It’s the holiday season, and I find myself always walking down memory lane during this time of year. Growing up, our family always traveled to sunny Florida to enjoy Christmas with my father’s family. It was so much fun, and ended the year on a high note for us.
My paternal grandmother and my own mom are the two women I admire most in the world. Granny is no longer with us, but I’m convinced she’s keeping tabs on us from heaven. I’m blessed to still have my mother, and she is the closest thing to a living saint that I know of. Both women were/are an inspiration. Both know about sacrificing in the name of love. Both learned how to look beyond their circumstances to find a reason to still have inner joy. My grandmother lived until she was almost 98 years old. During those many years, she developed her own set of “isms”, as we all call them, and even though she’s been gone for ten years, we still quote her frequently. This weekend I am reminded of one particular piece of advice she used to give my sisters and me back in the days before we had all gotten married.
Today, I am working on my final edits for Perfectly Imperfect. After three weeks of silence from the publisher, I found it in my inbox late yesterday and was immediately catapulted to cloud 9. There are only a small number of things to revise before it’s ready to publish. In re-reading the story last night and today, I have tried to pay attention to the emotional arc the heroine goes through.
You see, my book is about a woman who has achieved everything in her professional life that she set out to do, and careerwise she’s totally confident in her abilities. But personally, she isn’t as sure of herself. This is due to the fact that she’s had a lifelong struggle with her weight. Those years of feeling like the “fat friend” left her with low self-esteem. She has finally committed to a lifestyle plan that incorporates sensible eating and exercise to win the war over weight, once and for all. She has a lot of success with diet alone, then on the first day she goes to a gym, she meets a handsome British gentleman. After getting to know one another as they workout, he falls for her. At this point, due to her poor self image, her battle against that number on the scale suddenly takes a backseat to her inner struggle to accept the fact a gorgeous hunk could truly have feelings for her and that she should give love a chance.
In my book, I chose to let Ali’s character deal with an inferiority complex by “beating anyone else to the punch.” In other words, she would make self-deprecating remarks about her size before anyone else had the chance to point it out. Of course, as with any great romance story, the hero loves her for what is inside yet he also believes the outside package is beautiful too. That is where the title to the book comes from…what she sees as imperfections in herself are actually beautiful in his eyes. She is perfectly imperfect, in his opinion.
My heroine considers her curvacious figure to be her worst flaw. But I could have chosen any number of things to write about. The girl could have grown up poor and been embarrassed for anyone to see where she lived. Or she could have been dyslexic and felt like she wasn’t smart like all her friends. She could have had a large birthmark on her arm, or a slight stutter. Maybe she was autistic…well, you get the idea. I could go on and on and on. But the point is, we’re a diverse bunch of people in this world, and each of us has something about us that makes us feel like we don’t quite measure up to everyone else in that one regard. And it’s amazing how insecurities can cause us to choose not to participate in things we enjoy, for fear that someone will notice whatever our perceived flaw is.
This thought brings me back full circle to where I started this blog…my grandmother’s words of wisdom. One of her most fervent edicts to her granddaughters was, “Don’t say it, and he won’t notice.” The first time I heard her use it was when my oldest sister brought her new boyfriend to Granny’s house so they could meet each other. As always, the minute my grandmother found out company was coming she spent the whole morning in the kitchen preparing food so a seven course meal would be waiting on the table upon her guests’ arrival. This day was no different. The fried chicken, homemade potato salad, and green beans (or snap beans, as she called them) and other items were a welcome sight as we entered the house. But when my sister made reference to the fact she was on a diet and was going to pass on the more calorie laden dishes, my grandmother pulled her aside and laid that aforementioned pearl of advice at her feet. In all seriousness, she told my sister to NEVER point out something she considered a flaw in the presence of a suitor. Granny firmly believed that if the man was interested in us, then if we never verbalized our faults he’d never notice them. I guess it’s just another way to say the old adage ”love is blind”, but it was so much cuter the way Granny put it!
I am not sure what the best approach is. In my book, it was to lay it all out in the open and then see how he dealt with it. Granny believed you could ignore it and he’d never notice it. But at the end of the day, whatever our strategy is, we all want the same thing. We all want to be loved for who we are, to not have to pretend to be something we aren’t, and to get that chance at unconditional love.
When I met my husband, I was slender and young. With age, I’m now neither slender nor young. But my husband loves me for who I am, and he loves me just as much today as he did when he married me twenty-four years ago. He may not look like Richard Armitage or Pierce Brosnan, but he’s still my Prince Charming. And I’m grateful that – at least in my own household – Granny’s words of wisdom prove true. We don’t point out each others faults, and we’re still madly in love. I’m sure she’d tell me, “I told you so!”
I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and meaningful Christmas. My wish for you is that amid all the hustle and bustle you’ll have at least a little time for quiet reflection. Use the time to travel down your own memory lane, and enjoy thinking about days gone by. Then, with New Year’s fast approaching, we’ll all focus on the year ahead. Most of us will make a resolution to change something about ourselves. And while it is great to want to improve ourselves, maybe our first resolution should be to accept ourselves just as we are, even while we strive for betterment. And by loving ourselves we will be more ready to accept love from others.