I am pleased and honored to again participate in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest hosted at August McLaughlin’s Blog (Please visit August’s site and read all the other submissions). To visit my Beauty of a Woman BlogFest post from last year, click here.
In going through my files on the computer recently I came across a file entitled “Tears of a Woman”. It was a video clip that I found and had saved some time ago because I thought it was so beautiful.
The words that are displayed as the music plays resonates with me; especially the following: “You see my son, the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, nor is it in her face or in the way she does her hair…The beauty of a woman resides in the eyes. It is the door to her heart; the door where love resides.
We are conditioned through magazine photo after magazine photo that beauty needs to be achieved through hair products, clothes, and make-up. It is hard to get through a commercial break on television without seeing an ad for beauty products. I bought into that in high school. I began wearing make-up. My freshman year I had to have the latest hair cut, the Sassoon. Of course the hippie culture was all around us and I began wearing less make-up but never left without blush, mascara, and lip gloss. My clothes weren’t department store fancy but they were my own creations. I had learned to sew in junior high school and a neighbor girl down the street and I would spend hours at the fabric store picking out patterns and trims. Some of the dresses I made were from these patterns (patterns that I can’t have any more but had my husband take pictures of for me).
As I grew older my amount of make-up didn’t change much. I did spend money on lotions and creams for my face and body. I spent money and time getting my hair done (highlighted or colored and cut). When I chose to go back to work, I spent more money on my clothing. My jeans, tees, and sneakers from time spent as a stay-at-home mom wouldn’t be acceptable in the “work world”. I was finding myself (or so I thought) and becoming more of a woman of the world. My hair was done, my clothes were new, I had new shoes, and even started getting manicures (including the infamous gel nails).
Suddenly all that changed! I was exposed to mold in my work place and I began to develop sensitivities to all chemicals. I began to feel ugly as I gave up my contacts for old glasses that I hadn’t worn in years. I gave up coloring my hair and getting it cut because not only could I not tolerate the chemicals in the hair color but I could not tolerate the salon either. I gave up my nice new clothes because they were contaminated with mold and mycotoxins and were making me ill. They were traded in for cotton clothing that could easily be washed. I gave up all my lovely new shoes for a pair of ugly white sneakers. And worst of all, I gave up my identity. Survival meant that if I were to leave my house for the doctor’s office I needed to wear this ugly charcoal mask that hid my face and all expression.
I was sent far away from family and friends to the Environmental Health Center in Dallas for treatment. What I found there surprised me. I was not alone! There were other women like me. These women were wonderful, compassionate, helpful, and supportive. They opened their hearts to me. The women also hid behind masks, sported uncolored and uncut hair, and wore simple clothes. Despite their lack of what the world tells us is beautiful, these women were beautiful to me. These women had gone through similar loss of health, loss of friendships, loss of belongings, and loss of identity. I was not judged by my looks. My unkempt and uncolored hair did not draw strange looks of disapproval. My mask did not draw fear that I was somehow carrying some dreaded disease nor did it draw the looks of sympathy that I had seen in the outside world.
These women were beautiful through their eyes and their hearts that they opened up to me freely and without reservation. Their beauty was in the kindness and compassion that comes deep from within. I have found this kind of friendship and compassion through this blog as well. It has come from women who know this struggle and from women who do not share my struggles but have reached out and touched me through their kind spirit.
Again, I dedicate this to all those women who have struggled to keep going and who have been forced to give up what society feels is beautiful. For all those women who have struggled, been forced to give up their identity through their clothes and cosmetics, and dealt with the pain of chronic illness (both the visible and the invisible), I say to you: “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL TO ME!” This blog is dedicated to you. May your spirit continue to show through those lovely eyes of yours and pour from your beautiful hearts.
Pingback: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III: Original Edition | August McLaughlin's Blog
I have chills, Kathryn! What a truly beautiful story and testament you are. I don’t have to see or meet you in person (as sweet as that would be!) to see your striking loveliness. Thank you for participating in the fest!
