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You're so Vain

I draw on eyeliner, trying to fake the look of lashes. Next, I tackle the eyebrows. With my bald head, I remind myself of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. I wish I could say that pleases me, but truth be told I find it rather unsettling. Let’s face it: nobody is building a pyramid in my honor.

I move to my closet. Most of what is in there no longer fits, my waistline having expanded from the medication and the disease. I hold up my favorite pair of jeans with a sense of longing and make a mental note to pack it all away for someday, when I can wear them again, hopeful that it is indeed a possibility.

I try not to consider the likelihood that I am vain, but I suppose I am. It strikes me as quite ironic, given the fact that just a few months ago I lay helpless in my sick bed, my skin pale and clammy. I could have cared less if I had hair, and the makeup drawer had been untouched for weeks. I do believe that caring about such things once more is an awful, yet lovely sign that I am feeling better as I reclaim my life.

We spend so much time examining ourselves in the mirror, looking for our flaws thinking that somehow our ultimate worth rests with how we look because society tells us it is so. Perhaps it is conditioning from childhood. Little girls soon learn that being pretty is a valuable commodity, and a disarming smile is a powerful tool. Later, we are bombarded with ads for the newest and best beauty products. Competent, strong women are told that they must be constantly evolving into a younger more radiant version of themselves. And when that isn’t possible, it can be upsetting. Yeah, even Superman had his kryptonite.

Sometimes, it takes courage to look at that reflection and like what we see, especially when it is less than we hope for, altered by age or life or illness. It is rather sad, I think, yet uniquely human. We want to look good for ourselves and others because we connect that with being healthy and vibrant and attractive. And we are, most certainly, a little like peacocks in that way.

But we are so much more than physical beings. Our bodies really are simply vessels for our souls. And yet, we mourn over the crack in the jar, the imperfections that we believe mar its beauty and diminish its value. Does it make the contents any less important? Of course not. Why then, do we become fascinated by and so connected to the container? We admire the colors, the fancy patterns of the metaphorical box, forgetting that its purpose is not to delight the eye, but to hold something priceless, our immortal spirit. Yeah, that.

A caterpillar doesn’t become attached to its cocoon, mourning the loss of its temporary home when it breaks free to emerge as a magnificent butterfly. Nope. It discards it with no thought at all and never looks back. Indeed, it spreads it wings and flies away, experiencing ultimate freedom.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here.

While we are most certainly flesh and bone, we are first and foremost spiritual beings with all that title implies. Our souls connect us to the Almighty, not the way we look. Because ultimately God doesn’t care if our hair is combed or if we are twenty pounds overweight. He cares about what is in our hearts. I try to remember that. I do believe that this journey is as much about teaching me spiritually as it is about healing my body. Earth school will do that that if we are willing students.

But in the meantime, I am not quite ready to ditch my eyeliner. Not yet.

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