August 1 – Hello Beautiful!

by Judy Whelley

I’m in Florida licking my wounds. My divorce finalized last September and the ex remarried in June. I’m still healing from the relationship betrayals that ended the marriage. He appears, at least outwardly, to be happy: new wife, new house, new stepson, and successful in his work. And me? Not so much. I was diagnosed with breast cancer just prior to the divorce and spent last summer and fall recovering from two surgeries and radiation. Between the divorce and the cancer, I’m feeling unwanted, undesirable, and afraid. I retired prematurely from teaching when the stress of the marital problems became so great that I could no longer function at school. I’ve come to Florida to gain some perspective, to focus on who I am, what I want to do, and where I want to go.

I feel least confident about my body and whether or not I am attractive. The ex had a sinister way of publicly praising me and showering me with exquisite gifts while ignoring or rejecting me sexually. The wounds came from what he didn’t say and do as opposed to what he did. Any private compliments given felt like being damned by faint praise. These mixed signals confused me. While mostly a confident and assertive person, sexually I doubted my worth.

He fancied himself a photographer, was always taking pictures. I was rarely the subject. He took pictures of others and often asked me to take his picture but inevitably when film was developed there were few shots of me. I had gained weight during the marriage, soothing my hurt feelings and loneliness with food, and felt shame about my appearance. I definitely did not have the self-confidence to ask to have my picture taken, even though there were times I wanted a photo of myself in a particular location because the magic and beauty of it spoke to me.

Today I’m sitting on the patio of a restaurant on Siesta Key. Because it is beastly hot and humid by midmorning, I get up at six to walk the nearby shady bike path and then come here to have breakfast and journal. I love this spot, feel like I belong. I smile at everyone I meet and they smile right back. Today I did something that required courage. I asked the owner to take a picture of me with my journal and ice tea at my favorite table. He was happy to do it and even though I felt self-conscious and awkward I posed with a smile. I treasure this not-very-special photo. Even though my hair is plastered down from walking in the heat and I’m wearing a tee shirt and no make up or jewelry, I look beautiful. I’m learning that beauty comes from passion within. No one else decides if I am beautiful. I decide that. I create that. And I welcome and embrace those who see and recognize it. Starting with me. Starting today.

Judy Whelley is a writer living in Dayton, Ohio. You can blog with her at


17 responses to “August 1 – Hello Beautiful!

  1. Yes!!

  2. What a beautiful, moving entry. You are a beautiful woman and I love the picture of you sitting with your tea and journal. As one who has come to love her old broad, chunky body more than she ever did her younger, winkleless one, I am horrified at the emphasis Americans put on our exteriors when the person we are inside is so much more important. Your journal entry is going into my journal to remind me of that. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Judy, what a courageous post. Bravo for you, doing what you need to do to heal body and soul, and get your wheels back on the road of life. I see your beauty shining through in the photos, and rejoice with you that you are rediscovering your lovely smile. I’ll bet that journal holds the seeds of some amazing story. Write on!

  4. I applaude your courage, and perhaps will take some for myself, if you please. I am also sixty, a fellow Scorpio, and fraught with body issues dating from when I was ten years old and found out I was fat and had an overbite that boys would not like. I love the last lines of your post, which are all the more substantial because of your first lines. Thanks!

  5. Lisa Shirah-Hiers

    Judy, I echo the other responders. You are a beautiful and brave lady. I have seen you in SCN workshops and noted your vibrant energy, radiant smile, sense of humor and sweet spirit. I am impressed by your courage in facing your cancer but even more by your frank, honest and open-hearted post. Your smile in the photos lights up your face and shows your beauty–inner and outer. Maybe you can ask a friend to do a photo shoot and make yourself an album all your own to make up for the blindness of your Ex.

  6. Jude, the picture is beautiful. I’m so glad you shared it with us. Your journal entry is lovely as well. I’m glad I have gotten to know you – in person and online.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Judy. I am so glad you are rising above the wounds of your marriage and I know that you will find happiness because you are working to love yourself, and that is often the first step. Wishing you love, laughter, joy and courage to be what you want to be.

  8. Andrea, Pat, Sharon, Marie, Lisa, Joyce and Kali,

    Thank you all so much for your generous and heart felt replies! I am once again in Siesta Key, the place where the post originated one year ago. I submitted this when the blog began and did not realize it was time for the post to appear. In a lovely, full circle way, my goddaughter today asked me if she could take a photo of me for a wall in her home. Before the experience noted, I would have felt uncomfortable and tried to avoid having the photo taken. Today, I just gave a smiling “yes!”

