Sunday, August 14, 2011

Coming to Terms

For the flower it is fully open at each step of its blossoming.
~ Mark Nepo

            I have a lot of freckles—I mean everywhere.  I have no idea where they all came from because they weren't there when I was born.  But there they are. 
          For most of my life I hated my freckles.  I dressed to conceal—a victim in my own skin—while all around me beautiful people with smooth, freckle-free skin, embraced the world in cute little dresses and sleeveless tops, showing as much skin as the law would allow.  I was too self-conscious to join them. 
Then one night at dinner, my friend Jonathan spotted a patch of freckles peeking from beneath my shirt sleeve.  Le poins des carrot,” he mumbled to himself, running his finger over my freckled skin.  My French was rusty, but I could have sworn that he said, “The skin of the carrot?”  And he had. 
“When you see the orange skin of a healthy carrot, it is a beautiful thing—the color, the texture, its richness and vibrancy; the skin of the carrot is beauty itself.  It’s like that with freckles.  The French view them as a sign of great beauty.  And some cultures believe they’re a sign of great wealth.  Just think how lucky you are—beauty and wealth!”  He laughed, “This is your destiny!” 
And to think that all this time I had been trying to cover them up!  Yet with a simple shift in perspective all of a sudden I had the world on a string—beauty and wealth.  I laughed so hard I cried. 
My freckles looked different after that.  I studied them and patterns emerged like brilliant constellations in the night sky.   I had been an astronomy buff for years, could it be that my freckles weren’t so random after all?  “As above, so below,” they say.  And I laughed at the sense of humor displayed in all of creation. 
There are other things I’ve struggled to reconcile.  Like how hard I’ve had to work to find even the slightest measure of acceptance in my heart for an extremely difficult family situation; or my growing disillusionment with a long-held belief as I’ve watched its opposite unfold in the world around me; or perhaps, worse yet, the horrified amazement with which I have, at times, viewed my own life in hindsight as I see so clearly how I’ve gotten in my own way.  These are, perhaps, among the hardest parts to make peace with, especially when we consider how very different the outcome may have been if only we had done this or that.
We do ourselves a great disservice when we judge ourselves so harshly.  For aren’t we always where we need to be?  Perhaps that’s why they say that struggle is sometimes necessary but always optional.     
In the end, reconciliation is an inside job.  Without it, our contempt of a thing creates obstacles to our own happiness.  So we best make peace; learn how to soothe ourselves and move beyond the suffering in our lives.  Because when we are reconciled with that truth, all self-love and acceptance, there is freedom at last. 

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