Friday, January 15, 2010

I Am Naked


As vain a creature as I know myself to be, this post is a wary one, very hard for me to consider. An old part of myself aches to share. The self I am today is more afraid of exposure.

But to discuss what I want to, it seems the way to do that is to do what comes next.

This is what I look like.

I think myself happy and content enough (... if never reaching that magical thing: satisfaction ...), but I see photos and there is something in them that frightens me, something that makes a liar of me.

I said in my last post how glad I am in my age, but of course there is fear of it. Fear of decay, of living each day older, less healthy, a little creakier, a little more forgetful. I don't pretend that is not there; and the things I said are true. I do revel, somewhat, in the process, even the scary stuff. But time *passes*, and that is more painful. So much time, and still not everything is quite yet in its place.

What happens if I live my life, and it's never quite set up right?

These photos ... they remind me, too, of something one usually doesn't see in oneself. Beyond the collapse of the skin around my jaws, beyond the white hair, or the arthritis - is another change, one I *am* ashamed of, one which plagues me.

The set of my mouth, the tension. The pain even I can see is visible in my face.

I think myself happy, take a photo, and see a kind of "maturity" that never existed before.

When I was younger, "mature" meant, of me, that I had a certain poise. It might mean my beautiful diction. It might mean the timbre of my voice. My posture. My professionalism, the graciousness I have in social company.

Here I see in my face a stripe more like what they used to call "character", back when people were actually allowed to age and describing it wasn't insulting.

I see the tightness in my lips, the sorrow in my eyes. I know where it comes from, and don't find it un-beautiful.

But it feeds on itself, and the reminder of my sadness makes me melancholy. Only by rejecting mirrors can I hope to avoid it.

I never avoid it. Not really. I do that hideous thing, staring at my face at night time.

Two years ago, I was desolate, and began to recognize this face. A year ago, I think, may be when these shadows became permanent in my expression, no matter what my mood might be. I see photos where I'm smiling, but the cast of my eyes is always downward.

I'm not an unhappy woman.

But I am such a sad one.

Not sorrowful, but capable - and possessed of - a strain of melancholy which never goes away.

In a way, this recaptures my youngest childhood. I was an extremely hermetic, shy, terribly sad girl, really. I have always attracted great sadness. Maturing to a certain point, I felt I had sealed myself away from it, even though people full of echoes of desolation still gravitated around me.
Maturing to the point I occupy now - I know the fill line where it comes to within me. I know it never evaporates, never quite empties out. I know even the joys I know are real within me are nothing without pain, the only balance to prove them.

I know, too, the deepest joy in my heart is attached to that heart which carries the deepest torment. That soul, attracted to mine, most burdened with its own melancholy.

Many think it is sick ... or sad ... that this is, too, my own chiefest joy.

I'll never be able to explain it.

Any more than I'll be able to explain why ... though it terrifies me to post my face, naked and undeniable ... what created that expression - what tethers me to both joy and to denial - is the blessing I am most grateful for, after my family and the privileges of my existence.

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