Owning the Ugly


*Artwork by Lilia Osipova*

It was raining not too long ago here in Long Beach and it seems fitting as the day would have been a bit too arduous for me had it been the happy summertime weather I’ve become so accustomed to over the past few months.  How poetic; it feels like a line from that Dixie Chicks song “You always said the day you’d leave me would be a cold day in July…”

Yes, I have a bit of a gloomy disposition today, but that is dissipating slowly (but surely!).  I’m struggling with emotions I have not had to confront in a very long time.  When my dad died several years ago, I felt like my foundation had crumbled from right under me: I was insecure for the first time in my life.  I’m not exactly a cocky little shit, but I have always been confident.  Now, again, I’m feeling very insecure and it is quite the lesson in both humility and integrity.

I had a work-related accident/injury recently and though I am naturally accident prone (my fellow metaphysical friends are screaming “Hello, Miss Life Path 5!”), this time it’s pretty bad – even for me.  And (oh the joys of being self-employed) I just have to tough it out until it stops hurting and looking so ugly.  I’d hate to say it, but in this very visual world, I’m more concerned about the look of it at this point.  I look like a character out of a horror film.

I’ve never considered myself very pretty, but feeling like a social pariah by virtue of being treating like one as I walk down the street or buy groceries has made me want to burrow here at home and hibernate until it all goes away.  This is not in my nature, usually I would just say “oh well, people have to get over it,” but a lot of old wounds/scars are being excavated and I’m forced to reevaluate them at this stage in my life because of this.

You see, Self cannot reveal itself to Self… No, it is in relationship (whether with some thing or someone) that we see the reality of our existences on internal and external levels.  Or, at the very least, get a little closer to it.  Relationships are just as tough as they are beautiful, much like the nature of women lol.  In relationship, we are forced to see ourselves.  Relationships are mirrors.  Now, with this new insecurity, I’m forced to see myself and face myself from a different angle – I’m forced to see the illusion of the reality.  And that, my friends, gets pretty darn intimidating.

I’m the first one to say “Who cares, this is how I look and feel, if people don’t get over it, it’s not my problem”.  But, because this “ugliness” (I’m calling it that without flinching) is a visual extension of my physical pain, it’s starting to move beyond that threshold of physical pain and becoming emotional.  It’s a symbol.  An in-your-face symbol of ugliness, and that’s how I’m feeling inside.  Why is that?!

I know that this is temporary, but I just hate the look of disgust and judgment in people’s faces (even my close friends that I completely love are trying not to stare these days).

QUESTION: Why is it getting to me????

ANSWER: I cannot deny the fact that I, too, am very much influenced by this very aesthetic First World problem/issue with “beauty”.

Yes, me, the girl without a TV, the girl who doesn’t run to the bathroom to make sure her lipstick still looks good during a date, the girl who tells her students that they are beautiful no matter what, the woman who tells her lovers that she is not wearing those heels or lingerie all night and she wants to feel comfortable… she looks how she looks without it, and they either appreciate that or leave.  Lights on!

Yes, I’m that girl.  I’m that woman.  And yet, this “ugliness” is getting to me and forcing me to admit that I have an issue with the non-symmetrical, unpretty, discolored parts of myself made visual.  This has to touch on some type of old paradigm I still subscribe to that says scars are not beautiful anymore… the same paradigm that says my beauty is conditional…

I chose the picture of the Gorgon looking into the mirror for quite a few reasons.  I will share one of them here.  Not only does she represent how I feel (my apparent unattractiveness these days seems to turn people into petrified stupefied stone when they look at me.  I actually had to force myself to breathe and calm down when I looked in the mirror the first time since it happened, so I do not judge them… I have already judged myself – what a horrible human condition!), but the picture is all about illusions.  I see it as symbolic of our skewed human perception of WHAT IS.  Crow Medicine, the very bold distinction between human law and Divine law is exemplified through this picture and this story…

