But have you ever noticed how right behind what attracts you most comes something that does not? It’s as if beauty has a secret twin that pulls you closer to what you want, and then, once you’re enchanted, shows you the other side. Don’t think of it as beauty = good, ugly = bad; really, because what is unattractive to you helps you look past surface beauty and opens you to being nourished by deep beauty.
It’s not only that you can’t have one without the other, both are perceptions that we react to all the time. Sometimes we avoid beauty, sometimes we melt into it. Sometimes we cringe away from something ugly, sometimes we can’t take our eyes off it. Beauty and the unattractive are inseparable, and the more you see both sides as one, the less you’ll be baffled or blindsided when the other face appears.
The battle between beauty and the unattractive is really a matter of how you engage with what you perceive. If you only want to see the good, you can’t discern the best way to relate. If you avoid everything awful it will find its way inside you, and if you keep stirring up unattractive things, you will ache for beauty.
Let’s say you’ve met someone you’re really attracted to. Of course you want the good bits; being liked, admired, held and so on. All your attention dives towards the Beauty. You might be aroused, bedazzled, intimidated or super charged with love. Either way, the battle begins. If you draw the curtain over anything that doesn’t fit the beautiful projection you cast onto this person, eventually, the other side of Beauty comes knocking at your door.
We tend to call what is unattractive the shadow, but most of the time, there are gems hidden inside what appears unattractive. It’s never fun looking into your shadow (parts of life you can’t, or wont or don’t want to see). But looking at the dark side of the coin has one great advantage – the more you know of your own shadow the more you can protect your self. In a way, if you can see what’s unattractive in yourself, you can see it in others.
I just returned from a visit with my family, where, as you might imagine, the battle between beauty and the unattractive reared its pretty little head. There was a moment I reacted to one of my favorite battles: being controlled. (according to my mother it was much more than a moment 🙂 I got to see just how unattractive I can get and how much I hide to stay in control. But mothers have a knack for finding that shadow you left on the floor.
Now for the Beauty. For me, visiting my family is always a sobering re-calibration, a reckoning with my roots. It’s my ingrained, established, handed-down tendencies versus my emerging attempts at new ways of being. I get to see where I react emotionally and where I don’t.
I used to say for example that my mother has ‘ostrich medicine’; meaning she has this ability to utterly ignore, and curtly dismiss whatever she doesn’t care to discuss.
Now, as her personality ripens, and my need to be accepted fades, I sometimes see a kind of motherly glow flickering around her. I realize that while her way of ignoring me fueled my rage as a child, now I also see she taught me that it’s best not to look too closely or to talk about certain things at the wrong time. Or to dwell on disappointments. As a young girl I judged her avoidance as cowardly weakness. Now I think it’s sometimes wise.
Even her tendency to annihilate what she deems insignificant can be taken both ways; it’s the same strength I’ve inherited to slice through the dark unconsciousness of my own shadows.
I’ve often heard women joke about doing everything possible to be different than their Moms, only to hear her voice come barging out at the worst possible moments. But the ‘dreaded voice’ is not her only weapon. If you listen more carefully you’ll hear her wisdom too. Although I wouldn’t say this to her, I can sometimes hear my mother’s voice embedded through all my moans, my laughter, my intelligence and my tears. She gives my own voice depth; sometimes she laughs at me, sometimes with me and it’s both beautiful and unattractive. It’s beyond gratitude, it’s just so.