the twenty-fifth question

Do you have any insights on how you could help younger versions of you? — ERW

I’ve felt as though all of the less attractive physical and personality traits my parents possess were bestowed upon me — my father’s teeth, his fair skin, the prominent angle of my chin, my mother’s sunspots, the thinness of her hair, the longness of her face…I could go on and on.
I used to stare at my reflection and study it like I would a composition I had to draw for an art class or a piece of literature I had to analyze for a report. Like my peers would. If there was a flaw to be found, I would hone in on it in seconds.
What I should’ve considered is that I was created out of love. My parents have been married for forty-seven years next month. They met in high school. My mother was the valedictorian of her class. My father was a musician. I got intelligence and artistic talent from them. I got compassion and generosity. I got loyalty and love. I got my father’s curly hair, eye color, hair color and bone structure. I got my mother’s height, her laugh, the brightness of her smile. One of’m gave me freckles. I love my freckles.
There’s a book called Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams which I had read years before, in the same semester during which I’d written the inquisition essays. I wish I had it here today so that I could quote the passage for you rather than summing it up. I’d been sitting in a T.G.I. Fridays restaurant in San Antonio, reading for my classes. When I’d read this, I was so struck by it, so affected that I had to hurry to the restrooms to hide and recollect myself. The author, at a young age, was teased by her peers for the color of her hair. She came home one afternoon upset because of the ridicule she’d endured. Mother dragged daughter into the bathroom, sat her down on a stool and made her face her reflection. Then the mother said that she saw a beautiful little girl and instructed her daughter to stay there until she saw her, too.
My mother told me often that if I’d focused more on my studies and my talents rather than on what I lacked, I would’ve felt better about myself.
What I think now is that it’s an insult to my parents to say that I got the less attractive pieces of them, to think of myself as ugly. That’s like saying love is ugly, that their love is ugly. I should’ve thought of the grand insult I’d given them by thinking that way. I should’ve thought of the beauty of the love and passion they’d felt for each other when they made me. I should’ve thought of the luck and the miracle that I was, that I am. I’d chosen instead to marvel at how two beautiful people could create something so flawed. I should’ve thought of how happy they were to have a little girl. I should’ve focused on my gifts. Should’ve forced myself to stare at my reflection until I saw what my mother saw.
I am a griffin — a magical, mystical, marvelous creature. I should’ve thought of that.
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