I met Michele Cushatt once, circa 2010. I was too shy to say more than hello, and watched while everyone else laughed with her. She was a writer and a speaker even then, while I was merely entertaining the idea–in the “what kind of movie should we potentially, maybe watch next weekend?” kind of way.
Though we haven’t had a real face-to-face conversation however, I like to think that Michele and I would have a lot to talk about. We’ve had some similar, yet very different experiences. What impresses me about her is how she keeps moving forward. She doesn’t stop in the valley of the shadows, she continues to walk through them. I respect that. I strive for the courage to do that.
A few weeks ago, Michele wrote something on her blog that resonated so strongly with me, I asked her if I could repost some of it here. It’s from a post entitled “For Want of Beautiful”.
I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the woman I saw.
She looked old. Unable to wear makeup, dark circles rounded her eyes. In spite of twenty pounds weight loss, her cheeks and lips appeared puffy, swollen. Her skin, chapped red, nose to chest, showed evidence of burns from treatment. Her hair—thinned to half its former fullness—lacked shine and color.
I looked at the rest of her body. The body that used to run half-marathons and triathlons. The body that loved yoga and Pilates and biking the Colorado trails. It showed no signs of physical fitness anymore. What was left was a hollowed out shell of her former self. And everywhere I looked—legs, arms, neck, stomach—scars marked where the surgeons had been.
I didn’t recognize her. And the only word that came to mind when we locked eyes was …
“Ugly.” Read the rest here
Perhaps you can relate. I could. And I encourage you to read the rest of what she has to say because the wisdom–the hard-won wisdom–she shares could change how you look in the mirror. What she writes is beautiful and brave.
There’s more good news. Michele has recently published her memoir, and it’s beautiful. She writes simply and powerfully, and there is much of the same wisdom there. Her book is titled “Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life”.
In her author’s note, Michele writes:
If your life is everything you dreamed it to be, this book isn’t for you. Just move along; you won’t hurt my feelings.
However, if you’ve ever known what it’s like to have a dream unravel, a hope or desire remain unfulfilled, regardless of how long and hard you’ve wished and prayed otherwise, then Undone isn’t just my story.
It’s your story.
Life seldom turns out like we imagine. Oh, we try to make it everything we’ve dreamed it to be. We work oh-so-hard on our marriages. We exercise, eat right and care for our health. We parent with feverish desperation. We read books, go to conferences, take notes and then try a bit harder. But regardless of our efforts, sometimes the unthinkable happens.
A marriage disintegrates. A child run aways from home. A doctor calls with bad news. A church splits right down the middle. In the span of seconds, ordinary life turns upside down. And everything you thought you knew and loved about your life is gone, evaporated in front of your eyes.
What you’re left with resembles nothing of the life you dreamed. It’s messy, uncomfortable, and just plain hard. Painful, even. And no matter what you do, no matter how many times you pick yourself back up again and try to fix it, the life you dream about remains out of reach.
So if you’re at the end of your hope, if you wake up and wonder how in the world you can go on with this unexpected life you’ve been given, if you’re tired of fear and desperate for a drowning of peace, pull up a chair, my friend. You’re not alone.
And, believe it or not, undone is beautiful.