Working part time in a jewelry store, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people. I love jewelry, and often enjoy getting people to try on pieces they may normally turn away from. This week, I was showing a couple in their mid-sixties some gorgeous pieces of chocolate diamonds, and the woman fluttered her hands nervously when I pulled out a ring.
“Oh, no, my hands are so ugly. I can’t wear rings.”
I was taken aback. She really meant it, as if her hands were somehow hideous monsters instead of the capable appendages they were. And honestly, this wasn't the first time I had heard this complaint from women of a certain age. I understand that we all have something about ourselves that we hate, and those things can often be magnified as we age, but I just couldn’t accept that kind of reaction.
I looked her right in the eye and said, “Your hands are beautiful. They are beautiful for all the things they make possible for you, for all that you have done with them, and all that you will do with them.”
She smiled and nodded, and they went on with their day, but it really got me thinking. How often do we get caught up in the vanity of things and forget to give thanks for the blessing those things truly are to us?
Shortly after I quit my job in 2009, something inside me went haywire. The technical term of the diagnosis was chronic autoimmune idiopathic urticaria… otherwise known as hives. I had them for days, then weeks, and later months. Huge portions of my skin would be covered in them, leaving me miserably itchy and horribly uncomfortable. Even worse, they were horrendous looking, like I’d been stung by hundreds of bees, and it left me very self conscious to go into public. What if they thought it was contagious? What if they judged me, or thought I had leprosy or something?
I went to doctor after doctor, underwent a battery of test, and was poked, prodded, and questioned within an inch of my life, all to have them say: We don’t know what’s causing it. We don’t know how long it will last (maybe forever). We don’t know how to stop it. I was prescribed pills and foul-smelling creams, assigned literature to read and diaries to keep. At one point I looked in the mirror and asked myself, is this going to be the rest of my life?
I went on the offensive, cutting possible allergens from my diet (gluten, dairy, and eggs – all at once), ditching all beauty and laundry products containing any sort of chemical, and carefully documenting daily life to try to uncover possible triggers. I lathered on the disgusting prescription cream when things got bad, and drove my poor hubby to the other side of the house from the chemically smell.
And none of it helped. Over and over and over again, the hives would erupt, leaving me in despair. And then one day, I decided to look at things differently. Why was I having hives? Though I couldn’t be sure of what I was reacting to, I did now the body chemistry behind it. Sparing you lots of technical jargon, the answer was my body was actually trying to help me by releasing histamines to protect me—unfortunately the response had gone haywire, and was seriously out of whack.
So, after nearly six months of misery, I decided to change my approach. My skin was upset, my body out of kilter, and I needed to calm it. Instead of despising my own body, as I had begun to do, I need to be thankful for it. I needed to focus on the good, be understanding of the bad, and be confident of my body’s ability to figure things out.
I ditched the nasty creams, and instead turned to olive oil. Soothing, all natural, and used for millennia to better skin, each morning I would gently rub it on the hives, taking the time to say out loud why I was thankful for my skin. The reasons were many. Absolutely everything we do through life is made possible by the miracle of our skin. The most obvious is that we are able to live because of our skin – without it we could not survive. But there was so much more than that. We are able to experience so many things; to feel a loved one’s touch, to relish the warmth of the sun, to feel the softest breeze. We can move, and dance, and run thanks to it. It was beautiful for all the ways it allowed me to experience and thrive in this world, and I was so thankful for it, regardless of its flaws.
In the weeks to come, that time each morning became an unusual mix of meditation and prayer. I actually made peace with my skin and the troubles I was having, and my anxiety and self-consciousness diminished. And do you know what? Within weeks my hives went away for good.
So, why have I told you all of this? It is because I learned something through the experience, and I try to live by that lesson now. That lesson is to be thankful for what we have, even when it is causing us problems or pain. I learned to consider the big picture, and to look past the imperfections that may be on the surface. Now I look at the ugly scar on my back and realize it is infinitely more beautiful than skin cancer. I am thankful for my big ole feet because I must surely have better balance than those with small feet. And I hope that as I age, I’ll feel blessed for the smiles that gave me crows feet and for the age spots that resulted from so many wonderful times in the sun.
So for all you out there who may look at a small part of yourself and be unhappy, take a moment to rejoice in the good. I think you may just be better for it!
So, do you have something about yourself that you hate or are embarrassed about? Tell me something good about that one thing! And if it’s your neck or your hands, I highly suggest buying some gorgeous piece of jewelry to make you feel better about them ;)
As a side note, one of the doctors later called to see how I was doing, and was surprised and thrilled to hear of my freedom from the hives. I thought she might think I was crazy when I told her what I had been doing, but she was very receptive, telling me she was a strong believer in the mind/body connection when it came to healing. Who would have thought!