Whenever I see selfies, I wonder what I’m really looking at. Generally, I think selfies show only what we deem suitable for others to see – the good lighting that doesn’t highlight the lines on our faces, the just-so angle that erases double chins, hair and make-up flawless, striking scenery a backdrop to this perfect image we’re creating.
I’m guilty, too.
I took this particular selfie last week while my guy and I were traveling in Panama. It’s a couple days before my 49th birthday, and I wondered what people would see or think when I posted it. I wondered at the truth of my photo. This photo makes me feel prickly and uneasy, so I sat on it for awhile, thinking about it off and on in idle moments. I had to decide for myself what the truth of this photo is before sharing it.
Yes, I did take 63 (or maybe one zillion) photos before I captured one that wiped out my lines and double chin. In this photo, my hair is frizzy, crunchy, dirty, and uncooperative thanks to high Panamanian humidity.
Because of the language barrier - and laziness on my part - my celiac self was glutened over and over again, making my face washed-out and puffy and my belly bloat until I appeared several months pregnant. On this day, I’m pretty sure I weigh the most I ever have in my life, and I feel terrible about it, about me. I’ve realized in the last several months that time has taken over my body in ways I don’t care for.
In this photo, I’m anxious, though I don’t remember why, except that sometimes when I’ve been glutened anxiety bears down on me. I didn’t sleep well the night before, either. I know that I am both physically and existentially uncomfortable in this picture.
But here’s more and different truth about this photo, about me. My husband is in the room with me, and there’s no one else on the planet I’d rather see the world with. And he’s polite enough to not comment on my weight or big vacation hair, and tells me I’m smart and beautiful.
My son lives across the country from me, but I know that he will remember it’s my birthday in a few days and video chat with me – and he doesn’t usually video chat, but he knows that I like to see his face now and then so he’ll oblige on my birthday.
I know that my dad just survived an unexpected triple bypass surgery and is on the mend, and that he set an example of positivity and feistiness that I will not ever forget – and that my mom took excellent care of him, thereby raising an already high bar for relationship goals. My dad will leave me a voicemail on my birthday, and my mom, who once resisted technology to her core, will write me a Facebook message. And when I get home, my husband, step son, sister, niece, and parents will gather for a celebration.
The truth of this photo is that I’m also on vacation with two of my best friends in the world, and that in a couple days I will receive too many messages to count from other friends from across the globe sending me love and good wishes for another trip around the sun.
Work awaits me, too. And its work that speaks to my truest nature, and it’s work that I get to decide and design. It’s work that pervades all of my life in the best possible way. While my path isn’t always clear, and that sometimes shakes me, I know it’s my path to forge. I no longer work for the man.
In this picture, it’s true that I miss my puppies so much that it’s possible I will only ever travel again if I can bring them with me.
The truth of this photo is that I’m filled with love and longing. It’s also true that I am loved and that those longings are all mine for the taking. That’s some pretty good truth for a girl going into her 50th year. So while my selfie and my state of being and my words aren’t perfection, they are my truth.
And that’s a helluva of a gift, birthday or not.