Monthly Archives: July 2011

Beauty

What is beauty? I have an image in mind, of a perfectly aligned, aesthetically pleasing face – the nose is small, mouth is generous, and eyes big (and very likely blue). Just seeing the face brings a certain happiness, the way a flower does, or a sunset.

I used to wonder when I saw a beautiful person, what does that FEEL like? To look in a mirror and see perfection, or near-perfection. to see a proportioned nose, radiant skin – to know, “I am beautiful”? My life, I knew, would be okay if I was beautiful.

Bo Derek, when asked, said that it was strange – she didn’t seem to feel as though her “beauty”, which she described as being basically a lucky¬† mix of the “right” features, was really something of which to be proud. She had no control over her looks, so took no credit.

Of course, as I’ve aged, beauty has taken on new definition, new meaning. While I can still appreciate the aesthetics, I can also see beauty where once¬† would have seen nothing close to it. A crooked smile, a slightly bent nose, unevenly spaced eyes, no longer preclude beauty. It has surpassed my early definitions and come to mean what is perhaps closer to the truth – beauty has little to do with a specific “look”.

A very dear friend once called me beautiful: It was probably a response to a FB picture, and the word struck me at once.

“Me, beautiful?” It didn’t even sit right, on my mind or tongue. I simply couldn’t look in the mirror and see beauty. It was me, Paula. I am not beautiful, my features don’t line up. And yet, she kept saying it, over and over. Even when a picture seemed horribly revealing of my worst attributes, she seemed to see something else. And, trusting her judgment on so much, I had to take a second look. Was i missing something? There were moments in front of the mirror. I’d talk to myself in there, to her, and the strangest thing happened. Not every time, but every once in a while, I’d look and see beauty. I don’t know if i was channeling my friend, or what, but it suddenly made sense. Paula and beautiful in the same sentence was not crazy.

I believe that, perhaps, some of us are more attuned to seeing beauty. That is, recognizing it beyond the surface and within, rather than without. Things change when we see beauty in action, and not just on the page or in the mirror. There is the beauty of struggle, the awesomeness of people fighting against odds to succeed, or to love. The beauty of innocence, of animals and babies with only the purest of intentions and behavior. The beauty of kindness, of sacrifice. The mother who throws herself in harm’s way to save her child, the firefighter who risks life and limb to save the unnamed person at the top of a burning house. The beauty of people uniting for a common cause, of friendship and growth.

I told my friend that she is a beauty-maker. it is a rare gift, I think – to actually cause things around you to gain beauty by your simple presence and love.

In a perfect world, we would never judge or compare beauty, but celebrate it in its millions of forms. we’d recognize it in a blade of grass, or a book, or in our sister. We’d love that it always looks different, and we’d forget what that thing was that we used to call beautiful. if there is a place beyond this one, our eyes are different, and we are all able to see, like my friend so often does, the beauty beyond what we have been trained to notice. We will be surrounded by beauty and we will know it.

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Dilly Dallying through Life

Write what you know, they say… great advice for the world traveler, for the adventurer whose every day is filed with new opportunities and activity. If what you know is the beauty of a French countryside, or the grittiness of an urban jungle, the stories are everywhere. New people, new places, they all come with a tale, ready for the writer to find and tell.

In my head (or is it my heart?), I am an adventuress. I stalk lions in Kenya, drink wine in Tuscany, and create theater in impoverished villages. My energy fills vacuums in my dreams, and restores dreams to the hopeless. I live and love in this alternate universe with a passion that is so magnetic that it pulls everyone in and charges them with my spirit and strength.

But out here, in this real world, I am not a daredevil – my name is Paula, and I am a dilly-dallier.

This is what I know, my undeniable talent. To take a 24-hour day and make mincemeat of nearly every precious second is my gift. While others work, I dilly; as they move forward, I dally. It hit me over the head the other day when someone who also writes resume told me she was doing four that day. I had one on my to do list. It was around 11 a.m.

In what seemed like a very short time later, she messaged me. “One down!” I looked away from the website I was browsing just long enough to read her note. A short time later, another one. “Halfway there!” This time I looked up in surprise at the clock – what had I been doing??? I had maybe a paragraph more written, but absolutely no momentum going. By the time she was letting me know that she had just 1 more to go, we were in exactly the same spot. She had done 3 times the work, while I sat and….? That’s the thing about dilly-dallying. Unlike other diversions, there’s nothing to show for it. In fact, if you produce anything at all, it’s probably something else altogether.

I believe in taking pride in what you do, so I’m trying to embrace this newly named talent – at the end of the day, when I’ve accomplished half of what I set out to do, I know that I have fulfilled my dilly-dallying quota for that 24 hours. While others toil, I turn on One Life to Live, so that I can be sure to see which Todd is REALLY Todd before I read the truth online. As the world gets its assignments done, I take a half-hour to think about, get dressed for, then decide there’s no time for, the walk I was going to take every day. Every action is stretched out to its most absurd limits, until I am left at the end of the day looking around thinking, “What just happened here?”

Each morning, I ponder doing things differently. THIS will be the day I get work done before 11 p.m. TODAY is when I start crossing things off the To do List. RIGHT NOW is when I get started. And this new-found discipline will kick-start a whole different kind of living, more time to be creative, and ultimately lead to my long-percolating novel/play/haiku.

Of course, this very post took me 4 days from conception to delivery. For now, the dilly-dallier remains undefeated…


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