Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wearing My Ammonia Halo

I like what I see in the mirror tonight. There was a time in my life when I avoided looking in the mirror as much as possible. Self loathing whispered in my ear with every glance and I hated both my inner and outer view. It took until I was in my thirties to learn good hygiene habits and to consider self care a possibility. It is almost always a sure bet that if my outward appearance ain't too hot you can bet my inner voice is suffering too.

I've been practicing saying to myself in the mirror, "I love you just the way you are, don't change." I look myself in the eye long and hard as those words hang in the air. I know that accepting myself as is is the first step in any true change happening. I've never stood still in my journey for very long so I am not worried that change won't happen. God loves me too much to let me stay put. If God loves me in this moment surely I can love me too.

I've been talking to my body as I practice good self care....I start at my feet and thank God all the way up. For the feet and legs that have held me up all these years, being grateful for my dough boy belly that grew big and round with child three times over. For arms that rocked babies and mixed cookie dough. Caressing my skin with lotion as I dry myself off.....being thankful for it all. It's surprising that what I once would have dismissed as vanity I now see as loving myself. Wonders never cease!

Tonight I dyed my hair at home for the very first time - using a product that my mother must surely have used as that ammonia smell is unforgettable. I have no memories of my mom being grouchy while walking around the house with her ammonia halo. I wonder if doing that small bit of self care made her feel better about herself. She wasn't so good at it in other areas. I think we do our families a disservice by always putting ourselves last. When my daughter got to be about 12 she started questioning me one night as I was setting the table....why did I always put the cracked plate at my place at the table....why did I give up the last piece of whatever it was so that they could all have some. There was a trace of hostility in her voice as she asked these questions. Her words forced me to look at myself. Oh man, I'm typing all this and cringing. I'm hearing those voices in my head telling me that it is virtuous to give everything up, even my own identity, for my family. All those versions of what I used to think made a Godly wife and mother.

But I knew when my daughter questioned these things she was challening me to examine my worth. Would I see myself as an equal or as a less than person. And I knew that my example would have a direct impact on her and my sons. On my future son-in-law and daughters-in-law. She forced me to look in the mirror and see myself in the human race as Jesus does - as an equal.

This post is headed in a different direction than I thought it would take. It's been nearly 10 years since my daughter challenged me that day. It's taken that long to journey towards consistent good self care. Tonight as I'm wearing my own ammonia halo I'm thinking about my mom and my daughter and how cycles have been broken. And I thank God.

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