Recently, I found myself rushing into the neighborhood grocery store. It's a bit pricey, but their good selection of prepared foods drew me in. After a long day, I was feeling rushed, harried and put out because I didn't feel like cooking and I was selecting dinner for my dad, who lives with us. This is a nightly ritual -- having to figure out what to feed my dad for his demanded full, square dinner, when I am usually content with any old light bite I can scrape up. On some days, that obligation is like a lead weight.
My makeup well worn off, blonde hair needing a trim and looking a bit mussed, I was feeling as un-glamorous as one could feel.
Although my husband always tells me he prefers my natural beauty without makeup, I don't really believe him. Exception: when we are on the beach during the summer at our retreat. Then I am an au-naturale beach bunny without a makeup care, or any other care, for that matter. Who wouldn't feel good in that carefree and unstressed state of being?
And then, a nice gentleman in the prepared food aisle, waiting with me for our turns, struck up a conversation. I must say that living in Houston, this is a common occurrence and one that my father, who just moved here a year ago enjoys most -- the friendliness and kindness of strangers who strike up conversations out of the blue. (Side Note: 34 years ago, when I first moved here, I found this disconcerting to the point of creepy, but after I shed my tough East Coast persona, I rather enjoyed it.)
This unknown man must have been 10 years younger, at least, and well-dressed.
I explained that I was picking up food, as it is my daily obligation to feed my 88-year-old dad a full meal because he lives with me, and he likes dinner to be his main meal of the day.
The man looked into my possibly bloodshot, weary eyes, and said out of the blue, "Well then, you are as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside."
I was taken aback. I was feeling anything but beautiful at that particular moment, and thinking just a few days ago after looking at recent photos that I was really looking closer to my actual age -- or maybe just a bit tired or haggard lately from my over-busy, over-programmed and compartmentalized life.
He saw the shock register in my eyes as they widened, and reassured me again. "Yes, I said beautiful. You are a beautiful woman."
Now, this man was wearing a wedding ring, as I was, and I do not think this was a pick-up attempt. There was no flirtation involved. Just absolute kindness.
As a woman past her prime and in the outer edges of middle age, this is a compliment that doesn't come very often any more in a random, errand-running situation. Sure, at dress up occasions I might hear it, but everyone looks beautiful at those events.
Beauty is fleeting, even for those of us who are genetically blessed. We age, we change. Shouldn't the notion of beauty, therefore, be more of a state of mind? Shouldn't we all feel beautiful every day if our souls are beautiful? Shouldn't I feel as au naturale beautiful every day of my regular harried life, as I do when I am on the beach?
So, it was just a random stranger bringing home that point to me and also making my day. The idea that beauty comes from within the soul gave me an unexpected lift, a lightness, that uplifted my weary person. This was from a southern gentleman who also let me go ahead of him in the waiting line for prepared food. Thank you Mister Anonymous for this unexpected gift.
I'll try to carry that idea forward and feel my inner beauty every day from now on. No matter what I think the mirror or camera might say, I can feel good. Because really, what is emanating from within is all that really counts.
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