How To Love Your Face

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Speaker 1: It’s a warm and warm embrace. Yeah.

Speaker 2: You should feel like you’re walking into a hot tub. That’s the feeling that we’re going to go for.

Speaker 1: Oh, is there a script?

Speaker 2: Yeah. Script. Really? Like, kind of ratchets up the pressure.

Speaker 1: Oh, la la la la la la la la.

Speaker 2: Me, me, me.

Speaker 3: Me, me.

Speaker 2: Okay. Hey, how to, listeners? I want to share some very exciting news with you all today. It has been a fantastic adventure and a privilege to host the show for the past year and a half. And one thing I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I could use some help. So we decided to bring on a co-host to offer a different perspective and a richer conversation. And so I’m really excited to introduce or actually reintroduce you to Carvell Wallace, who was a guest host on a recent show we did about how to parent a depressed teenager.

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Speaker 1: Hi, everyone. I’m so happy to be here. I’m so honored to do this.

Speaker 2: Carvell is a New York Times bestselling author and memoirist, someone who was creating beautiful, thoughtful podcasts way back before it was cool before everyone had a podcast. He covers race, art, culture, film, music for a bunch of news outlets, including the New York Times Magazine, GQ, other places. And I guess I wonder when you think about this show compared to the other shows you’ve done. Mm hmm. How does it fit in? What is the what is the story you’re telling yourself?

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Speaker 1: Well, I’m always I’m always interested in things that we struggle with emotionally. Like, that’s always going to be one of the things that I you know, because I think being a human being is so hard and weird and funny and interesting. And I think so one of the things that attracted me to how to was the way in which we delve almost technically into some of the messier aspects of how do I do stuff in relationships, how do I manage fears around my job, How do I, you know, just like all the stuff it takes to just like, be a functioning adult in the world?

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Speaker 2: Absolutely. Yeah. And this isn’t your first advice Rodeo, as I recall, right?

Speaker 1: Yeah. Some of you may know me if you’re an old time slate listener from mom and dad or fighting the Parenting Advice show. And I also co-wrote the care and Feeding column for Slate. And most importantly, I’m a parent. I have two kids who are 19 and 17. I’m based out here in Oakland, California. And I’m super, super happy to be here.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. And how this is going to go is Carvell is going to host some weeks and I’ll host other weeks, and then all of us will be working together behind the scenes with our amazing producers, Derek, Rosie and Kevin to figure out the perfect shows and experts and how we can be most helpful to you and whatever you’re struggling with.

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Speaker 1: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Speaker 2: All right. I can’t wait to hear the episode. Thank you so much for doing this. And I’m excited for adventures to Come.

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Speaker 1: Yeah, me too.

Speaker 1: All right, let’s begin. Welcome to How to? I’m Carvell Wallace. I was thinking about my work lately, and I’ve realized that pretty much everything I write, at least in my mind, comes down to love on some level. Like personal love, political love, community love. All these stories that I work on always come down to people trying to figure out how to love what needs loving and how to get over the things that stand in the way of loving. And whether that’s loving someone else or loving ourselves. It always ends up being about love, which is why I was especially drawn to this week’s question from our listener Ralph.

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Speaker 4: I’m just a great fan of the show and I listen to each episode, even if it isn’t directly relevant to my life. And I thought I would write in with the thing that I’m struggling to kind of let go of. And it’s a condition with my eye that I was born with. Colloquially, it’s called a lazy eye, and I just feel like it’s that ugly thing I can’t let go of.

Speaker 1: As Rell explains it, her eye isn’t receiving all the information from her brain. She underwent surgery as a kid, which didn’t fully correct. The eyes function. And ever since, her eyes appearance has been this way.

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Speaker 4: It has had a mark on my life. I’ve almost felt job interviews for not looking at people directly. It’s not my style to make eye contact either because of the issue or because I’m worried someone will notice the eye issue. I feel like it’s less about the eye. It’s about letting go of that thing that you feel that there’s a spotlight on.

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Speaker 1: What is your relationship to self-confidence been like growing up, and is it different now? How has it evolved over over time?

