I use to be beautiful. When I was younger, I always thought I could be taller, thinner, lips fuller, breasts bigger, skin darker, nose straighter, fingers longer. Believe me, I had a laundry list of things that I wanted to change about myself. I think most of us probably do, at that age. But photos tell a different story. In retrospect I can see that I was beautiful. My skin was flawless and the perfect shade of golden brown or alabaster, depending on the time of year. I had great legs, hair and boobs. I can see now that I was pretty. I couldn’t see it then.
Now, I am middle aged and though not “ugly”, I look tired and grey. I look worn and everything is the victim of gravity from eyelids to breasts and my ass. Every part of me is exhausted from years of sporadic sleep, worry and stress. When I gave birth, I knew there would be sacrifices but I had no idea how much it would change me, inside and out. I had no idea that it would rob me of my vitality.
I am no longer first in my life. I probably never will be again. Even when I try to make myself a priority, my heart knows that my children always come first. I don’t mind so much. I feel like I have given my life over to a higher purpose. I sacrificed myself for them. It sounds damn pitiful when I write it out but it’s not.
The only time it bothers me is when I show an old photo of myself to my girls and they stare blankly at it for a few minutes trying desperately to place the face. It’s mine but not one they recognize because it has bright white teeth, big happy eyes, make-up on, hair not in a ponytail and a body that I should have been thanking God back then instead of complaining and killing myself via starvation of my body and soul.
The girl in the photo is young, beautiful with perky breasts and svelte legs. She was well rested and ridiculously optimistic. She had her entire life ahead of her. There was nothing but hope ahead. She still lives inside of the woman you see today.
The thing is this, I don’t want to be who I was at 25 because then I wouldn’t be who I am today but I also don’t want my children to look at photos of me when I was 25 and find me unrecognizable. That hurts because to me, I am still that girl. I know I am exhausted, and not as hip or free-spirited as I once was. I am no longer the life of the party or the girl who lived so big and hard that the only thing constraining her was the atmosphere. No, she is long gone but in her place, someone deeper, wiser and better has emerged even if I do have more luggage under my eyes than I do in my attic.
I was not born a mother; run down and tired from caring for others constantly. I was not born old. I used to travel, dance and go out to fancy dinners. I used to enjoy being the center of attention. I used to be selfish in ways that you cannot imagine. I am much happier now.