Passing through Beauty


2 hours awake and I still haven’t shaken the fog. I didn’t fall asleep until after 1 last night. I got 6 hours of sleep, but I generally need 8. And I spent the last 2 hours of my day writing. Delving into a question that feels strange to the narrative that I have created. When I woke up, I reread yesterday’s post over my first cup of coffee. It’s fine. Definitely fine. But I doubt that it is satisfactory. I can’t answer something that I don’t want to think about. Or something that I am afraid to think about. What could have stopped what I tell myself was inevitable? Can I even handle the idea that something could have happened differently? That someone could have saved me? I can’t go there for more than a brief moment—only long enough for flashes of an alternate future, never long enough for words to capture it. Maybe someday.

I feel icky. Not quite right. I think it has something to do with my new haircut, but I don’t feel myself. I have a mirror in my bedroom where I see myself often, and the last two days have been hard. I don’t like what I see because it isn’t quite right. My hair is too short. I don’t look like I looked before. I look more severe, less soft. And it isn’t bad but it is not what I expected. It isn’t as easy to pull of and isn’t as natural for me. I feel like I look older, and at 35, I don’t really want to look older. I am old enough for now. And I look it. I feel gross because I do not feel like I look like I am.

And I can’t wash the feeling off like the make up I wear. I can’t push it back like my bangs. I can’t take it off like my glasses. I feel it on my skin. Or under my skin. And I just have to wait until it goes away. I can play with makeup, pose just right in good lighting, and throw a filter on a crappy iPhone picture, but I can’t shake the feeling. I can’t get rid of the bleh, the ugliness, the discontent. The wishing to be more. The wishing for things to be different. Wanting things to have happened differently and for things to be different now.

The self-loathing is difficult today. My brain tells me that this stupid haircut is proof that I’ve been hiding behind something false all along. I was always this ugly. I was always this frumpy. I was always this stupid and crazy. I was always every bad thing I have ever thought about myself. And I’m fighting. Telling myself how stupid that is. It isn’t true. It’s a damn thought cycle. I’m caught in a loop. It’s a trick. It isn’t real. But the mirror I am sitting near is making it difficult. 

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite if not my very favorite literary quote is from Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King: “Somehow I am a sucker for beauty and can trust only it, but I keep passing through and out of it again.” I love it because I always kind of felt like that was me. Beauty kills me. If I find something beautiful, then I am in heaven—art, kindness, the human body, nature, poetry, love, friendship, possibility—I am just a sucker for it. But it feels like too often beauty passes away and we are only left with an imperfect memory. And I feel that way about myself today. I was beautiful at some point in time—I was good and kind and lovely—but now I’ve faded. Now I’m just a shell and it is finally starting to show on the outside.

But it is just nothing. Beauty is subjective. It is just a reflection, and my dissatisfaction with what I see will pass. I am still me even if I don’t look like it or feel like it. 

Maybe I’ll feel better when the sun comes out. Maybe I’ll feel better if I put on makeup. Maybe I’ll wear a pretty dress. Maybe I’ll put on headphones and dance. Maybe I’ll feel better when I adjust. Maybe I’ll feel better when my hair is longer. Maybe I’ll pull it up or change the style. Maybe I’ll figure something out. Something so that every time I look in the mirror I don’t see something jarring. Something that doesn’t feel like me. Maybe it will only take a moment. Maybe it will take a week. Maybe it is just the hair. Maybe it is the sleep. Maybe it is the rain. Maybe it is more. Maybe it was what I read in my journal last night. Maybe it was the heartbreaking pain I was feeling, and how well I remember. 

I just want to feel beauty. I want to look in the mirror and feel like I like the person looking back. Not just her hair and her face, but her posture, the look in her eyes. Her smile. I want to see the things that remind me that I am strong and happy. And now I see dissatisfaction and fragility. I see unhappiness. I see the depressed woman, not me. And to me, she is ugly because she feels so ugly. She feels like a stain. And I feel like I am just a cheap shell that she is about to break through.

But not today. I know that I am strong enough to hold her at bay. I know that this is just some little imbalance and a hair cut. It is just my depression using anything it can to bring me down. It uses my own reflection and skews it in my brain. It makes me believe that my real dissatisfaction with my appearance—something that is truly unimportant in the grand scheme of things—is proof that there is something even uglier under the surface. It makes me believe that the ugliness I see with my eyes is just a small taste of the real ugliness in my soul. That no one loves me. No one likes me. No one wants to see or hear me. That no one really cares. And if they do care then I have misled them. 

Depression works how it works and it can use anything. Anything. A bad hair cut. A late night writing session. A night of poor sleep. An unanswered message. A rainy day. Anything. Anything. And I just have to deal with it. Just stop looking in the mirror. Do things to make me feel pretty, smart, kind, wanted, cared for. I have to do the work to get through this because if I do nothing then it won’t stop. And maybe I can save today. Maybe someone else will save me from myself today. But one thing is certain—it won’t be like this forever. Oh, and one other thing is certain—my hair will grow. 

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