Pain is what does it, I feel. Pain or growth through pain, that’s what develops it. Maybe there is a tipping point of the scale, when too much pain, too much loss, too much fear, starts to rip at a person’s sanity and leave them as shadows, ghosts. But for the most part, pain drives it out of us. The ‘it’ I am referring to here, is Beauty. Which may seem a bit odd, but it is something I have thought for a long time now.
To be pretty, for me, is to have a cuteness of face, a quirk of character, a manner or trait that indicates adorableness. That’s where pretty comes in. Attractive is deeper, much deeper, far more linked to the soul of a person than their outward appearance. To be attractive, desirable, comes from strength of character, and it is wholly relative to the individual. Sexy is much the same, but maybe a combination of attractive and pretty. But Beauty, Beauty is something else entirely.
At times of great pain, of great cost, I feel pain fire through me. It focuses the eyes, straightens the posture, and makes the hands and mind move more in tangent with each other. That is when I look in the mirror and see a glimpse of Beauty within myself which is no way linked to my appearance or my personality. I look into my eyes and see something immeasurable. Age, experience, understanding, knowing, is all encompassed in those eyes, and in that moment I see the Beauty within myself. Much as when I look into the eyes of another, when they are in the up current of pain and suffering, and their eyes tell the same story. When I’m looking into the eyes of a loved one and I see that Beauty, I feel my heart break for them as surely as it does for me.
It’s in the moments after the crying, the sobbing, the snot and the mess, the begging, the pleading, the anger, the clawing, the indignity and helplessness. All these torrents of emotion that come powering through, unchecked, as the walls of your world, my world, their world, come crashing down and in that moment you have no fixed place, you are not safe. Grief destroys our carefully constructed worlds, the ones we create in our minds to build a home upon which our sanity and happiness can rely. When this is taken from you, or part of it is, the foundations are rocked, and the existing structure shattered. You have to rebuild, but that process takes time.
For some, they never rebuild, they drift further and further into madness, or at least denial. Lying to yourself will not get you through the day. If you rebuild your world on lies, their weak foundations will rumble, never secure. The pain will seep back in those moments when you’re lying in bed, in the seconds before you fall asleep, when your breath catches and you feel a cold dread fill your heart. It will flip your sanity off the track when you consume anything that alters your mental state. The demons will creep up your back and sink their teeth deep into your neck and you’ll grasp and grab for purchase and find the lies as slippery and insubstantial as air. You need truth. Hard, solid, painful truths to hold onto, to build your new world on.
The process of re-building begins with the smallest of truths. The tiniest of realities. Concentrate on the minutes. Focus on the little things, making a cup of tea, having a shower, getting through. The rest will follow. If you can start your new foundations on truth and face the fact that you have lost part of yourself that you will never regain, you will develop a new world. A world irrevocably altered but still a world, your world.
For me, Beauty is strength. Beauty is looking into the belly of the beast, the heart of darkness, the pain within you, and carrying on regardless. Setting your shoulders back and your head upright, even if what is ahead is further darkness. Setting yourself and your strength of will against the unknown and making it known. This is a trait I see in the people I love dearly. The people who take the blows, and they break, they fall down, they bleed. But underneath all of the layers of personality and responsibility and reliance on relationships, when all that is stripped away, what remains, what comes thundering forwards, is their Beauty. The core of them, which is irrefutable and cannot be displaced or taken, only developed.
I have no time for people who refuse to fix themselves. Who refuse to look at the truth and cling to the lies. If you look at the people I love, truly love, you will see that whatever their surface personalities, whatever the intricacies of my relationships with them, they will have been tested at some point, if not at many points. They will have reached a cross roads where they could have clung to the lies or faced the truth, and in that choice they allowed their true Beauty to shine through. When I see that in someone, it makes me love them. Down the other road lies destruction of self.
I look at the people who chose to re-build their lives on lies. Who turned from the terrible truth and tried to pave over the healing. Using the tattered remains of what came before and attempting to stitch them back together into something which resembles the world they knew. The terror of facing the truth is what prevents them from allowing themselves to fall, prevents them from allowing the walls to come tumbling down because the mortar that held the pivotal parts in place has gone. Truth cares not for fairness, equality, karma or love. Reality does not care how much you have faced before or how much you have yet to face, it just is. If you can face that, understand that, then the battle is half won. The people who tell themselves lies, to me, erode their Beauty, if there was any there to begin with. They become Ugly. Their eyes do not carry that knowing, that powerful sense of knowing what the world is truly like and still rebuilding after each hit.
Part of what makes the Beauty so complete is that these people do not let the world outside destroy their belief in their own world. They fall in love, they fight, they believe. And that means everything. I love my friends because they see the truth and still want to be here. They believe in other people, more importantly they believe in themselves, and that is Beauty to me.
Your darkest fears, I would imagine, are probably not even known to you. At least that is how it is with me. You do not know what will break you until it happens. This, I think, is because the thought is so terrifying, so fundamental to your world and your happiness that you cannot even conceive of it. I have faced one of my worst fears recently. I’m not going to share with you what it is. Put it down to a lady wishing to retain her mystique. Or you could put it down to the truth, which is that my fear is too personal, too powerful for me to share with you. Also, my fear is relative to me. The emphasis of what I am trying to say is that what is perceived to be a deadly fear to me will probably be nothing to you. So for me to try and explain it would add nothing to my argument.
But I will say that you will know when it happens. And when you’re tested, what will you do? I tried to run initially, to hide, but then it comes down to choice. I am stronger than that, better than that, so I chose to face it. To deal with the truth. To allow the pain in. And in that pain you see you true self. Understanding, growth, if they were easy concepts we would be living in a very different world.
The people I love have that Beauty within them. They have faced their demons and chosen to fight on. So many different people, with their strength in common. I would fight for them without even thinking, without even thinking. Because they are the people who will fight for themselves. They deserve my support, my strength, my love. The common denominator here is that these people have been tested, and they have not been found wanting, they have been found to be exceptional.
Everybody breaks down, everybody hits their lowest ebb, delves into self pity. It’s what comes next that makes them. If you get out of bed when you have lost everything, then fuck the world. Seriously. Life will never be fair, or just, or right. It will always catch you when you are on your knees and feel as though you can take no more and push you down even harder. I understand that, I accept that, and I am adamant that I will go on being me regardless. It is not easy, but if you are willing to persevere people will invest in you. They will help you make it more bearable for you. My friends are Beautiful. I am Beautiful. And pain gave us that Beauty, it made us realise it. We grew through pain. We go out each day and refuse to be anyone but ourselves, rightly or wrongly, it does not matter. Every day we wake up, we choose love, we choose life, and we try and make things better for ourselves and our loved ones despite the world around us... In spite of not because of... And that makes us truly Beautiful in my eyes.
The words that inspired my thoughts...
‘Maybe, he thought, there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for, too, if that’s what it has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.’
Stephen King: IT: 972
‘All Beautiful you are My Love, there is no flaw in you.’
Song of Solomon 4:7
“Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons. No friends. No hope. Take all of that away and what’s left?”
Buffy: Becoming Part 2
‘The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at four pm on some idle Tuesday.’
Baz Lurman: Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)