Wednesday, April 25, 2012

what minnie taught me about becoming real.

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn't happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


I have this stuffed Minnie Mouse I've owned and loved since my very first Christmas back in 1986. She was a gift from a friend of my mother's, and I'm fairly certain she was never intended to be one of those lifelong, keepsake baby dolls that never leave your side. She's not very pretty (not then, and not anymore), but for some reason, I loved her. Minnie accompanied me to bed every night of my life, until the night of November 22, 2008, when I went to bed with my husband, who kindly suggested Minnie reside in the top of our closet. (She's allowed out of her hiding place when Jordan travels out of town.)

Minnie traveled with me to my college dorm room in Alabama and my bunk bed in Florence, Italy. I have strapped her to the side of my carry on suitcase, much to the chagrin of multiple travel companions. Once, when I left town with friends and discovered I'd left Minnie behind, we wound up whipping the car around to ensure Minnie would be in my arms safe and sound that evening.

Perhaps Minnie is the reason I have always loved the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. I tear up a little every time I read that story, because I know what it means. Minnie is old and dryrotting. Her stuffing is popping out of her legs, and the black paint has worn from her eyes. My grandmother graciously sewed her a new bib to replace the old, ripped one that I gently put in a plastic bag and stuck in my cedar chest. (I am, deep down, a sentimental fool.)

And yes, even though Minnie now makes her residence in the top of a bedroom closet, stuck behind a hat box, I love her. I love what she meant to my childhood, love how she managed to fit right in the crook of my arm, her head on one side of my elbow, her body on the other.

She was perfect. Bless her, she was ugly... But she was perfect.

When I think about Minnie, and when I look back to the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, I realize what those childhood lessons really mean.

I am real. I am not photoshopped or air brushed. My hair is not done every morning by a team of specialists or artists; I do not even own hairspray. My makeup is done in about 10 minutes by my own hands, hands that are careful, but still shake and make mistakes and choose the wrong colors. I smile and laugh a lot, which apparently means I will one day have tiny wrinkles develop around my eyes and lips. I pick out my own clothes every morning, most of which were bought on sale at Target or the Gap. My home is not perfectly decorated, nor is it perfectly clean. There are messes, and there is clutter. I take care of my home and  myself the best ways I can, but much of the time, I fail. I don't always eat right or exercise right or act right.

I am not an actress or a cover girl or a super model or (are you ready for this?) a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am real.

I've never struggled too much with my personal appearance. I've always been confident in who I am, not so much because I think I am beautiful, but because I like my smile. I like -- most days -- who I am. I know WHOSE I am. The rest, thankfully, never mattered too much to me.

That's changed just a bit in the past few weeks, mostly because I am 26 and have acne, and I really don't think it's fair. I don't understand why I didn't just endure acne along with puberty, like everybody else. I'm not sure why this year, of all the years, my face and body decided to rebel a bit. It's been a painful few weeks, and I'm sure to some (to most?) it seems silly, even absurd. To me, though, it has been a very big deal, and it's that story of the Velveteen Rabbit that I have to thank for bringing me back to reality.

Sure, I have acne. But everybody has some version of acne. What I mean is, some people are overweight. Some have bad haircuts. Others have cankles or monobrows or bruises or wrinkles or scars. Everybody's got their something.

And while it sometimes helps to remember that we're all beautiful in God's eyes, I'm discovering it's actually helping me to just accept that I'm real.

Yes, I like feeling pretty and beautiful. I appreciate a husband who tells me so.

But I'm beginning to understand that it's more important to feel real. It's important to understand that if it's not acne, it's going to be something else. There will always be something else. There will be scars and wrinkles and stretch marks.

Evidence, I believe, of a life really lived.

I am loved, and I am real. I am not airbrushed or photoshopped into submission.

I am real, and my real-ness makes me special and important and alive.

This acne will go away, if not tomorrow, then maybe next week, or next year, or when I'm 70 and my wrinkles start to take over. The acne will go away, but my body will still fail in all kinds of terrifying ways. It's temporary and imperfect and human.

But my body means I am here. I am alive. I am real.

And it's time for me -- for you, for us -- to not only accept, but to celebrate that beautiful, undeniable, grace-giving fact.

photo by Deb Schwedhelm


Ashley said...

love this.

brie. said...

caring about your face is totally allowed. i never struggled with my skin until the 4 months before my wedding and then nothing worked. and recently i had a skin rash on my face that just wouldn't go away and i agree, it's simply awful.

so i pray that it gets better, and i won't give a single bit of advice about how you'll look back on this one day...or what miracle product worked for me...just that it's ok to feel a little out of sorts about the whole thing.

jenna said...

For one, I see Heaven Is Here is currently on your nightstand. I LOVED it! I didn't take me long to make my way through that one. (Parts of it were very emotional for me, given my current story. Those are moments I had to slow myself down, look away from the pages, and cry my own tears...) So good. Maybe we can have a Skype book club of our own for this one! :)

Secondly, I love reading your posts. They always speak to me. My "realness" is evident these days, not from acne (at least not today) and not from worn out fur, but from a mending, broken heart. Boo. But I would much rather be well worn from loving, even those who don't love me back, than to keep all these forms of loving people at a distance with sharp edges or something! I guess Minnie might remind me that if I am a little tattered and worn in the process, then I must be good at showing some love, and the Velveteen Rabbit might sweetly affirm me as well. :)