Is it ever too late to follow your dreams? What was your first dream for yourself? I’ve been surprising my middle-aged mummy self with a whole new way of thinking. And you know what? Going back in time to find that thing you used to love, it’s not a bad strategy.
When I was a little girl, I longed to be beautiful. I would watch my mum applying her lippy in a deft swoop, selecting her necklaces to match her long seventies skirts. She would walk from her bedroom into the living room, leaving wafts of her perfume in her wake. And I would just gaze behind her at the beauty, longing to be that beautiful, that tall, that elegant. Sometimes, for brief moments in my games, I would stare at myself in the mirror and glimpse a beautiful girl, but she always disappeared under the weight of my criticisms. Those moles. That slightly inward eye. Ugh.
Being tall happened. And for a brief period in my teens, complimentary people would look up at me and say “You should be a model”. Once I was actually asked to do some modelling, but I was 12, and although already 182cm tall, my parents wisely thought I was too young. And I didn’t really believe I could do it anyway. I had seen the models in Vogue magazine. They had that unattainable elegance of my Mum, a something else. Something special. I was just ordinary, and my bumpy bits were getting bigger every day.
As I grew older and became a Mum myself, the idea of true beauty began to dawn on me. I began to see that everyone has their own beauty. To see just how breathtaking that can be when you take time to notice. How kindness makes eyes so warm, how gratitude lights up a face. I noticed that some of the most beautiful people didn’t have conventional beauty at all, but something far more intrinsic. A kind of soul beauty. I noticed, that people with that soul beauty had usually weathered storms. And that there was a graciousness there. A different kind of special something.
Age has brought me more confidence. When I turned forty I felt something quite fundamental shift in my thinking about myself. I began to whisper to myself in the mirror, little compliments. Little gifts from my soul to my reflection. Look at you! You’re doing alright girl! You look great today. I had expected the opposite, I’d thought reaching forty would make me feel awful about myself. But I’ve come a long long way from the girl I used to be. I’ve spent the last six years struggling under the weight (literal and figurative) of a chronic neurological illness. Six long years of barely managing life, motherhood, relationships, a career. So much of that time, in bed, looking at the world outside my window and grieving for the life I was missing. Managing my health has been a herculean task.
Then half way through this year of being forty, I embarked on a new medication. Not just my body felt better, I did too. And, did I dislike the forty year old, fatter body I have emerged with? No. I am so grateful that it can do things. Ordinary, wonderful things. The grocery shopping, standing on the sidelines. Driving. So what if I don’t look like the other women at school pick up (maybe I look like the ones hiding in their cars). So what if I don’t look like the women in Vogue! I look like me, still tall, kind of bumptious and a little rumpled, but me. The person I am is someone I can hold my head up about. And as un-kiwi as it is to have a robust self esteem, that is what I am aiming for. Is that an unattainable dream? To feel good in my own skin, in this body, just as I am?
I’ve always hidden in the back of group shots, (please, don’t show my body!). I’ve sat at the beach fully clothed while the family enjoy the water. I’ve swathed my fuller figure in tent-like tunics and voluminous dresses and kept my head down. I’ve slouched my way into anonymity, skirting the edges of gatherings and longing for the privacy of home. That place where I can let my tummy relax out into it’s normal contours and get back into my fluffy slippers. Yet comfort and solitude isn’t always my friend. There is a loneliness to letting your self hide away.
Then one day recently, a dear friend of ours asked me if she could take some pictures of me, for practise. She’s a photographer and she is always trying out new lenses and techniques. I agreed, and although it didn’t feel normal, I knew that if I want robust self esteem, I needed to take a deep breath and let her click away. It’s nice to have a photographer you trust. I was so surprised by the woman I saw in the photos. She looked like someone I would like to be friends with. So that is what I decided to do. To offer myself and my body the kind of warm acceptance I would offer a friend; the support, confidence and belief, that I should have in someone who has been my constant companion, my champion, my reason for trying, my vessel of life. My body, she met my soul. There were tears. We’ve been besties ever since.
And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.‘
I don’t physically look any different to how I looked before I became friends with my body, but people tell me I do. In a moment of soul/body belief, I got brave and entered my mugshot into a competition for the plus size clothing brand, Autograph. They were running a Model Search for curvy girls. And something ridiculously wonderful happened. I was contacted by Vivien’s, a modelling agency in Sydney. They sent me to 62Models, an agency here in Auckland. I had my photos taken and a video and all of that was sent back to Australia for the comp. But then something really remarkable happened. Both agencies asked to sign me, regardless of the competition (although I can’t start with them until the competition has run). Me! Forty and fatter than I have ever been. I giggled at first. Me?! That is hilarious but oh so fabulous! It only seemed real when the contract arrived. A modelling contract. Far out brussel sprout. This old girl’s gonna be a model!
Can you imagine what other things we could do if we held hands with ourselves and took a step out of the world of wishing? We know we are powerful. We know we have things to do. But we hold ourselves back not believing that we could ever be that person we always wanted to be. We think that all the things that have happened to us have brought us down. But look again at that girl in the mirror. All those hardships have changed who she is inside, but not in the way you think. She’s still there; she’s breathtaking. She’s holding out her hand and waiting for you to be her friend. Waiting to do the rest of your lives together. Be kind. Be brave. Be whoever you want to be.
Be everything you know you’ve always been.
(PS I had my first real modelling job this week!!)