This was a really tough assignment.
At first I convinced myself that it would be fun. I’d train the lens on myself, get some good light, get in really close, and see the me that everyone else sees. I’d capture the grey hairs coming in, the deepening wrinkles around my eyes and mouth, the ever-more crooked alignment of my eyes.
The self-portrait would be a warts-and-all revelation and I’d appreciate the grown woman I’d see in just the way I appreciate strong, aging, character-full women all around the world. Think of Maggie Smith’s beautiful bearing and face. Norma Waterson. Judi Dench.
And I’d fall in love with that me, the me I don’t imagine when I picture myself, perpetually 25.
Well, no. I didn’t fall in love.
Those brightly lit, close-up photos startled me. Who. Was. That?!
Clearly, those close-up shots are only for truly beautiful faces, smoothed with makeup, then further smoothed with Photoshop.
I took some more pictures, this time at more of a distance, and I gave myself the cover of darkness. The woman I saw then was still not the woman in my head, but she was closer. An older version, a version I could look at without wincing.
This is not an exercise I’m anxious to repeat, but it was good. I spent a day with my face. I smiled at myself. I made some crazy faces. I saw myself from the vantage of a stranger. I learned more about my camera. I summoned the bravery to post a picture of my own self on the Internet. And the world chugs on. Big deal. Move on. Who cares what I look like?
Have I done anything good today?
At nearly 47, I’m Uncle Vanya’s age. Old.
I’m Jane Kenyon’s age when she died. Far too young.
I’m still in the middle of it all, neither here not there, still etching my wrinkles and lines, still working on that older, confident woman I hope to someday be. And I’ve got lots to do.