    Andea, yes right back to you pretty lady!

    Lisa, what a fabulous idea for an album, I’ll do it! It is tragic how many body image issues torment us as females. I’m grateful to have this blog and my own to share these growth moments and to interact with such vibrant women.

    Pat, I am deeply touched that my post will become part of your journal, thanks for the extreme compliment. You inspire me.

    Sharon, I go to your blog often and love, love, love your life writing tips. They help my stories emerge.

    Marie, I am finding sixty to be the best age thus far. If I have courage you are more than welcome to share it!

    Joyce, I look forward to seeing you again at the conference in April. You have been on such an amazing journey of late and I look forward to a long in-person chat to get caught up.

    And Kali, my writing circle sister, I treasure your encouraging words as well as the writings we share in our circle.


  9. Jude, I don’t get to go to the conference in April. It is the same weekend as my class weekend at Camp Allen (near Navasota, TX) for the Iona School of Ministry. I am so disappointed. I’ll be thinking of all of you.

  10. Ah, Judy, I recognize the feelings, situations and stuff that you describe in this post. I was about to say I wish I didn’t but then I realized that without that, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today and, painful as it was then, I’m more or less pleased with my situation today. Would that there was an easier way to come to those realizations, huh? But nobody ever said transformation would be easy. Did they? if so, I missed that part! LOL Love your picture, by the way. You look happy. Good for you! Sam

  11. I remember having a very similar revelation years ago when our marriage had hit a rough patch. I was sitting in the dark, feeling very unattractive and unappreciated, when all of a sudden a little voice inside my head said “But you know what? Your authentic self is beautiful! Stop trying to be what you think everyone else wants you to be, and be who you were MEANT to be. From that day forward, I blossomed, and you know what? People noticed!

  12. Sam, I’m learning that many, many women experience this and it breaks my heart. I know so many whose husbands have had affairs and/or divorced to replace their wives with younger women. All too often the woman is told she is lacking in some way to justify his behavior and all too often the cheating has been going on while the man continued to pose as the devoted spouse. When the person you love and trust most hurts you and then blames you for his behavior it can leave you reeling and doubting your own worth. It certainly brought me to my knees and cost me the future I believed was mine. But, you are right, I am happy now. I’m confident in my own value and beauty, both inside and out. And I’m creating a future rich in creativity and passion and friendships. It’s been a spiritual journey as well. Feeling relaxed and centered provides a joy that lasts.

    Becky, good for you! I wish I could have come to a thought like that a bit sooner. Blossoming is a perfect description of where I am now; thanks for providing such a “right” word! I love the George Elliot quote, “It is never too late to be who you might have been.’ I am enjoying experiencing life to determine all I am meant to be!

  13. Ha! Funny you should mention that quote Jude. I tore a beautifully illustrated version of it out of a Mary Engelbreit magazine right around that same time, and it was on my inspiration board for many years!

    • Becky! I have a signed print of the Mary Engelbreit version hanging in my workout room.
      I love the way Mary Engelbreit has taken so many wise sayings and quotes and made them into beautiful works of art.

  14. Jude, I am so happy for you, for doing what I think of as claiming your Self. Of course, you are beautiful. And that you can speak it and have willingness to embark on the discovery of a new, self-affirming, self-fulfilling life path that honors you and allows you to BE the wonderful being you are with the life choices You choose . . . I just can’t praise that enough, run-on sentence and all! And you write it so well. Wishing you good health with deep, lasting healing, and delight and self-acknowledgement on your journey, with lots of writing. Hope you can hear all the cheering,

  15. Lovely! You, your writing, your beautiful thoughts expressed so clearly

  16. Claire Butler

    Jude, I am coming to the party a bit late, but just cannot leave this room without leaving a piece of myself behind. Your words, so raw, eloquent and true, echo my own experiences with my ex, and a public quick to judge one’s worth not on merit or spirit, but on what they perceive as physical beauty. You truly are a heroine in my eyes, for having the courage to recognize and realize your worth and beauty detached from the persona we frequently assume from walking in the shadow of our men. I cannot imagine going through a divorce while at the same time battling cancer. How lucky we are to know and love you, and to have you stand for us as an example of how beautiful life can be once you’ve learned to embrace yourself.

    I attended a screenwriting seminar many years ago, given by Michael Hauge. Our assignment was to create a storyline that would catch interest, and then develop it. I cannot remember what mine was about, but I clearly remember that of another female writer: “If women ruled the world…” That, truly, was enough said… . Stay beautiful and healthy, Jude, you have so much to teach us.

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