What is true beauty? Even more importantly, why are we afraid of seeing the beauty both without and within? Does the thought of looking at ourselves in the mirror, seeing ourselves reflected in the real people around us, comparing ourselves to others frighten us? Does this fear drive us to focus on becoming what we think society deems as acceptable? I call it the Keeping Up With the Joneses syndrome, or in this day and age, the Kardashians. It serves no purpose other than to lower our self esteem. We are all unique people. When we compare ourselves to others, it distracts us from acknowledging our uniqueness, our creativity, our special gifts. It distracts us from seeing our own beauty and celebrating it! It distracts us from our full potential.
This morning as I toiled away on the treadmill, I distracted myself by watching a morning news program and was intrigued by Matt Lauer’s interview with an overweight twelve year old boy. This boy, Nathan, was featured in an ad jogging down the middle of a street in a pair of Nike shoes. The message was “Greatness comes in all shapes and sizes.” It reminded me of another ad campaign several years ago by Dove that showcased real women. The Dove ads sparked a mix of kudos and criticism because some folks simply didn’t appreciate looking at women who are not super-models in a state of undress. Critics followed suit with the Nike ad complaining of exploitation. These people, the real women and Nathan, may not be Hollywood beautiful but they are people I can easily imagine standing in line next to me at the movie theater. They are much more relatable to me than Jennifer Aniston or Emma Stone.
In preparation for an upcoming writing workshop at Boyce Thompson Arboretum in southern Arizona, I sat quietly under the shade of a large mesquite, journal and pen in hand. A retired couple wandered my way and, seeing my intent focus, mistakenly thought I was someone on the park’s staff. Why is the demonstration garden unmanicured? The couple’s question was one I could not answer. My best guess was that it was seed bearing time. But it begged the question why do you want it manicured?
The Arboretum is a beautiful blend of civility and wildness. It is the wildness that compels me, that takes its finger and pokes me in the ribs to say Look at me! I’m here! Can’t you see my beauty? Don’t you want to talk? I answer an enthusiastic yes! Manicured plants are trimmed and molded to fit someone else’s expectation. Much like people, how can they meet their full potential if they are not allowed to follow their own path?
A tree stood off to my right, its trunk listing at a 45 degree angle before breaking into two thick stems. One followed that sharp angle, the second arced back and rose straight. The trunk following convention was leafy and full, the angled limb was a bit sparse. It was evident that the path it chose was a struggle and, at first it might seem less beautiful and yet, I would not have noticed this tree if it weren’t for that angled trunk. Its difference, its uniqueness is what caught my eye, drew me in and connected with me. In that connection it became beautiful.
Camus once wrote: “When am I truer and more transparent than when I am the world? My heart goes out to meet itself.”
So I urge you, put on your Nikes, high heels, flip flops or whatever your feet want to wear. Go out. Walk, run, dance, spin and jump! Laugh and be wild! Go out and meet the world head on. Go out and meet your heart!
- Look at the pretty things and say thank you.
- Look at the not so pretty things and say thank you.
- Look at the world and recognize that what you see is a reflection of yourself.
- Say thank you.
At the age of 56, the twists and turns of life brought Kathy O’Dwyer to Aravaipa Canyon Ranch, a retreat center located in the pristine wilderness of Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona. While living and working on the ranch Kathy gave birth to her book Breathing Blue which chronicles her two years in Aravaipa. A former lifelong Chicagoan, she spent the better part of her career in the corporate world in office management and business/marketing communications before transitioning to a life of service to others. A Reiki Master and massage therapist, Kathy’s studies focused on Native American healing traditions. From these pursuits her true passion for writing from the heart emerged. Through her writing Kathy not only found her voice but also manifested a life of grace, purpose and fulfillment.
Since the publication of Breathing Blue, Kathy has since moved to Gold Canyon, Arizona and currently lives there with her husband, their three dogs, and Miss Kitty. Living at the base of the Superstition Mountains is the perfect place for Kathy to blend her love of nature and writing. A second book is in progress and she now facilitates nature inspired writing groups at various venues. Her blog is www.breathofblue.com.
Photo credit Ernest Duffo: Woman dancing Taken at Neha Govindraj’s Bharata Natyam.