Why I'm like Vanuatu.
I write this sitting in my living room and dreaming about the paradise of Vanuatu which we just visited. I was thinking about what I realised about myself while I was there, and that I wanted to share that with you.
The weather in Vanuatu is warm and very humid, and in humidity I lose all control over my hair. My hair is not completely curly, and it is definitely not straight (naturally), and I feel like a frizzball every time there is even a slight amount of water in the air.
I allowed my hair to be free in its expression (although I admit that I did take my hair straightener, and make up with me, “just in case”) and within a day I was happy to embrace the “real me”.
Isn’t that a funny term – the “real me”? As if I could be anything besides myself, but it is true, isn’t it?
And here’s where I compare looking at myself with Vanuatu… (stay with me, I promise there is a point to this).
In all the brochures and photos of Vanuatu the beaches are beautiful white sand, the sky is an amazing blue, the people are smiling and the scenery amazing. And it all was, don’t get me wrong here, but I am going to take you on a small journey. When I first stepped onto the beach at our resort (Tamanu On The Beach Resort) I was a bit disappointed by the amount of coral and shells washed up on the shore. I was comparing the beach to beaches here in Adelaide (we are truly spoilt you know) and had forgotten that there was a reef not far from shore that supported a myriad of life, including the fish, crabs and lobsters that my friends and I enjoyed for dinner (yes, fresh from the ‘doorstep’ of the restaurant) – I was not comparing two likes. And the food at the restaurant was amazing! I'm still trying to figure out how I can recreate the baked fish in the banana leaf....
The road to our resort was a dirt road with a significant number of pot-holes. The rain had filled them up to create lakes and inland seas (okay, I am exaggerating here, but I want to make a point). As terrible as the road was, it did grow into some fun during our stay. It elicited some amusing comments from our taxi driver one day, including that someone needed to write a “stern letter” to “someone” to get it fixed (they were repairing it as we left, so maybe someone had). But, this road meant that some days we decided to just stay in the resort and relax, reconnect with each other and listen to the waves caress the shore. Day spa anyone? The volcanic hot rock massage is to die for!
The sky was an amazing blue, except when the rain came in, but oh, the magic in that was there too – watching the clouds roll in, basking in the warm rain, and drying almost immediately after (except for the humidity). And the water? I just can't describe it. From beautiful fresh water wa
And the smiles – oh, they went for miles. The locals are welcoming and charming. They still live in simple ways, some of which I am envious of, but were happy to share their culture and island with us. They are a proud people who are resourceful and strong.
So, Vanuatu remains a paradise, made charming by its little quirks, scars and strengths. You cannot compare it to anything else, it stands on it's own, in all it's glory.
So, back to my flyaway hair, and the “real me”.
Firstly, let me as you a quick question: when was the last time you looked at yourself in your natural state? I don’t mean the detailed investigation of each new wrinkle that appears on our faces (particularly after a sleepless night, self-inflicted or child inflicted), but allowing your hair to just be, remove the make-up, allow yourself to rest and recover and become peaceful? When was the last time you looked at yourself and did not compare yourself to others around you?
I have been doing a 365 day self-portrait project on Instagram (almost done, day 342 today… you can check in out here), so I have looked at myself a lot. I have forced myself to be happy and perky for the sake of art, I have allowed myself to feel deflated and sad, all in public view. But it wasn’t until I took my first image for this project in Vanuatu that I really truly looked at myself. Perhaps I wasn’t ready until then.
But something magical happened, I saw me as a total – not a face that needed a retouch, not sock marks that had to be taken away from my ankles, not an arm that needed a slight “nip and tuck” to bring it back to proportion. I saw myself and was lost in the amazement of seeing my body as it is.
I have been fighting the aging process for so long (like so many others) that I forgot that I have earned the smile lines and the scars (inside and out). My fuzzy hair is mine, my nose bump (which I have since found out is the height of fashion at the moment) is mine. My body is a bit on the plump side (my clothes are feeling a bit tight), but it has carried me around the world. My legs are strong, my arms are made to embrace, my heart is made to love.
So, I finally saw my own strength. I finally saw me.
I could continue to look at the perceived “negatives”, or I can look at the whole. I prefer the whole.
I still enjoy getting dressed up, doing my hair and putting on makeup, but at least I don’t flinch when I see myself in my “natural state”.