Often times, retreat signifies defeat in battle or the act of moving back or withdrawing. How can that be good? Where is the beauty in it? It’s admitting failure and running away with your tail tucked between your legs, well by my understanding. But during my recovery from oral surgery (which was quite traumatic) these last few weeks, I struggled immensely to pick back my routine up of writing every day, posting a few times a week. An internal battle raged within me, my inner critical voice loudly proclaiming victory as I preferred to recuperate rather than half *** some writing just for the sake of writing. Admittedly the times I tried, I didn’t feel the familiar rush of sensation normally felt when I sat to write. Dry spell? Lack of inspiration? A trip to the dreaded land of writer’s block? For days, I had not a one inkling of an answer. For weeks, I’ve gotten back into full swing at my day job yet unable to find the courage to clock into my real passions after hours. My inner critic continued to scold and mock me, whispering how worthless and phony of a creative being I am. My dreams, colorless, haunted me because they provided no inspirational outlet. My thoughts, empty and focused mostly on the pain in my mouth and on the right side of my face, frightened and confused me. I threw many questions before God (and myself) at odd hours when pain would jolt and awaken me. Was what I labeled as passion really just a need to perform, to please? I obsessed over every single detail. As a writer, obsessing over minor details can be beneficial but in real life, this can be downright detrimental. Obsession of every single detail can led to compulsion which can in turn lead to a torturous thought life. Again, all which kinda sorta assist me when I’m creating stories and characters (maybe those are my real muses) but can lead to a life of pure insanity. One night, I realized my need to control was in cahoots with detail obsession AND that I was unnecessarily carrying this ginormous load on my tiny little shoulders. It was in that moment, I made the decision to retreat. Not in the way of the more common meaning but to surrender my obsession and control issues about my writing career to God. To trust the process, this beautiful, confusing-at-times, wonderful, satisfying path I am currently walking on. That I will reach my destination as long as I continue to do my part and leave the detail obsession and need to control in the hands of the Creator (higher power, Universe, etc). Exhale. Let go. And that is where I found the beauty in retreat.
Looking into the mirror has challenged many a women throughout history. Even the strongest of feminists will admit, they too, sometimes cringe at the reflection staring back at them. Women are programmed, from a very young age, to sacrifice all for beauty, that it is everything. The standard of beauty in our country creates an illusion of perfection. Perfect hair. Perfect Makeup. Perfect Life. The constant influx of perfection is plastered on magazines, billboards, and social media every single day creating an unconscious desire to be perfect. There are thousands of step-by-step instructional tutorials across the world wide web illustrating, in real time, the hows, the whys, and ways to achieve such a staggering faux persona. Women spend billions each year on cosmetic surgery and expensive clothing with the hope of reaching that unreachable end of the rainbow called perfection. Celebrities are idolized and reality “stars” given an audience and platform that impacts and influences the ideal of perfection. We look at ourselves in the mirror and instead of just loving and accepting what is seen, we judge. Harshly. Pick apart each detail that doesn’t quite measure up to the standard of beauty smeared across phone and computer screens every second of every day. We nip, tuck, pull, push, stuff, slither our way into uncomfortable clothing. We purchase shoes with red bottoms and brag about it on social media. We beat our faces “for the gawds” and insert Rapunzel length hair onto our heads. Thus creating the perception of perfection. And we are never satisfied. If we get a compliment tossed in our direction, instead of graciously accepting it, we secretly want more because our desire is for great. If great becomes the word, we still want more, we want fabulous. If we get fabulous, we want fierce. Attempting to pacify a longing, a hunger within, we dress the outside package up and tie a pretty ribbon around it. Ignoring the constant barrage of inaquadecy and self -hatred that burns through the tissue of the soul. Leading to a slow and painful annulation of that which is precious and pure. This is what happens when another’s perception or definition of yourself is allowed to trump what you know to be true. Flawless on the outside but broken on the inside. I have a natural inclination towards French culture, particularly Parisian women. J’adore the rhythm of life in the “City of Light”, the innovative fashion and style, the ancient architecture. But my real obsession is with Parisian women. Why? Because they’ve managed, in the times we live in, to remain unmoved by the idea of perfectionism, the standard of beauty. Parisian women have mastered the art of acceptance. A crooked nose, bad skin, a mouth slightly askew, all of it is beautiful! Acceptance is the standard of beauty. Effortlessly chic is the wardrobe of choice because Parisian women understand it matters not who you are wearing or even what you choose to adorn yourself in. There is no external standard of beauty to a Parisian woman because she is the standard of beauty. Herself. Her life. Not some 5’10 ultra slim photo enhanced beauty on the latest cover of a magazine. Her perception is based on what she knows to be true about herself and how she’s grown to love herself. She has that extra unspoken something, the illusive je ne sais quoi that is non threatening to other women and is a radiant life force. She isn’t self centered or approval seeking. She is simply herself, imperfectly perfect in her own skin.
Are you ready? To be no longer a prisoner of perfection but a free being? Yes? The key isn’t tucked away, hidden from you, it is right where its been the entire time…in your hand.