Each morning and each night I face myself in the mirror and interpret what I see in different ways. I am not ashamed to say that I vastly prefer the moments when my reflection lifts me, sends my shoulders back and this crooked smile of mine higher. I love being able to smile back at myself, blossoms of lines sprinting from the corners of my eyes and adding to the complexity of my beauty. When the lines on either side of my mouth shine back as imprints of a daughter’s hands cupping my face rather than hollows of aging.

I do not like to wince or deepen the furrows in my brow as a reaction to my own face. I loathe the moments of weakness when I think, “It will never be better than this moment.” Sometimes the mirror keeps me from the truth and living, suspends me in a place that has no growth.

As I pass the Glens Falls athletic field and see the lacrosse layers weaving in and out of lines, while track and field kids practice long jump, distance runners loop the perimeter and more kids still congregate around the bleachers, I am aware that behind me there are those that will take my place. There will be no more pregnant bellies for me, no more first house, no more oblivion to life not always being fair.

I no longer get carded, my hairdresser says things like, “Well, with older hair…” and I am able to identify clothing as being, “inappropriate for someone my age.” These things can add up to the kind of baggage that has me stopping, somehow ashamed by my diminishing youth, apologetic for not being the optimal age for beauty by society’s standards.

The things I lose when I look in the mirror are what make up the most appealing parts about me. The contours of my beauty are most visible bathed in the radiance of the life around me— colored by the laughter of my daughters as I dance with them, softened by the shadow of Sean standing tall beside me. When I turn inward I see so much less.

Today, Sean’s birthday, I dressed for smiles. I slipped into a dress, knowing how my girls would run to me, wrap their arms around my legs and touch my smooth, bare skin. I smiled as I imagined how Sean would smile that slow private smile when he saw me. I blew my hair dry, and instead of focusing on a cowlick that drives me wild, I thought about Finley patting my hair and cooing, “S’pretty, i’s’a soft, mama. So soft.” I dusted blush on my cheeks thinking of the delight a quick kiss of the brush on her cheek brings.

Imagining myself in the eyes of my family and in moments of living eliminates that game of chicken with the mirror that all too often ends with a, “Why do I even bother?” Today I looked at myself with the love of my family and I saw such beauty. If I could wish one thing, it would be that we could all see ourselves with the forgiveness and love of our families.