to frown
wiggling her toes in the dirt
she swore she felt an overt
under her soles.
It wasn’t the moles
digging holes,
but something else
a pulse
a humming
a drumming
a beat
under her feet
urging her to move
shimmy and shake.
Willing her feet to find that jiving groove
She set about moving her move
As she got lost in the motion
She felt within herself a new emotion
a pitter pat pat
she hadn’t imagined that
her heart began to flutter.
to skip a beat
to tumble and fumble
and then…
a rumble emerged
and urged
a sound
so deep
so profound
to seep out
as a shout
blurting out
Taking a breath deep into her lungs
She found one of her songs
yet unsung
and flinging her head back
she belted out a melody
of fierce melancholy
her journey
thus far
of loneliness
and sorrow
and wishes for a better tomorrow.
Spinning around and around
as her sound
died down
her body sank at last to the ground.
Lying into the soft grasses
her mind went molasses
turning gasses
and masses
gobbly gook
taking one last look
around her
she allowed the sleep to come
and drum
her soul
again whole.
The girl dreamed a dream
of many images streamed
and woven together in a tapestry
of such mastery.
The shimmering threads
over time and space spread
and showed to her the true
and history
of life on this planet,
this situation
of creation
When she had seen all she was to see
she began to remember at last
her forgotten decree
to live free
as a bumble bee
in a fir tree
or as potpourri
to a lesser degree.
She awoke with a start
and felt deep in her heart
something very old depart.
It’s leaving was relieving.
Understanding now
the weaving and deceiving
of the mind’s perceiving
she felt into her body
the sensations of life
without strife.
Piercing through the veil
she knew now
love would prevail
and allow her to sail
over land and sea
and follow her glee.
To be worry free
and live as a banshee
under a cork tree
or sip ice tea
with Mr. McPhee
Dipping her head to the earth
she thanked the Great Mother
for this miraculous rebirth.
Leaping to her tiny feet
she felt again the heartbeat
of the earth beneath her.
A rustle of air
fluttered through her hair
Whispering into her ear
for only her to hear
Dear heart
who you are.
You are a most precious shining star.

About the Contributor: Crystal Mays makes beauty every day as a dancer, an artist, a musician and a fabulous hair stylist. You can find her on the web at (re)Vision Hair Salon.