This is hard to write. I didn’t even realize it was a problem.
It has been nearly 2 1/2 years since the accident, and I thought my attitude was mostly pretty positive. Actually pretty miraculous, considering everything, would be the consensus of most people who know me.
My husband gave me a lovely, lovely Valentine card. It was so beautiful it made my eyes tear up as I read it…he left it on the table for me when I came down for breakfast, because it was a work day for him. I was alone when I opened it. It said something about still being a beautiful woman. I mean physically beautiful. That shocked me to my core. I used to be pretty, or at least I thought so. I always had plenty of dates in high school and college, so that didn’t seem to be a problem, but every since the accident I look so much older, and initially I was so thin, and haggard and stooped, that I hated to see pictures of myself. And several people, several times, would ask me if my husband was my son, or if my friends–who were always in my age group–were my daughters. I was very well aware of how much the accident had aged me, and just didn’t enjoy looking at myself in mirrors anymore.
So I didn’t. Without realizing it, for a couple of years I had only looked at bits and pieces of myself in mirrors to check for gunk in my eyes, if my hair needed combing, or if my outfit looked all right. I had ceased to care much about my appearance. I was telling myself “It doesn’t matter! It only matters what’s inside you!” I had no concept of myself as even attractive anymore.
Then the card. I sat staring at it, thinking, for a long time. Then I slowly carried it into the downstairs bathroom, where I go to comb my hair, and set the card down on the counter beside the sink. I lifted my eyes up to look at my face in the mirror. Couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried–and I tried over and over for 20 minutes–I couldn’t look at my entire face. Could not make myself. I could only force myself to glance at bits of my face for a second before my gaze would slip away, no matter how I tried. I started to sob ,hard. I hadn’t realized this was even a problem, let alone such a desperate one.
It was totally shocking. Just another piece of crap I would have to fight through. I get so tired of fighting all the time. Of being positive. Of smiling. But I can’t give up, because I just don’t know how. One time, years ago, within a few months I had been let go from one job that I really loved for reasons that I’m still confused about, and then I got a temporary teaching job. When I interviewed for the permanent teaching job, I didn’t get it. Under, shall we say, pretty dirty circumstances, Those two experiences made me decide to be a more tough-skinned, less vulnerable, not smiling at everyone I meet, sort of person for the rest of my life! I managed to keep that resolution for….I’d say, about 1/2 hour? It’s not like I’m naturally good, I just don’t know how to be negative. I always choose the positive.
My hair is silver. It’s been naturally silver for several years now. Before the accident, my face was pretty tan and my movements were quick and youthful, so people hardly ever mistook my age, but now…I look worried all the time, I’m stopped over, I have to be helped everywhere, I’m a little thinner than I used to be, I have several scars that I didn’t used to have, and my eyes must look older. I move much more slowly, awkwardly, cautiously. No wonder they mistake me for the elderly mother.
I don’t feel I look beautiful anymore. I don’t feel even remotely pretty anymore. So how can I enjoy looking at myself in a mirror? How do I fix this? It’s no use that my friends and husband rush in and say “you look younger!” when, almost immediately, a clerk, or another stranger, will mistake me for the elderly mother. So I know better. I know they’re just lying to save my feelings, because they love me. Or maybe my husband still sees me through the eyes of love. I don’t know. I just know my eternal fountain of creativity is baffled this time. I always thought that my husband and I would grow old together. Not that I would suddenly leapfrog ahead of him. That people would mistake me for my own children’s grandmother. I KNOW it’s just my stupid pride, that I could have a terrible facial disfigurement or something like that. But it’s still a problem. Just because it could be worse doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a problem, and you still have to deal with it. It just helps you keep it in the proper perspective, I guess.