I often describe myself as having a tall and slim personality while knowing full and well that I am short and fat. There was a time, many many moons ago that I was built like a show horse and when you combine that with the tall and slim personality you definitely had a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile the years did the Young and Restless thing – ran like sand through and hourglass and this wondrous being bore a wondrous being, moved to Australia, sipped TimTams by the dozen the way it is supposed to be eaten – through coffee, bore another wondrous being, realised that my hormones are taking me for a ride (and not I them) and that gravitation really start working on your body the closer you get to 40!
And, I have had to start facing another reality: I was becoming invisible! the tall and slim personality was still there, somewhere in the archives of my memory, but the Marlize that went with the personality was no where to be seen.
The first time that I realised I was becoming invisible was when I expected to see my reflection in shopping centre glass doors and all that was approaching me was a short and fat lady who had ample hips and tummy and not so ample bust. I broke eye contact but undertook to give my usual smile and greet when I pass her, but she was gone! No where in sight. I saw her after that, following me in the windows of the Clarkson Library. I do not want to stare, I’ve been told it is rude to do that.
And so my journey to invisibility started. I discovered that it is much easier to rather look away than it was to take notice of myself. I also realised that it was becoming more challenging to believe my beloved when he declared his love for me. I would not look him in the eye as we parted for the day but would rather hide my face in the warmth of his neck. I felt so uncomfortable with the reflection that I saw when he looked at me. Could it be, that I, after 19 years and many, many appearance re-inventions, still had him weak at the knees?
But somedays, when the sun would shine from behind, and my shadow would walk out in front of me, I would see a glimmer of a the woman that I once was – a young woman with strong shoulders, slender neck and a sensual sway in her hips. For a moment I would jump with joy – she is still there! She survived! The tall and slim personality is still there, sewn to my soul, like Peter Pan’s shadow. I would try and reach her, I want to know how she is, what has she been keeping busy with, but she would stay out of reach.
In the cloak of invisibility I have been watching people as I sit in coffeeshops. (The Venter family is a coffeeshopaholic family! I am drawn to other invisible women. They are women who exists between the empty cornflake bowls that stay behind when the kids are commandeered into the car and dropped off at school, the coffee cups that become part of the furniture and the dirty underwear. I see women who is wearing the jean they picked up from the floor this morning, because it fits better than the newly washed one, that will remind her of the piece of chocolate that she ate last night. I see women who are in turmoil because they feel that they are not meeting the apparent expectations of her loved ones. Women who feel guilty because their homes are not magazine styled homes, they feel guilty because they have not achieved as much as their peers, they feel guilty because they are not contributing financially to their household, but chose to stay at home and create a homestead, though they feel that their creativity has suffered a silent death. They surround me, these invisible women. And they are thinking, “Why bother?”
“Why bother when no one is noticing?”
This speech is supposed to celebrate love, right? Does this have anything to do with love? It sure, does not sound like it.
But, it does. It has everything to do with love. Because, how can you really and truly love another, when you can not love yourself? You look in the mirror and you curse your hips and tummy creeping over your knickers. You look at the wrinkles from too much laughing and you wish they were not there. Which memories would you like deleted in order not to have laughing wrinkles?
Again – how do you want to love others, when you can not love yourself?
Being invisible is a desert experience. It is lonely there. The self-talk that you engage in when in that dessert is suicide. (A bit off the point, but still relevant. I do not do pregnancy small. With each of my pregnancies I gained 30 kilograms. Heavily pregnant and flushed from the ever present pregnancy glow, I walked into a pregnancy attire shop in search of a little (please note the emphasis on little) black dress. The shop assistant said, “Gawd woman, are you sure it is not twins! Look at your arms and your arse!” Needless to say, I walked out minus a little black dress. As I walked out I said, “God, you need to show me how you see me!”
While preparing this talk, He showed me all the women that He noticed – Sarai who laughed because she just could not believe that she would conceive, Hagar who was chased away into the desert with her child, Rahab, the whore in Jericho, Ruth at the feet of Boas, Naomi, the embittered Mara who was able to breastfeed her grandchild, the lady with menstrual problems, who touched his seam when no one was watching, the woman at the well. All of them desert women – lonely women.
Nine years later, I asked Him again, “Show me, how you see me.” In that desert of invisibility I had to go and become still, learn how to have grace with myself.
For too long I waited for others to come and free the tall and slim personality from the confines that I have put her in. for too long I have thought that if I do not look at the reflection that stares back, I can deny that I have changed. But with all the looking away i lost myself. And, no one can find you, the way you find yourself. Sometimes, you have to get those killer heels out and say, “It is time my girl, it is time.”
Amongst the dresses hanging in the Spoil Yourself shop I glimpsed her again. Marlize with the tall and slim personality and, I immediately took a selfie as proof that she is still there! I felt a pang of momentary guilt as I remembered that taking selfies is a sign of narcissism, but the thought of Kim Kardashian and her ample assets kept me sane. Mine is bigger and I have been told that bigger is better, so rocking this look should not be an issue at all! A couple of weeks later I go back to Spoil Yourself to see whether it was a mirage due to the heatwave we experience, but no! she is still there. That Saturday, after thorough tittivating, doing my hair and make-up and ensuring that the spanx did the work it was designed to do, I took my husband with.
Though in times of weakness I have been able to lie to myself, my beloved can’t, I know him too well. Problem (blessing) is, that he does not look at me through my eyes. He does not see the ample hips, tummy and less than ample boobs. He looks past the outer appearance and sees the woman who awaits him with a smile when he comes home at night, he sees his best mate who learnt how to drink honey whiskey when wine became unpalatable (horrors upon horrors, right?). He has never looked past the tall and slim personality. His love looks the way Father sees me.
And so I have been able to catch up with her, there in the mirrors of the Spoil Yourself shop – the young woman with the strong shoulders, and slender neck, who has a bit of a sway in her hips when she walks. Her smile is still contagious. Father showed me what He sees when He looks, and I allowed myself to believe that it is the truth. Even though the years taken shape like the year rings of trees, I am still me. I am still special. He notices me.
Max Lucado wrote about Punchinello and the black spots. He often got a black spot because he did not meet the standards set by others. He was not like the others who could sing and dance and jump – they got gold stars. Then he met Lola, with the white dress, who had no spots, nor stars. It did not want to stick. She told him about Eli, the carpenter in the shed up the hill. She went to visit with hom every day. Punchinello plucked up the courage and went. There he was told that as long as he believed what Eli told him about himself, that was all that mattered. As he walked out of the shed, he though, “Maybe he is right.” And the first black spot fell off.
Ladies, be encouraged. You are special. There is only one you who can be you. Look at your reflection and know that you are enough… you are more than enough.
Marianne Williamson in her book, A return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That is the love that I am celebrating – the love of a perfect Creator who took the time before the beginning of time, and decided that I am made for a time such as this. He had a purpose. How can I doubt Him? Let’s celebrate His love.