Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lenten Beauty

On Ash Wednesday I was looking for something to give up. Chocolate was out of the question - I'm a Catholic, not a martyr. So I began thinking of an alternative.

Lately, I've been struggling with vanity. Now that my cancer worries have declined, I find myself increasingly concerned about the "worry lines"on my face... I don't like the pigment changes in my skin caused by the flushing, I hate the way my clothes hang; you name something about my physical appearance and I'll tell you what's wrong with it.

Vanity: otherwise known as "pride" under the seven deadly sins, or "hubris" in ancient Greek tragedies; irrespective of what you call it - being overly caught up in your own appearance is one ugly vice. 

Then it came to me - what about giving up wearing make-up for 40 days? Wouldn't that help with this vanity thing? Wouldn't that make me be a better role model for the teenage girls I teach every day? It's not like I even wear a lot of make up to begin with - but what I do wear is corrective, so facing the world without it was such a jarring thought that it screamed Lenten sacrifice to me.

Then, I told my mom my idea. I thought she'd be all for it, but she simply responded, "Life is hard enough, why pile on more sacrifice? Why not pledge to meet the challenges you already have in your life in a more positive way, rather than creating new challenges for you to overcome?"

And my mom, a polio survivor, knows a lot about challenges and sacrifice. Her words made sense, and became even more clear as I spent the day with her at Reins Therapeutic Riding Stables - where she keeps and rides her horse Andy.

Giving Andy a Post-Ride Treat
Reins specializes in therapeutic riding for children and adults with all different types of physical and mental disabilities - and several of the stable volunteers are disabled themselves. I've been involved with the disabled community my entire life, so being at Reins is completely comfortable for me. 

Mom and Andy
Watching my mom on her horse - pretty much riding without the use of her legs - reminded me what true beauty is... it's about being comfortable in your own skin, and doing what makes you happy - irrespective of what others might think. My mother has never let her disability paralyze her in life; she's always followed her dreams. 

Whether I wear make up or not, is besides the point - it's what I chose to focus on... and for the next 40 days I'm going to do my best to celebrate the unique beauty that is mine.


  1. Wow, what an inspiring entry Marlena. Your first lines about chocolate made me laugh but then what you mother said deeply spoke to my heart.
    Thank you for posting this.
    Annie Q.

  2. love it...

  3. Love you, sistah. Thanks for coming out to Cali. I missed you!
    <3 m

  4. Thanks guys! I'm still trying to focus on the beauty in life...