Speaker 4: It’s funny. My my youth up to age ten or 11 or 12 or whatever, I probably wasn’t conscious of it. And then everything hit them at the lazy eye. And I’m I’m a person who’s biracial and a white family and not hurt and body image, all of it. I think I’ve learned from a very early age that looking at my face can make people feel uncomfortable. They blink. They’re like, There’s something wrong with my eye, you know, like I’m not there’s something not computing here. So to avoid all that, I’m not likely to look you straight on. I was fortunate to get a new doctor at one point in the last five years, and I live in this bubble and it’s not that noticeable. And first thing within seconds of meeting me, he said, okay, what’s going on with your eye? This is an injury, what’s happening there?

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Speaker 1: And I thought, Oh my God.

Speaker 4: I was like, okay, this little tiny part of my face. And they can just they can see there’s this lack of symmetry or whatever it is. Those moments kind of jolt me back into a version of my reality where I feel it’s obvious.

Speaker 1: At some point, does it feel like you have to hold everyone’s reactions that you interact with? And that’s part of the burden that like you don’t just get to be yourself. You also have to deal with every single person’s reaction.

Speaker 4: 100%, and there’s a mix. I have a unique name. My race is not obvious, right? There’s so many things. I feel like I’m on the hot seat and in my heart I’m introverted and I’ve been shy and less shy now. So there’s just this exhaustion. I have to hold all that and I have to pick which thing I’m going to explain if I’m going to explain it.

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Speaker 1: So on today’s show, we’re going to face Raul’s question head on How do you learn to love your face or really any physical trait that’s created years of avoidance and self-consciousness? Should it even be on you to embrace it? And how do you deal with strangers reactions ad nauseum? Joining us in this conversation is the award winning playwright and author Sarah Ruhl.

Speaker 3: My first reaction is just tears, like partly the vulnerability of hearing you share your story with me brings me to tears, and also I relate with so much of it.

Speaker 1: Sarah opened her book Smile The Story of a Face, with this beautiful passage about her experience with Bell’s Palsy.

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Speaker 3: Ten years ago, my smile walked off my face and wandered out in the world. This is the story of my asking it to come back. This is a story of how I learned to make my way when my body stopped obeying my heart.

Speaker 1: Sarah is going to help Rell make her way toward love, acceptance and finding the mirror that matters most. And if you don’t think this applies to you, well, pretty sure most of us have something we’re a little self-conscious about when we meet somebody new. So definitely stay with us.

Speaker 1: On the day after Sarah Rule’s twins were born, she noticed something had changed.

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Speaker 3: A lactation consultant had come in to teach me how to breastfeed two babies at the same time. And then she said, Dry looks a little droopy. And I thought she was being like, kind of rude. And I made a joke being like Irish, you know, because my uncles, when they’re drunk, their eyes fall down. She’s like, That’s not what I’m talking about. Look in the mirror. And my whole left side of my face had fallen down and was paralysed. And it was such a shock because I was one person inside before looking in the mirror and felt like I was another person after. And I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which is a paralysis of the seventh cranial nerve. And it’s idiopathic, meaning people don’t totally know why you get it or whether it will get better, which can be really frustrating because they’ll say it will probably get better within three months. But we don’t know. You might be a person for whom it never gets better.

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Speaker 1: By that point you were already, I would say, something of a public figure as like a renowned writer. And and I wonder if this changed the way that you interacted with your career, particularly the kind of public facing part of it.

Speaker 3: I retreated. I tried not to. I tried not to retreat, but I think I did. I mean, the most to me, kind of hilarious. But sad example is I had just been nominated for a Tony Award for this play in The Next Room or the Vibrator Play. And it was right after I’d gotten the Bell’s Palsy and we had to go to this Vanity Fair thing where they take your picture of all the nominees. And I didn’t want to go and my agent said, You should go. So I was standing there on the red carpet and this failings of photographer was like, smile somehow for a Tony Award. And I was just like, really doing my best. And they’re like, What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you happy? You can’t just smile for your Tony Award?

Speaker 3: And I said, Actually, I can’t. My face is paralysed and they’re like, Oh, like, totally chase and not know what to do with me. But with Bell’s Palsy, there’s definitely the feeling of managing other people’s reactions. And for me for a long time, not wanting to try to smile or laugh because that gave rise to needing to explain, because that’s when my face sometimes looked like it was grimacing. Particularly in the early phases.

