I was out on a boat with my dynamic and loving cousin Don and my family last month. We stopped for a short while to take in the Gatineau beauty and my cousin showed me a photo. It was of my recently passed other Cousin John. It was the first photo I had seen of him in years. He had withdrawn himself after having multiple surgeries on his face from cancer. As I took the phone to look more closely at the photo I was surprised. Not by his changed face but by his beauty. Yes, his face was different but there was a deep beauty within it. All I could see was his smile, his loving eyes and a new spirit within him that shone through. It was his soul that came through that photo, not his scars. I felt sad that I didn’t have the chance to tell him that. To tell him what I saw. As I had that thought my glasses fell off my head and plunged into the river. My son leapt to his feet to try and rescue them with the net. It was too late and they settled deep within the lake bed.
To say my vision is not good is an understatement. I didn’t have extra glasses or lenses with me and we were 5 hours from home. Everything was a grey blur. The ride back was challenging as movement and sound blurred within different shades of blurriness. I realized how much control I had wanted on the ride out. I had felt like I had to be the second set of eyes for my cousin with various “look out for the bird’ or “there is a boat coming” add ons by myself. I now sat with no control as couldn’t see to be the so-called second set of eyes. The ride back allowed an entirely different experience. I smelled things I hadn’t on the way out and felt the movement of the boat differently. I got to be more in my heart, mind and soul rather than what I was seeing. I challenged myself on why I felt I needed that control on the way out. Why I hadn't come more from trust. The answer was that I felt totally out of my comfort zone and so control had kicked in. This was a gift allowing me to be out of my comfort zone and come entirely from trust.
I went without being able to see properly for almost 24 hours. I had to ask for help and use my other senses more. By the time I got new glasses, my eyes burned my head hurt but my soul was more at peace.
From that point on I became more aware of the subtleties of how much we all base what we see as actual reality. How much investment we put into how we look, how others look and what our environment looks like.
I have talked openly before about my history with body positivity and that loved ones have journeyed with eating disorders. The world has nearly lost some of these beautiful souls to eating disorders. Body dysmorphia has been part of that journey and I now realize that many have life dysmorphia. What is real and what we distort it to be. This can come from many things such as managing trauma or from mental health. I consider it to be the “see me, don’t see me cycle” or “see it, don’t see it cycle. “ Our mental health can easily distort reality and we can live in that world for long periods unaware.
I have had many situations in my past that have been so entirely out of my control that every single sense was challenged. This has led to me letting go daily and what I now handle or thrive in is vastly different compared to my past.
I was taking down my art from a local exhibition and I realized that we often walk with two or more different paintings. Our external painting and our internal painting. If my internal world is more like a Picasso yet my external world is a Rembrandt then there can be friction causing unrest and anxiety. How we see our world is entirely on how we choose to look at it. When coming from a healthy mindset a different version of dysmorphia can be turned into a positive. An example could be “I choose to see this as an opportunity” rather than “this is out of my control”.
Looking at Rembrandt paintings you can find elements of Picasso if you wish too. It can be found within the stroke of how he depicts someone’s eye or the shape of a mouth whereas equally, you can find Picasso within Rembrandt. It is perception and choosing not to control what you think you should see.
When I looked at my cousin Johns photo I saw his soul and his beauty, not his changed appearance. I don’t think I could even tell you what his scars looked like.
Choosing how we look at our life can make all the difference between stress and frustration and joy and acceptance. What we see can translate into what we feel and what actions we take. How you choose to feel about life will also change how you see it. I am blessed that my glasses are now settled on the lake bed as I was given a gift in return. A renewed gift of soul sight.
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Andrea Lines-Botell is a mental health advocate and life coach with a passion for dynamically supporting change.
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