Life is a lot easier today than it has been in the past. I have a steady collection of people who soften the piercing self-judgments and razor-edged moments.
My internal bleeding has cauterized itself on the flames of love, but the wounds are still fresh, and I am still flesh, and time is sharp even when it’s sheathed.
Which is to say, I have bad days still.
More of them than I’d like.
Yesterday I set my face on the table and said a truth I hated hearing: “I don’t even remember being healthy.” Once a week, or day, I stretch myself out and groan: “I am old.” More than is ever necessary I ask: “Is this safe?”
Which is to say, I am peeling at the edges, wrinkled on the inside, crinkled and stained. Which is to say, I have put too much life in this body, stitched too much time across my face, and become better at losing than living.
Which is to say, I have bad days and sad moments, and I am scared of almost everything.
I am scared of losing everything, even myself.
But I have my face and it is one thing I own, so I stay connected to it. I take pictures no one else could, and then I edit them on my phone. The editing process is a soft creativity. It washes over me when I wait for my therapist. It cozies up to me when I come down from panic attacks. It sings to me when I cannot sleep at night.
I look down at the picture proof of something I have– my life, my face, my features that belong to a family name.
It’s just another selfie on the internet, but it is, to me, a placemarker. A tiny weight that grounds me when I start to dust.
Friends have said: “I didn’t realize how vain you were.” “Selfies are a cry for attention.” “You need external validation and attention. And that’s okay.”
“If I were beautiful like you, I’d take pictures too.”
(Friend, you are beautiful.)
It’s a major leap to assume my quantity of selfie-snapping is any reflection of how I see myself. In truth, I know I am neither a great model nor a great photographer, but I enjoy the pursuit of this mini-project. It brings me peace, and I answer to no one because it is my face.
Something I own. Something I have not lost, or forfeited.
Friends have said: “When I don’t see your face, I worry.” “I like that picture of you. Silent fireworks should always follow you around.”
“I am glad you exist.”
(Friend, I am glad you exist.)
None of this is to say I am not vain, or self-absorbed, or attention-seeking. You need a certain level of all those things to run an eponymous blog about yourself, but I have lots and lots to say about myself, and no particular feelings about my chin.
It’s a chin.
I have lots of thoughts on other things, like social media sharing as a concept. Sharing, as a concept. Selfies, as a concept.
(Friend, I love your selfies.)
I love pictures and stories about your loves– your kids, your pets, your coffee cup and clothes. I love that you share the memes that caused a real human response in you, whether it be laughter or tears, empathy or comfort. I love your blog posts, your poems, your late night conversations with yourself. I love when you post 15 times in a row and I can almost feel how excited you are about whatever it is. I am grateful you are sharing, and I am grateful for how you share. I love that you’re here to share with me, and that I am here to be witness to your sometimes-stumbling, always-beautiful life.
I could write a lot about life, and how grateful I am to be a part of it.
But my face is just a face.
I’m thankful to have one. I’m glad it looks familiar to me still. I am blessed to say it works.
But outside of that, it’s not that interesting.
I’d photograph someone else, if they gave me carte blanche on the editing. If they were available the night before a mammogram result. If they were free to pop by when I am on a date, nervously wondering if I even seem like a person. If they could just come on over at four in the morning and not ask whether fear had kept me from sleep or if sadness had woken me up early.
If they’d just sit in the light, and let me snap their face at angles, and then take those photos with me and edit them at all.
I could put butterflies in their eyes, dinosaurs in their review mirror, fireworks in the palm of their hands.
And I could do it all from the dark.
But I spent too much time in the dark these last few years, and even though I seem to burn before tan now, and even though spotlights are still too much for me and may always be too much for me, I think it’s important to remind myself that the light still sees me. That I still take shape.
And, even if it’s only in the tiniest of edits to a brief capture of time, that I have a little control of how I exist in this world.