catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 24 :: 2010.12.31 — 2011.01.13


A word from Rosie and a cup of tea

“I wish I knew I was beautiful.”  They were odd words from the wrinkled woman with old eyes and creased skin sitting across from me.  Rosie was turning 84 in one week.  “You know, back in the day, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a knock-out.  I had smooth skin, full hair, a good, strong body.  I was just beautiful.  I look back at those pictures and think, ‘Rosie, you are beautiful,’ and why didn’t I know it?  Instead I was always thinking I didn’t look good enough.  You know, my hair wasn’t right, I was too fat, my smile was crooked.  But I looked good. I really was beautiful.”  She put a sun-spotted hand to her face, over her mouth, then laughed.  “It’s these things you wish you realized.”

I wonder: how many moments, minutes, days, even weeks, of 2010 did I spend criticizing that which seemed less than perched on perfection?  How many times did I allow myself to judge first so I could feel more comfortable with neat labels?   There are more times than I’m wiling to admit or even realize when, most often by default, I jumped into the what-should-be’s, the what-if’s, rather than the what-is. 

I make myself a cup of tea.  The side of the box reads, “Steep bag for five minutes or more until desired strength.”  Steeping, according to Webster, is “to let infuse, to saturate in order to extract a liquid form, or have a lot of a particular quality.”   Lowering the bag into the steaming water, I let the bag sit at the bottom of the mug.  It is not percolating, grinding, or stirring; it is simply steeping. 

Instead of resolving in the new year to do better, to be more efficient or effective, perhaps my resolve needs to be more of an “unsolve.”  I wonder if it’s a lot less about critiquing or judging than I’ve thought; that it’s not about earning worthiness or trying harder or outperforming, a sentiment conceived on New Year’s Day when the year presents itself, fresh and unwritten.  It might be more about letting the moment unfold, about being present to it and cultivating the eyes to see the “now.”  Maybe it’s about just sitting in this exact moment.  This minute. This very second.  This week.  This year. 

After having my cup of tea, I download our family photos into our computer files.  Initially, I cringe.  Really?   Did my hair really look like that?  I keep browsing through the photos on autopilot.  Why is my kid’s hair is sticking up like an electrified cactus?  Why did I wear that unsightly nursing bra under my black sweater?  So bad — my other kid is covered in squash puree.  Sheesh.  Then I think of Rosie.  Wow, it’s so ingrained, so deeply programmed to go automatically to that place of judgment. 

Today, in this moment, I will don my Rosie-colored glasses and be aware of my beauty.   I will appreciate my strong, capable body rather than see its post-baby souvenirs.  I will be present to my body, to my life, to the mundane, even.  I want to see the now in making tea, in washing yet another Tupperware container, in scraping another cemented cheese blob off the kitchen floor.  I look at another photo: one kid crying, the other one refusing to look at the camera, me adjusting the pervasive bra strap, the Christmas tree wilted and weary.  “What a great picture,” I say, “There we are.”

I will allow an unfolding to a life that is already here.  And I will, with grace, steep until desired strength.  Now.

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