Yesterday a friend said to me, “Your scars won’t matter as he falls in love with the beauty that you are.” It took me by surprise, because it was a laser sharp message that instantaneously spoke to so much more than I could have ever imagined. It forced me to make peace with what I decided long ago was something ugly about me, which really belies a deeper beauty, a richer truth, an unfinished story. I want to add to that beauty that is awakening and write a different story, one where I can tell you about Kelly, and that she’s really quite intriguing – oh, and beautiful too.
Scars come in a variety of packages. The ones that were foremost in my mind that I shared with my friend, which prompted her reply, were the ones on my body. These are the evidence of life experiences, in part, testimony to a life sometimes well-lived. The scars that give voice to the sheer abandon of childhood innocence are the ones on my knees from climbing to the top of a tree and then flying out of it into a pile of leaves I was convinced would break my fall. Then there is the one on the back of my hand from a fish hook while trying to learn how to play with the big kids, or the thin line at the corner of my lip reminding me of the day I was Wonder Woman because I saved my little brother from a bully. And so many other physical traces of moments lived in a state of playful awe and wonder, from a state of grace with no thought of anything being impossible.
Of course, there are other scars too, maybe from a life not so well-lived. The physical scars inside and out, left by a life of addiction and from unwelcome visitors, scars that almost no one talks about in mixed company. Supposedly that conversation is better left with your best friend or your therapist. Finally, I have an auto-immune disorder that leaves scars as it ravages healthy tissue over long periods of time. Eventually the only remedy is to cut out the necrotic tissue in order to create a healthy space for skin and life to regenerate. I have had three major surgeries, and if the scars from the illness aren’t enough, the surgical scars themselves are, on my worst days, large reminders of something ugly and imperfect.
Then there are the emotional and spiritual scars. Sometimes I think those are the toughest to recognize, heal and integrate into my being. They carry more messages left by others. A yolk of shame we have taken on and made our burden. These scars are the voices of others telling us we were less than our own magnificence and that we are anything but beauty incarnate.
But the truth is all these scars are part of my story, and my story matters. Telling my story helps me know myself in ways I could never have discovered on my own. Our stories matter because, whether we realize it or not, underneath it all, our narrative points to the beauty that is inherent in all life. Yet, I have not been fully connected to the beauty of Kelly, nor have I known why my beauty matters in regards to my place in the world. It’s a journey, a “beautiful” journey of unfolding.
We get confused about beauty. In our world the word “beautiful” is often used to designate value for outer appearances, it’s a human judgment. As a result I’ve grown up a little confused about beauty, and how it applies to me. We’re all familiar with the phrase “beauty is in the eye of beholder.” So I wonder if I am looking with my “eye” or with my “I” because there is a difference.
When I look with my “I” beauty is everything, it is all, it brings me back to my origins. It brings me back to that untouched place of grace. It is the exquisite, innocent pleasure of life that saves us, unites us, heals us, empowers us and nourishes our soul. The universe knows nothing else then how to make beauty, and we get to see it everywhere – flowers, a kind smile, laughter, gentle rain or a snowflake, being of service, the smell of fresh cut grass or baking bread. On this journey, I have to remember I am a part of that universe, my story in all its glory and all its depravity, is a seedling of the great universal story of creating beauty.
Beauty for me has become a practice, a habit of discovering the deliciousness, the lusciousness that comes when I realize my heart has joined the natural rhythm and vibration found in what I am seeing – it is found in being with what is. When I am quiet enough, and open myself to my story, give voice to the scars, including the most painful ones or those I believe are the source of something permanently ugly and broken, I find the energy of beauty. I simply can no longer deny my experience, what has been, and therefore the scars become a part of the heartbeat of my wholeness. The extent to which something is beautiful is the extent to which I discern it is complete or whole. If I think any aspect of Kelly, any chapter or verse from my story is incomplete then I will never see the beauty.
We tend to see beauty arising as symmetry, harmony, balance or proportion. So what do I think I am seeing about myself that is not in harmony, is asymmetrical, out of balance – or NOT beautiful? If I have any answer for this question, then it is an unlived and unloved piece of myself waiting to be cared for, to be brought into the balance of my own wholeness. There is no piece of Kelly that can be left out of this equation.
If I look closely at a tree, I’ll see the dead twigs, the broken leaves, the knotty bark, just like my body. Just like my scars. What I see is the seeming “imperfection” of this graceful tree. It is standing tall in front of me in all its splendor, and I bear witness to the harmony of these two opposite things which really pulse together in perfect rhythm – imperfect beauty.
Beauty then becomes the authenticity of the “I” when looking with my “eye.” The Tao invites us to slow down, watch the water that has been stirred by storms, and wait for the mud to settle so that what is mine to fully see – whether it is the tale of the knotty bark that has grown for centuries on this tree, or the story of my scars – can become clear and rise to the surface. Beauty asks me to be with my story, attend to it until I can be touched by it and see with my “I.”
The beauty of Kelly takes time to see. It is the way of my heart, the way of “I”, and therefore always takes longer to know. I have to give myself a chance to pause and settle into the way things are, just as they are, allowing the sediment to clear, knowing that therein lies the imperfect raw beauty of my story. Not beauty to create, but beauty that is revealed. I allow my story to shape me into a beautiful instrument with strings that can be plucked by the winds of my experience. And then played by my calloused hands creating a symphony – all the while giving voice by what I say and what I do, of the story yet to be written, a better story. It is a story of adding to the beauty of the universe, the beauty known only as Kelly.