Friday, September 5, 2008

Self-portrait challenge

Self-portraits have begun to intrigue me. I used to think that self-portraits were terrible navel-gazing, but I've begun to change my mind.

I realize that I look at myself in the mirror less and less. (Thank you, Liz, for your bravery on this front!) I never really looked that much, anyway, but now I'm avoiding myself a bit. Partly because I'm wearing a very thick retainer, so I think I look somewhat slack-jawed and horsey. I'm getting a back molar fixed so that I don't lose a tooth, but I'm not thrilled about this orthodontia stuff.

Anyway. I look in the mirror and my mouth and chin don't look right because of the retainer. Then I look at the sagging skin under the chin, my nose with its perimenopausal zits (man, I had fewer zits at 16!), the hair going grayer . . . and I am not very kind to my aging self. I am so much better at criticizing myself than at having compassion for myself. My friends have told me through the years that I am way too hard on myself, and I know it. Critiquing my looks is the least of it.

Seven-thirty a.m.

(This morning, 7:30 am -- looking warily at the camera.)

If I can learn to look at my physical self with more patience and love, can I learn to embrace my mind and my soul, too?

I've been doing some inner work over the last few years, and I have made progress. Yet I see that it's all one piece -- whole cloth, if you will. I foolishly sweep away part of my life if I ignore how I look at and live in my body. The inner and the outer need to heal together.

There's a great group on Flickr, called 365 days. You take a self-portrait every day for a year. A self-portrait must include any part of your body. It's a great photographic and artistic challenge. How do you avoid the boring and the cliched? How do you not get sick of looking at yourself after a month? How do you represent yourself every day?

I wonder if I can use the camera to learn how to embrace myself.

I'm going to try it for awhile. I have no idea if I'll keep it up past a week. I will put the photos up on my Flickr account, but I doubt I'll be putting them on the Flickr self-portrait groups. I'll put some up here, too -- I'm sure I'll have things to say about some of them. If you don't find them interesting, that's okay, because I'm sure I will not love them all, either. I am more interested in the journey than in the outcome. I'm being public about it all because (a) it keeps me honest, and (b) I am hopeful and grateful that you may want to witness this journey with me.

Dandelion foot


Agnes said...

Judy...amazing how much you look like your mother is this photo. Just wait till you hit 62!!! Then you will really hate to look in the mirror. But you will be much more comfortable with your inner ya!!!!

The Lone Beader said...

I love self portraits. I'm going to try to do one a year. Wish me luck!

Lisa Gallup said...

Oh, Judy! You are not the only one who is hard on herself. I really think most women are! I look at myself and I see wrinkles and jowls and crepey skin and sharp angles everywhere! How does one age gracefully?? I've come to accept my true personality in the past few years, but accepting the outside is much harder - even when I was much younger! (((hugs)))

liz elayne lamoreux said...

Judy, I love this...the brave, beautiful you. I am so glad you are embarking on this journey. (I'm writing from NH, just had to reach out and say "rock on girl!!"

inkberryblue said...

Your self portraits are beautiful, Judy...I love the strength that shows in your face and the quirkiness of the picture of your foot! Sometimes, I'm uncomfortable with the changes I'm experiencing as I age. I think that some of it is to do with the way society presents youthfulness as being the yardstick for beauty. I actually find looking at Dove proaging commercials really uplifting! I love how they celebrate the beauty of older women.
Thank you for being real and honest and for making me think!