Speaker 3: And I think also the effect on the self of creating that neutrality. I think for you it sounds like it’s looking away. And for me it was sort of not not smiling, not making expression on my face. It led to a removal from social, social life, social engagement, a kind of ghosting, and also an inner expression lessness, because I was manifesting an outward lack of expression, engagement.

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Speaker 3: And I feel like you came so to the right place in terms of me, because not only do I have this asymmetry, but my, my two of my kids have amblyopia. My son had surgery when he was, I think, three to move his eye over. And so I’m well aware of, you know, part of how that goes. And I also am an introvert. So I also identify keenly, keenly with that. And I’m married to a biracial man who often decides whether or not to explain where he’s from or what his ethnicity is. Anyway, I, I relate so, so much with everything that you’re saying.

Speaker 1: You know, it’s interesting for me because the one like link that I keep seeing is this this feeling of having to hold the weight of other people’s need to understand and process your story along their framework.

Speaker 3: Mm hmm.

Speaker 1: For me, one of the experiences I have with that is that it generates a fair amount of, like, so silent resentment inside me. Like, I’m just annoyed that I constantly have to organize my whole life around the parts of me that defy explanation or that other people need to have explain. That gives me a certain amount of resentment and I might turn that inward. I tend to be more of a depressive type of person, but I’m wondering Rell if you experience like resentment or anger, frustration ever at all?

Speaker 4: Yeah, I think it’s a great question. I almost failed our competition. And in government we call that a process to get a promotion, and I didn’t realize it until I asked for the feedback afterwards. And they said, Yeah, we just about failed you for oral communication. You weren’t looking at us. You were looking at the wall. I was so disappointed and frustrated. It wasn’t whether my answers were solid or well-prepared. It was some some optics things.

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Speaker 4: And I also want to just land a little bit on what Sarah said around when to explain. I guess I don’t feel like I get to get a moment to explain it in a moment that feels comfortable to me. So should I go into interviews again or whatever? Social interactions, blind dates, whatever it is? Do I have to front with this when I have a lot of other interesting things about my life that I would like to share?

Speaker 4: So for an interview in person, for sure, I’m going to I’m going to handle it differently. Because I didn’t like that I got I felt like I got kind of penalized. But I don’t consider this a disability. It is more of a visual thing that’s happening with my face I don’t see in 3D. There’s lots of other you know, you don’t want me as your Chinese partner. I one thing that really when I go down stairs, I’ve fallen down stairs before and my depth perception doesn’t exist, etc. But I feel it’s minor until others make it more major. And then I then I struggle with how to calibrate to the responses.

Speaker 3: I think the question you pose about when to explain is such a deep one in terms of how much you want it to foreground your identity. And there were times when I found an explanation really was was helped me, like diffuse things, helped get it out of the way. And sometimes it felt a little stilted, but it did help the conversation that came next.

Speaker 3: You know, like a little palate cleanser, meeting parents at kindergarten for the first time. I would say, just so you know, I might seem unfriendly. I actually am friendly, but the left side of my face is paralyzed, so it doesn’t seem like I’m friendly all the time. They go, Oh, okay. And then we’d move on and I would do it. You know, in those situations or teaching or sometimes in professional settings. And I found that the more I did it, actually, the less I had to explain, which I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s that my face was also getting progressively better and I could show more emotion as as the years passed.

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Speaker 3: But I think in a funny way, the explanation was for myself as well, so that the more I explained to other people, it was like a kind of coming out like instead of let’s have this tacit agreement that we both you want to ask, What’s going on with my face? I don’t want to talk about it. Like, instead of that being subtext, it just kind of makes the subtext text. And it helped me to move on.

Speaker 4: Mm hmm. I’m just learning from that that maybe there are certain situations that would just be easier to front it. I had an example recently. I’ve just switched jobs. I’m a manager and I was meeting my team one on ones and I had a sense there might be something going on with one of my team members eyes and it was like this relief that I could be like, I’m going to talk about my eye. It’s going to be great. And I said, Hey, just so you know, if I don’t appear to be looking at you, maybe I’m not going. There’s anyways, I think and this woman very generously shared Mare I was injured in a in a childhood accident didn’t work at all. And it was like this moment of bonding and that was a one on one in a very small room. I just felt it was a safe. I sense there would be a connection there. That was all very lovely and I liked the example Sarah gave. So just makes me kind of pensive about how when could I have a script? And in general, I don’t know. In general I don’t.

