(Note: Before I begin this post, thanks are owed to Lauren at Hipstercrite for inspiring the inquiry on beauty. Ever since I read her exploration of this same question, I've been thinking about it myself).
Every so often, usually when I have the text messages open on my iPhone, the device will suddenly tell me:
I don't know why this happens.
But I've always found the message oddly poignant.
"Nothing to undo," huh? It's a hard pill to swallow in this culture. Or maybe any culture. In general, it's difficult to look back on your life at the most painful, embarrassing, or lonely chapters, and say: "Yes, I'd keep those too."
* * *
Interestingly, the more I think about "beauty," the more I've come to realize that the most attractive people -- to me -- are those that accept this maxim, "nothing to undo."
And by that I mean, they've accepted it knowingly or not. It probably takes some exposure to Buddhism or Taoism or some other Eastern -ism to understand radical acceptance on a cognitive level. But there are those who've never breathed an om in their life, and yet still manage to bring this air of, "I wouldn't change anything" wherever they go.
* * *
Last night at aerial class, I watched our instructor perform a routine to "Yesterday" (The Beatles' "Yesterday"), and it was one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful things I've ever seen. The way she clutched the fabric, while curled up into a little ball, looking so vulnerable -- and then bursting out, extending all of her limbs, suspended by a tiny knot around her foot and even more precarious grip of her hand, one hand, on the silk.
I've watched aerial dance routines before, mostly on the sides of buildings, but those were epic and grand. This ... this felt deeply intimate.
Our class, normally a crowd of giggling fools because we all look like little kids at this point on the silks, were utterly silent watching her dance. Except at the end, when my friend Kim and I sniffled a bit, like little sentimental grandmas at a wedding.
Anyway, while watching her, it occurred to me that:
A) Performance is sexy.
B) Performance is sexy because it requires work. And somewhere in our brains, we can intuit how long it's taken to get to that point, whether we're watching an aerial dancer, a guitarist, an actor, or whatever, and we respect all those hours alone they put into this, and then we realize: Passion. Is what we're really talking about here.
"Passion" is such a cliched term that I almost hate to use it, but it's true, isn't it? You can tell when a person has a passion. Pushing it in your face and reminding you all the time that they do this one thing -- that's not passion. I don't know what that is. Maybe insecurity.
But anyway, passion is gorgeous to me. And it's so much easier to identify what your passions are when you've got nothing to undo.
* * *
Here are the things I have often wished I could undo:
A) The fact that I was so goody-goody in high school. The friends (and husband) I have now had far crazier high school experiences. I didn't know what marijuana WAS in high school. I wore sweater sets and tasteful footwear. I had a lot of friends in high school -- but -- living in Austin, I often feel compelled to lie and say, "oh yeah, I was a total rebel in high school! Totally! Always sneaking out of class!" Friends, I would have rather died than missed class.
B) My weird religious path. I was very Christian for a while. And then, NOT Christian. Meaning -- I defiantly stood in opposition to Christianity, and then I just got mean about it. Not always to people's faces, but I felt it.
Ross has this saying that I'm about to butcher, but it goes something like: "When you throw an arrow you hurt yourself worse." Or something? Anyway, the idea is, when you express hostility towards someone or something else, sure, your target will feel it -- but the action began and ended with you, so you feel it double. That's the way I was with Christianity.
Lately I have so come to respect spiritualities that aren't bound to specific religions. It's very freeing. But still, the moment -- the precise millisecond -- I hear the word "Jesus," something old and bitter is triggered inside me. Which is a shame, isn't it? I joke to Ross sometimes that just hearing "Jesus" pronounced the Spanish way ("hay-sus") is better. Because until I can fully separate the frustrating examples I saw way back when of "Christianity" from the relatively enlightened views of Jesus, which are a lot like Buddha's, which are a lot like modern Indian gurus', I'll still feel the knee-jerk meanness each time someone utters that name.
C) Boyfriends. Not all of them. In fact, not most of them. But a few straight-up sucked.
* * *
So, here's the big "lesson" with these three things. I think we've all got stuff we'd like to undo. But that's weight we carry around. And it's more difficult to let passions bubble up if we refuse to let go of that weight. It's more difficult to live out beauty.
So with A: As a result of living out my Soccer Mom years earlier than most, I pushed myself to have a more interesting experience in my 20's. With B, I don't think I'll ever become "born again" but I DO think I'll be a spiritually curious (and hopefully respectful) person going forward. And C -- if I never had boyfriends who sucked, I never would have found Ross! It took a lot of losers to make me appreciate the grand, knight-in-shining-armor winner, which duh, is how it always play out, right? Who gets that kind of thing right on the first try? On the tenth try?
One of the most romantic and thoughtful boys I ever dated turned out to be gay.
He loved Victorian Literature just like me, had amazing restaurant taste, and even better penmanship. He (literally) looked perfect on paper, but something just wasn't quite right ... because he was gay. What if I had forced that one through?
* * *
So I'm slowly beginning to resist the impulse to "undo" things. And when I watched my instructor last night dance, I searched and searched her body and face for a time when she was clumsier, less confident.
No one is born spinning through aerial silks. It's an incredibly awkward art, at first.
But that awkwardness eventually becomes beauty, if you're patient enough. Which we all know. It's true of every arena. The only reason sometimes I feel I can do aerial is because there aren't any mirrors in the studio, so there aren't reminders of my regret refracted back to me. I just have to feel things out.
There are too many beautiful boys and girls, men and women, in this city to count.
And yet the most attractive ones, the sexy ones, are usually also the passionate ones.
Despite their past failures and present, sometimes palpable flaws, they've got nothing to undo.
* * *
(It appears that Jamie Lee Curtis also wrote about the "Nothing to undo" message on iPhones this week. Random! Read her thoughts at Huffington Post).