Thank you kindly August. I am working my way through the blog posts and loving every minute of it.
What a beautiful story and beautiful quotes too.
Thank you Catherine.
Incredible post. Thank you for sharing Kathryn and for reminding us that beauty is within. Your courage to rise up through this experience is what true beauty is. 🙂
Ingrid – thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my blog post and for your kind words.
A friend of mine used to read magazines every day on her break at work and later noticed how she’d become so self-critical and unhappy. She gave up that one habit and found it lifted a weight from her shoulders like she couldn’t believe. Those Photo-Shopped images can be so toxic.
I’m glad you found a group of supportive women to help you deal with your circumstances. Thanks for sharing your joy with us here!
Katy – Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog post. I am fortunate to have some amazing friends. Those magazines do not do any favors to women and especially to our young girls.
For me, it was hair loss. So much of it is gone now, I wear wigs – afraid to just shave what’s left and be seen completely bald.
Beautiful post. Thank you.
Bless you! I have a friend that is suffering from some scalp condition that is causing hair loss. The alternative was a medication that could damage her liver or cause blindness. She has opted to just deal with it head on. I know it can’t be easy for either one of you. You have my full support.
A moving post, Kathryn. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read it.
Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing so much of yourself with the world here on your blog. I have a close friend who has gone through something similar, also caused by a ‘sick’ work building. She never let it stop her from living. My hat is off to both of you!!
Thank you Kassandra for stopping by. I am sorry to hear of your friend’s experience with a sick building.
I’m looking at that picture above, Kathryn, and I think you’re gorgeous. I’m glad you’ve come to see yourself that way too. 🙂
Thank you so very much Jenny.
Thanks for sharing your story Kathryn. I admire you very much for your bravery!! You’re a very special person!!
Thank you Raani. I appreciate your words.
What a courageous share! Like August, I had chills. I’m so happy to hear the way you reclaimed yourself. You’re right. True, lasting beauty has nothing to do with appearance. In fact, you can be physically gorgeous and be rotten to the core. As people know you, it impacts their vision of who you are. You will always be beautiful.
Kitt – Thank you for stopping by and thank you for the compliment.
Very uplifiting. It always saddens me when I see photographs where celebrities have been “caught” without their makeup. The articles make it seem like these woman should have stayed home and hidden away — when they are truly beautiful. 😀 Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post.
Thank you Colleen. It upsets me as well when the tabloids make a big issue of these celebrities have no right to be just themselves.
Kathryn, I read this post and your courage is beautiful. I’m praying for healing for you as I have seen miracles. I agree that society forces this perfect image of beauty that is false. Some of the most beautiful people are chronically ill and they face it with courage and faith.
Suze – Thank you for such a wonderful comment. I truly believe in prayers.
Thank you for sharing the video and your story. And yes, I cried when I watched it. Only recently have I begun to open up to tears whenever they come–it is liberating, and sometimes the only way to bear the weight of the world.
I became very unemotional for a long time. Tears are liberating as is writing.
Kathryn – What a moving post. I’m so sorry you were exposed to mold and how it affected your life. What a brave woman you are and truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I wish you the best in all you do.
Lynn – Thank you so much. My goal is to raise awareness of what mold can do and what it is like to live in a world full of chemicals when you are sensitive to them. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.
Your strength and courage are beautiful. I was engaged to a man who used oxygen full-time. he was young – only 32 when he died. He used to comment that the stares people gave him, and the way they backed off as though he was contagious – he wasn’t; he had cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disorder – was far worse than if they’d just come out and asked what the problem was.
He often felt ostracized and conspicuous.
I think I have some idea of what it feels like for you to need to go out with your mask, and how wonderful it must have been to be amongst a community where that wasn’t anything unusual.
May you be as healthy as you can be, and may life hold joy and beauty for you, always!