Culturally (and with our shrinking globe, virtually everywhere else), we can all agree that injuries are not pretty.  Deep within our DNA, deeper than our bones, deep within our souls… I think we can all viscerally remember a time when scars were beautiful.  Not pretty (they never are), but beautiful.  All scars heal, all scars symbolize an event past that stays with us.  Tattoos are, in essence, scars.  Our battle scars are not pretty, but they are beautiful, they show us where we have been.  Much like how many women try to get rid of their stretch marks from giving birth, in our aesthetic world any other type of “rite of passage” that involves pain or “ugliness” is quickly covered up and/or removed.  Growing pains always hurt.  And right now, just as there are those few women who wear their scars proudly as memories of bringing the love of creating a family into the world, I am trying to own my scars in the same way.  It is not easy.  Not at all.  Even though I know it will heal, the process is grueling.

Those who are unfamiliar with the story of the Gorgon Sisters must know that Medusa was one of three sisters and the only one who was mortal.  In one interpretation of the myth (by Ovid), she was once a very beautiful, lovely and gracious woman who was sought after by many bachelors.  In this myth, she was raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena and the goddess of wisdom (Athena) consequently punished Medusa (the victim) by making her the revolting monster she is popularly known as: snakes in her hair, ugly face, the ability to turn others to stone with her gaze alone.  Patriarchy – even in old ancient Greek myth – dies hard, doesn’t it?

Now, anyone in Medusa’s situation would OWN the ugly, get angry and wreak havoc on everyone around her…stay in that space of bitterness.  And that’s what Medusa did, according to stories.  I believe she was just hiding away and minding her own business, scaring away (and rightly so) the occasional person who encroached on her boundaries.  Perseus comes around and slays her, and that’s that.  It would take superhuman strength (just as Divine a condition as judgment and vulnerability are a human one) for her to release the bitterness and kill everyone with kindness…and if that didn’t work, to live at peace with the situation and work on the self-love that radiates out and transforms everything around her… But Medusa was not here to be Buddha.  No, I believe her story is all about owning that archetype of “this is where I was put, and this is what everyone has to suffer because of it”.

All that said, seeing her gaze into the mirror in that photo above and seeing her true self again, her face softens, her talons gentle on the mirror, a tiny grin threatens to appear from the corner of her mouth… and she is beautiful.  By fixating on that true essence of what she is, she is beautiful.  Her scars are testament to her strength within.  She is herself, she is Medusa.  That is the transformative power of intention.  Thoughts are things.  We know that.

Go figure that a plethora of Medusa images are found on plaques, tombstones, statues, coins and on paintings galore to… what?  Believe it or not, these images of Medusa are used to “heal and protect” homes, businesses, etc.  The root of true healing is facing the ugly, owning it and seeing what is truly there.  Only love is real and all else is illusion.  When we allow that illusion to fall away, we are able to walk in beauty regardless of our physical appearance in a very visual (and hyper-sexualized) world.  But hey, I didn’t say it was easy!!!

Gorgon comes from the Sanskrit “garg,” which is to growl (similar to the word gargoyles, who make the sound of gargling as they protected cathedrals).  Another way to heal is to claim the darkness and to have a good monstrous moan about it.  To really own the ugly and go into that Medusa space… to get it out of your system until you’re good and done and depleted…then, and only then, with the animus completely tired, can you start fresh with the healing process and absorption of light.  We must allow things to die before we can begin building and creating from scratch…from a clean slate.

Darkness (balanced darkness) has just as much purpose as light in this world.  We must always end with life, as we begin with life, but it is in death that we truly experience the life and light flanking our deaths of upheavals leading to renewal and rebirth.  Like trees that allow the leaves to fall and decompose in the ground around them, making Gaia more fertile and life-giving, we have to allow certain things to die without fighting it.

It is not the actual actions or emotions that run through us towards healing that hurt, it is always in the denial of them.  I’ve learned that the hard way.

Being the proverbial Gorgon today, am I going to see past the illusion immediately or am I going to deplete the animus with a Kali-like catharsis of wailing and owning the ugly by allowing my snakes to writhe and scare the shit out of people until I’m done with it and finally understand (experientially) that I need to look inward and allow that anger to die so I can truly heal?

I’m not sure, but this was a teachable moment for myself and I hope it was for you, too.  xo


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