Speaker 3: Well, because it can feel sort of I don’t know, it can feel weird. It can feel rote. I don’t want to take up space in that way. So I have to push myself to do it. What is it about the self erasure and also the kind of mirror neurons when you find someone else who is the same, who help like that woman in the situation.

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Speaker 3: There’s one incident in the book I talk about where I finally have lunch with someone else with Unrecovered Bell’s Palsy. This this man, Jonathan Kalb, who wrote about it in The New Yorker. And I remember reading at the time and almost not wanting to read it because it was so painful to imagine that I might not recover. And Jonathan talked to her heartbreakingly, about not recovering.

Speaker 3: And finally, when I was writing the book, I thought, okay, I have an excuse to come. So I finally reached out and he was so happy to have lunch. And just the fact of seeing his face and having compassion for his face and thinking when he would laugh and sort of turn away. Because when someone with Bell’s palsy laughs, it can look asymmetrical or like a grimace.

Speaker 3: And I thought, No, look at me. Stay with me. I know what it’s like. Or when we were eating and, you know, food would like dribble out or something because sometimes it can be hard to eat a big bite with Bell’s Palsy if your muscles aren’t working properly. And we could just laugh about it. It was so healing for me. Just a single meal, you know? And I think, God, how do we we silo ourselves. We keep each other from having these connections and or at least I did, because I’m, I think so introverted. And I look back and I thought, why did I not join a Bell’s Palsy support group? Like, immediately? What a relief that would have been.

Speaker 4: It’s very, very, very deeply nourishing now, this conversation. But I think one thing that sort of sticks with me is how much is on us and how much is on others to be like, can you just deal with difference? Right? Can you just. Recalibrate and not. Not quiz me about it or like, have your reaction and then move on. Right. Couldn’t this be part of just body positivity and honoring difference and not putting it on? Me.

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Speaker 1: As much time as we’ve spent talking about our inattention and fronting conversations. At what point can we say it’s just on others to deal with it? We’ll try to answer that right after this quick break.

Speaker 1: We’re back with Sarah Ruhl, author of Smile The Story of a Face and Rell, who right before the break asked a very good question. Why is it on me to placate strangers about my eye?

Speaker 3: I totally agree. And I think that the thing that makes it tricky for the face is the possible misinterpretation of what the face is doing so that, you know, you were talking about just being misinterpreted or which enrages me about your job interview. I agree it should be part of body positivity, but sometimes it’s these subtextual cues that people don’t even know. They’re making emotional judgments unless you kind of say, look, here’s the situation. My my face might be conveying something I’m not intending to convey, which is really awkward, because how we’re taught is those cues are supposed to be silent and subtextual. And so to say I’m making it visible can be awkward, but at least then you can move on.

Speaker 3: I mean, I remember a similar situation with a doctor too, when you said the doctor was like, What’s going on with your eye? She was asking if I had any conditions that would affect my child, and they said, Oh, I have celiac disease. She said, Yeah. And she said, Anything else? And I said, No. She said, Well, I can see that you have Bell’s Palsy. And I was like, Oh, God damn it. She can see it still, because I think at that point it been a year and I thought no one’s supposed to still be able to see it. And I felt so seen in a way I didn’t want to be seen, seen with a medical gaze.

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Speaker 3: And yet other times it’s helpful to feel seen like someone who is going through the same thing, to say, I see you, I see what you’re going through. Instead of all of my friends who pretended that they didn’t see it or in fact didn’t see it because they loved me. And they they they filled in the history of how they knew my face to be or react to them, you know? So I don’t know if you make a distinction between intimates who know what your intentions are and strangers.

Speaker 4: I just love that theme. And it comes back to Karl’s opening remarks. Like, I my best friend’s like, never noticed she actually said that I’ve never noticed. And I thought, for me, that’s. That’s lovely. Right. That’s, that’s sort of where I. Would embrace what you’re saying. Sarah. Why the all of me is there this whatever this thing, whatever it is, or anyway, maybe that person just isn’t an eye focused person. Hmm.

