It was the day before my 45th birthday and this growing older business wasn’t going too well.
Though I’d been boldly letting my hair grey over the past one year, a candid video of me taken by a friend showed a streak of white only on one side. Totally tacky.
So I spent an entire evening trying out a new way of tying my hair so that the greys were less noticeable. I even took 360-degree photos, enlisting the husband to take the one from the back.
I had also become rounder than usual and my favourite kurtas weren’t fitting me anymore. So I had signed up for a week’s trial at a chain of workout studios, which had left me with aches and pains all over. And being surrounded by younger and fitter people had left me even more acutely embarrassed about my own age and weight.
And so, on the day before my 45th birthday, I was in a state of much personal insecurity and existential panic when I told my young, pretty yoga teacher: “I am going through a phase of self-transformation. I want to change my hair, my body, myself… How should I look? Who should I be next?”
She looked at me like I was missing the whole point. “You just have to be more of yourself,” she said.
Her answer stirred me. Then, minutes later, I got this message from Osho via WhatsApp:
“The first lesson: Love yourself as you are because existence loves you as you are. That does not mean you have to remain the same forever. In fact, this is the first step of transformation: if you love yourself, you will be able to grow quicker, faster.”
And then, unbidden, unexpectedly – like all major epiphanies – the tears came.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and realised I was not seeking personal transformation out of self-love, but self-hate. Despite the quiet contentment and peace I had earned after years of some personal struggle, spiritual practice and a lot of divine grace, I had also bought into social parameters of beauty that placed youth, slimness and homogeneity above wellness, inner radiance and diversity.
Tears rolling down my cheeks, I told the woman in the mirror: “I love and accept myself exactly the way I am.” I said it over and over and over, but something was wrong. It didn’t feel true. I saw an old fat woman with a silly crying face looking back at me. I did not love her at all.
She cried even more.
Then a voice in my head suggested I chant another mantra to reach her: “I love myself the way God loves me.”
For some reason, this fit better. Gradually, the woman in the mirror stopped crying, and I began to see her through God’s eyes. I saw the loves and the griefs and the pleasures her body had been through; those ample hips that had borne so much; those streaks of grey marking the spot that multitasked between her missions, responsibilities and passions; the rounded shoulders that had carried so many burdens; eyes that had seen so much darkness but had learnt to seek the divine in it all.
God loved her just the same – every cell of her chubby body and her dark circles and her grey hair. That’s why she was the way she was. And who am I to reject God’s will?
Happy 45th birthday, I said to the woman in the mirror the next morning. I bow to the light in thee.
First published in eShe’s June 2019 issue