Shanjeniah – I am sorry for your loss. It is difficult when people just stare or run the other way. Today I picked up my granddaughter from her preschool. One little girl asked why I was wearing that thing that covered my mouth and nose. I told her I had allergies. Another little girl told her she is a doctor. And the dialogue went on back and forth about why I had on the mask between the two preschoolers.
Ah, the simple, honest, open curiosity of the very young who just want to understand….
So much better than adults who would rather hide or stare than ask…
Maybe you’ll start a new fashion trend in the preschool set! =)
What an inspiring story Kathryn. I love the wealth of stories that come forth from August’s blogfest. I never know what treasures I will find. Thank you for sharing yours. 🙂
Thank you Jess. I love all the stories that come from her opening up the BOAW Blogfest. I read each and everyone and they all brought such inspiration.
Kathryn, your story always moves me to tears. You are a strong symbol for all who have had their lives touched in similar ways. Sharing your experiences helps all of us gain an understanding of something we might otherwise be unaware. Thank you for being so brave!
Thank you for the lovely words.
Wonderful post! I so agree with you about the magazines — they give so many young women eating disorders and generally make women feel
terrible about themselves. Too much plastic “beauty” and no emphasis on what people are like on the inside.
Thanks for this, Kathryn. Your experience just shows how strong we women are…how supportive and kind. Beautiful, as a matter of fact.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my post Kecia. I appreciate your comments. I have told others when they say I don’t think I could do what you have done that they are stronger than they think.
Your strength, courage, kindness, and compassion are some of the things that make you beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. It reminds me that true beauty takes more than what fits on a magazine cover.
Scott – Thank you for the wonderful comment.
You are an admirable and inspiring woman, Kathryn! Your stregth in sharing your story is where your beauty lies…strength also in dealing with your chronic illness. My illness is invisible-esophageal cancer. I’m in remission which is highly unusual and very lucky for me. I know your pain with regard to managing an illness that takes away a part of you – for you, your identity and feeling beautiful to the world. For me – years of my life, time I expected to have with my husband and family. We all have struggles of kind or another in our lives but the manner in which we deal with them is where our beauty lies. Hugs to you and thanks for sharing.
Marcia – Thank you for taking the time to share your own story in a comment. I wish you continued health and remission. Bless you.
It’s nothing to joke about, but I an’t help but smile a little at how something so terrible ended up giving you the chance to discover how truly beautiful you were just as yourself. That the finding yourself came the way it did was painful… but I’m glad you found your home and your inner power, Kathryn
Eden – yes I did find my inner power but at a price. I have learned to accept myself.
Wonderful addition to BOAW, Kathryn, and what a powerful message you bring with an abundance of courage. Though my allergies aren’t severe, like my grandmother, I have a tendency to break out when anything that’s not organic is placed on my body. I, too, have given up makeup, but have found that I prefer myself without it. Mathair bought me organic makeup for my 27th birthday last year, but when I put it on it just felt foreign; like my face wasn’t mine anymore. I don’t wear makeup anymore, but I have come to embrace this face, dark circles and blemishes all the same. 😉
Thank you Inion. Yes, make up does seem foreign on my face. I, too, am learning to accept myself as I am.
I’ve always felt that every moment putting on make-up was a subtle insult to my human beauty. Thanks for your post.
Thank you for the comment.
What a beautiful post Kathryn. I’m so sorry you had to go through so much because of mold in your workplace. But the way you talk about your journey and the women you met–it is so lovely. I’m glad you were able to discover each other’s inner beauty.
Kourtney – Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post. I am fortunate to have met some lovely women along this journey.
Thank you, Kathy, for reminding us where true beauty comes from. Jennie
Jennie – Thank you for posting a comment. You are a true friend.
Pingback: Inspiring Beauty Quotes: A #BOAW3 Wrap-Up, Part II | August McLaughlin's Blog