Speaker 1: There’s a frustration that sort of voiced about why can’t people just fucking deal with it? It made me wonder how you, Sarah, in particular, recognize the difference between this is a thing I need other people to do differently. And this is a thing that I just have to accept that this is how people are going to be, and I need to deal with this in my own particular way. For me.

Speaker 3: I feel like it just kept shifting, kept shifting as as relationships between self and other always are shifting.

Speaker 3: And as we make the self based on a social self like I remember I this production of my play Passion play very soon after the Bell’s Palsy and my mother was sitting on my Bell’s palsy side and she’s an actress and she had had Bell’s palsy. Anyway, she was watching the show and she kept checking in with me nervously, like just looking at me. And finally she whispered, Are you not pleased? And I said, I’m very pleased. I have Bell’s palsy, my bass can’t move. And she’s like, Oh my God. And she felt so bad that she was my own mother. She had had the condition herself. And still she was so conditioned to read my social cues that she felt nervous and felt the need to check in. So I don’t know. I don’t know what the point is where you just think, deal with it. I’m not explaining myself, and when it’s helpful to the self to explain.

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Speaker 3: I did feel writing the book for me was incredibly healing and making a narrative out of what had happened to me made me so much less angry. I mean, you talked about, I think, mild irritation. For me it was rage. I was I was enraged about what was happening. My my experiences with doctors, the fact that I wasn’t getting better, my inability to express myself produced so much rage. And I’m a fairly mild mannered person. So it didn’t manifest outwardly. It was just buried. And somehow writing a book made sense of it for me, and I’m no longer angry about it. So I do think putting language to it and not having it be buried and non language for me helped me get it out of my my viscera somehow.

Speaker 4: Okay. Okay.

Speaker 4: Those in low grade irritation, I the word I written in my notes is there’s actually just a lot of shame in listening to your your journey on the medical side. One of the things I want to let go of is all the energy is spent in. Googling how to fix the situation with AI. I mean, I had surgery as a kid. You know, very well intentioned, may have made things slightly better, but didn’t. Correct. But I was saying to one of the producers, Oh, there’s a Tetris game you can play that may correct the AI, you know, testing that, it can put you in a dark room for two weeks, maybe rewire your brain like the energy spent fixing this AI versus being at peace and weighing both of those things. The shame and the and the fixing and wanting to a different path out like wanting a it is what it is.

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Speaker 1: I’m really struck real by your use of the word correct. And I know that that’s like what it says like we need to correct that’s correct this but is there a way in which this is viewed as already correct? Fine as it is. Like, you know what I’m saying that not that like, boy, there’s this correct way to for things to be and my way is not the correct way. And I just have to spend the rest of my life learning how to live with that and put other people at ease around the fact that my thing is incorrect. Like, you didn’t choose this, you didn’t make this happen. This isn’t the result of some horrible thing that you did that you now have to suffer the consequences of. You literally were created and born. That’s all you did. So how can that be incorrect is a question. And I’m asking that philosophically.

Speaker 3: It’s so beautifully said, and I found a lot with having something that’s chronic. There was always that toggling between, I want to be done with this and accept myself as I am and the kind of late night Googling, how do I get better? I was so ashamed. I didn’t even know I was ashamed about that. I was palsy. That’s how deeply it was buried. Because rationally I thought, Why would I be ashamed of this? This just happened to me. And yet it was persistent, you know, not wanting to look in the mirror, not wanting to look at people, hating how I looked in photographs and feeling weirdly that there was something wrong with me for not getting better.

Speaker 3: People would ask me, Why didn’t you pursue more second opinions early on? Why didn’t you call that friend up? Was a neurologist. And I would say I guess I was ashamed. And I came to that idea that shame is when the body does something that you don’t have control over, you know that it’s different from guilt where you feel you did something wrong, that there’s something about shame, which is about a lack of control. And releasing that is a big deal, I think, in terms of accepting oneself.

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Speaker 1: People are terrified of sickness because, like Sara just said, we don’t want to lose control of our bodies. Sometimes I wonder if that in and of itself is just the root of all ableism, which is the tendency to discriminate against anyone with any kind of disability. Of course, the ultimate irony is that we are all going to lose control of our bodies one day. That’s just part of the deal. But during this stretch of time, this period in which we consider ourselves abled and healthy, there’s a lot of anxiety around disorders and disabilities, which means if you are one of the people who is currently experiencing one of these so-called disorders or disabilities, you find yourself on the receiving end of everyone’s anxieties.

