what is real

Several years ago, when I was eight months pregnant with my third child, my husband was required by work to attend a two day conference held at a luxury resort. Since the resort happened to be less than an hour from our home, and since he had an free room for the conference, he invited me to come up with him to spend an evening alone.

He didn’t even have to try to convince me! Excited about the prospect of living for one day and night in absolute luxury, I packed my bags and went to the resort hotel to meet him.

Once there, I quickly began to notice something. Aside from the beautiful details, excellent craftsmanship, and splendour of the place, I was also very aware of the women in the hotel.

They were all beautiful.

They all had their hair done. Nails done. Make up was perfect. Clothing exquisite and fashionable—and they were wearing pantyhose and high heels! I hadn’t worn pantyhose in ages because pregnancy and pantyhose, in my world, are completely incompatible. These women were all breathtaking.

I walked to the elevator and just missed it. As the doors were closing–to my horror– I realized they were the kind that were brightly polished and they were showing my reflection. I was aghast! Not having been in front of a full length mirror for a few months, I was surprised to see that my belly had grown to epic proportions, and my tent dress (which was all that I could fit in at the time), had what appeared to be some sort of baby slobber on it. My hair, although I had attempted a style, was not cooperating (most likely due to the hormones raging throughout my very swollen body), and my nails were ragged. I prayed that the elevator would open quickly so I would not have to behold the spectre of my visage any longer.

If I could have, I would have sprinted to the hotel room. As it was, I just waddled as fast as I could.

Slamming the door, I tried to dramatically throw myself on the bed. I succeeded in getting to the bed and then I started to cry. How ugly I felt!

Most of the time, I wasn’t too critical of myself. My husband always had a way of making me feel beautiful. But at that moment, I felt…hideous.

Later that week, I was home again. It was a rainy day, and I was contemplating my feelings regarding the resort (actually, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself). My son, then just a toddler, asked me to read him a story. To my amazement, the Spirit whispered to me very strongly,

“Read that one.”

I looked down and picked up “The Velveteen Rabbit.” I began to read:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out

handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

At that moment, perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood with perfect clarity that I was not ugly at all—I was just becoming Real.

And now, after these many years, I have become shabby and most of my hair has been loved off, and I am very loose in my joints–but I am not ugly to those who love me, and I am not ugly to my Father in Heaven. I am actually becoming more and more beautiful in His eyes as I daily attempt to fulfill my divine destiny as a mother.

I see that same realness in so many mothers, and I hope they know that I think they are beautiful.

To borrow the immortal words of Emerson:

Let us treat men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are.