RA Can be Beautiful!

RA CAN be beautiful!

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

― Confucius

This quote has so many nuances that apply to our journey with RA....first of all, as cliche as it sounds, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am not sure I ever truly embraced this concept until the last few years. I like to think I have always understood its meaning and believed it was true...but...RA and aging and the wisdom that has come with both have certainly driven home the truth of this statement.

Perhaps this new found appreciation comes from some recent experiences that have sharpened my understanding. I recently had eye surgery and had to go without my makeup for nearly a week. Now I know this may sound trivial but bear with me here. It will all make sense. As a result of this need to go without make-up I assumed I would feel ugly and not want to go out of my house and that somehow I would not be "me" until I could wear it again. At one point during this time, my wonderful husband said to me "I am getting used to you without all of the eye make-up and it looks kind of nice". Frankly, I was stunned since I thought that he would think I looked unattractive without my usual mascara and eye shadow and eye liner.

I have worn make-up since junior high school. I even had make-up on for all three of the deliveries of my sons! I would not go out without make-up unless I had absolutely no choice - translation - never! That said since the eye surgery I have to put 3 different eye drops in 4 times a day so that can really wreck havoc on eye make-up!

Add to that the need to still work and go out into the world and I had no choice but to bite the proverbial bullet and venture out sans eye make-up. Well, to be honest it was somewhat liberating...now not to the extent that I will no longer wear eye make-up but maybe I will be less obsessive about it in the future. My point about this specific situation is it gave me pause as to my own perception of what my own "beauty" meant. Is it tied that completely to my own outward appearance and my very specific ideas or is there room for differences in how my beauty manifests? If I am not at XXX lbs. does that make me unattractive? and to whom? If my hands have become distorted from the ravages of RA does that make them abhorrent to others?

Why do we not see these as badges of a well fought battle to be admired? WOW, I suddenly realized that these definitions of beauty are self imposed sometimes and that is something maybe I can control.

A much tougher nut to crack are the notions that society has imposed on us as to what constitutes beauty. A quick look at the magazines on the newsstands will give you a good overview of what our society thinks is beautiful today and it is not only nearly impossible to achieve but I believe it is shallow and sad. In fact, I think we often equate beauty with being a kinder, "better" person. As Tolstoy put it, "It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness". Instead of appreciating the amazing and unique look that each of us brings to this world we have decided that there are certain things necessary to be considered beautiful...1) be as skinny as is humanly possible whether it is healthy, attractive, achievable or not. 2) follow the fashion trends set forth for this same population of overly thin people whether you look good in those clothes or not. 3) do nothing that makes you look unique or individual as fitting in and following the standards of beauty is the only way to be considered attractive.

The end result of this is a population of people who are constantly striving for some random idea of beauty that has no basis in reality and no respect for the individual differences we all have. We need to cherish those differences not demean them. Is this easy? Absolutely not! We have all been programmed to perceive beauty in a very defined way....

...and yet if we truly embrace the notion of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" we will "see" beauty in all its many forms. That said, the effects of RA and other diseases that change our body in ways that may not be conventionally attractive could actually be seen as beautiful in that they represent the will and strength and management required to cope with RA. If, as a society, we can learn - and it does take learning - to truly appreciate what is beautiful we would surely have a much more lovely, diverse, joyous life experience.

And above all, look to the inner soul as Ms. Hepburn suggested to find the true beauty that we each possess.
I have discovered that I now smile when I see someone who may not follow conventional standards of beauty but who walks with confidence and self-assuredness in who they are. That is truly beautiful to me...and something I strive to achieve as I journey through life.

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