Last week I posted pictures of my master bedroom. After reading that post, one of my readers asked about this photo:
"Is that you?" she asked. Yes, it's me. That portrait has hung in my house for 10 years now. It's just part of the scenery. I tend to take it for granted. But I shouldn't. That portrait tells a love story.
You see, I've always struggled with self-esteem, particularly regarding my appearance. When I was a child, I lived in a family of beautiful ducks, and I was an ugly duckling. But my self-esteem issues went much deeper than you'd expect for a girl who was an awkward adolescent. I've had some help figuring out the root of my struggles, and I've learned that they're mostly rooted in the fact that I have a birthmark that covers most of the right side of my body. It's a multi-faceted issue, and in the past few years I've made a lot of progress in dealing with it.But 10 years ago I was right in the thick of it. Although my husband didn't understand all the issues involved in my struggle, he knew I was struggling. And he wanted to help.
"I just wish you could see yourself the way I see you," he would say. He thought I was pretty, but I couldn't see myself that way. I could only see myself as the girl with the birthmark.
Finally he came up with a plan. For our 15th wedding anniversary, he bought me a lovely gift. But more importantly, he asked me to give him a gift. "I want a portrait of you," he said. "I want you to find a real photographer and have a portrait made of yourself. Not of you and the boys, not of our house, not of anything but you. I want a full-length portrait of you."
Is that the sweetest thing you've ever heard? And he was serious.
I resisted for awhile, but he persisted. He pushed. He prodded. He helped. He enlisted the help of a friend. And in the end, I got to be Queen for a Day--a day of having my hair styled, putting on an evening gown, going to the photographer's studio and out on location, and having my portrait made. I learned that a good photographer takes lots of photos and that some of those end up being good--good enough that even I had to admit that they were pretty. Even though the woman in the portrait has a birthmark, that's not what shows. In all those photos, there's not one glimpse of my birthmark. And that's the way my husband sees me.
I always see my birthmark, and I assume that's what other people see, too. I assume the worst. In his loving way, my husband wanted me to know that my vision was skewed.
Did it work? Did I learn to look at myself the way my husband sees me? Well, not completely. I've continued to struggle with this issue, and I'm still wrestling with it. But it helped. And that gesture was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.
What a treat for me to be reminded--a gift gratefully unwrapped this Tuesday with Emily.