Originally published March 17, 2015
Most people believe that being fair of face is a blessing. For me it was no such thing.
I was such a beautiful child, even strangers could not resist stroking my hair or running a finger across my flawless cheek. They cooed and marveled over my perfection; called me a little angel. Even as I got older, all anyone spoke about in reference to me was my loveliness. No one ever inquired about my cleverness, my strengths, my feelings. It was as if I were a living alabaster sculpture without a soul, born solely for the appreciation of others.
I withdrew into myself as they observed me from the outside, and rarely revealed any of my own thoughts or feelings. I fulfilled what I perceived to be my role in life – to be on display as a model of perfection.
In a life previous to that one, I had been quite plain. You might even say homely. I longed to be beautiful. I envied those who were able to wear fine clothes and look elegant. I knew that some people pitied me and tsk-tsked at my sorry state. I lamented my lack of suitors and opportunities. I remained single all my life. I had a steady job which supported me in reasonable comfort. I had friends among people who accepted me as I was.
But, as much as I desired to be different, I was far less lonely in that lifetime than I was in my most recent.
In my life as a beauty, I was utterly unhappy. If I could have articulated the thought, I might have said I wanted the world to simply take me as I was, flaws and all. But I was so accustomed to playing my part as a mere object, so used to concealing what was inside, so disinclined to grow or to think too deeply or independently, that I didn’t even know, myself, who I was. I never gave myself permission to explore beyond the edge of what was expected of me.
I was completely passive in all things. I let others make all plans and decisions for me, as if they were selling and buying and moving an inanimate object.
When I became sick in my 40s, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity. I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.
I understand better now that what you think you want is not always better than what you have.