Speaker 4: I think that’s a really profound point, and I do read some kind of memoir, but as someone who’s missing part of a limb, his reasoning for why people kept saying what happened, what happened is if he’d said it happened at birth, which is my explanation, palpable relief. They’re like, okay, well, I got through that. I’m probably going to be okay, right? Like, this weird transformation is going to happen to me. It’s going to happen to my eye. It evokes everybody else’s vulnerability. Or am I going to stop working Like maybe they will? Maybe not for the same reason.

Speaker 1: So the question I mean, and this is for either one of you, actually, because this is at least nominally an advice show is given the fact that to be in any way, again, the hugest air quotes of all disordered or disabled puts you at the receiving end of every quote unquote able bodied person’s like anxieties about losing their power and autonomy. How do we survive that? How do we maintain our peace in our space and our prosperity and our full humanity in the face of all that energy coming towards us? Especially when, as you mentioned at the beginning row, it is a thing at which you don’t even have to consent for people to recognize or acknowledge or engage with you about. As soon as they look at you, they see it, and as soon as they lay eyes on you already, you’re in the crosshairs of their stuff. How do we keep ourselves together underneath that?

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Speaker 3: There’s a story that comes to mind after I wrote my book. I was talking to my editor on the phone in a car, and my daughter was maybe 12 and was in the backseat listening. And my editor was actually asking, would I classify my book as disability literature? She’d had some question from a book club. We’re sort of going back and forth. Was it a disability or did I take that moniker? Like, did I identify as such? We’re talking about it. And afterwards I got off the phone and I said, Oh, that must have been interesting to you, Ana. And she said, Oh, yeah. And I said, Well, what did you think? She said, Well, mom, I. I guess I always kind of thought that your face was this beautiful house on a wall, suddenly fell down and crumbled, and you kept trying to build it back up brick by brick, and you couldn’t quite. But when I look at you, all I see is my home.

Speaker 1: Oh, my God.

Speaker 3: I thought your God. Well, if she told me that, maybe I wouldn’t have had to write this book. I would have been cured, you know, by her complete, unconditional love. But it took talking about it in public for me to receive that love, to know about her love and acceptance. And and I think in our world, we sort of talk about self-acceptance a lot like that. It’s good to do and we should do it. And I agree. But I do think there’s something about the social self. Yes.

Speaker 3: Where for me, like maybe I got it from my daughter. Is that wrong? I couldn’t get it only from inside my little atomic universe. You know, maybe we get it from our friends or coworkers or parents or a stranger we meet on the subway. I would like to think we could go deep inside our solitary selves or read a book and heal our shame. And maybe we can. But sometimes I do think it comes from another person who helps us along the way. Mm hmm. Which is maybe the whole reason that this podcast exists.

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Speaker 3: You know that what you were saying at the beginning of this conversation about love and yeah, we’re all a little bit broken.

Speaker 1: Whether like the kind of, like, self-love industrial complex as I as I always witness it now and it’s like a sort of public online iteration does always strike me as remarkably tied into our general cultural belief that everything can be must be done by yourself. In other words, not enough emphasis on community. I mean, I, I don’t know how we’re supposed to navigate all the things we have to navigate without the love that can only be generated in community. But I do think, sir, that’s a little bit of what you’re talking about. And to that end, as you said in your email. Well, I have to say, like this topic is not just about, oh, what do I do about this weird thing my face does. This topic is about something a lot bigger. And it may be too early to tell this because we’ve just had this conversation and things of this level require some time to process. But Rell How do you feel like you’ll think about your eye differently going forward?

Speaker 4: I think the two things that sit with me are Sarah really tuning me into that. There may be situations where that little script on the cue card might be helpful. And so that’s really quite a quite a light bulb moment and it makes me feel armed in a good way. And then second, just really profound to have it floated into view how much my love for others transcends their physical bodies and how that must be going in two directions.

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Speaker 3: MM Asymmetry doesn’t define us. In fact, asymmetry, I’ve come to realize, invites care. You know that our vulnerabilities are fragilities. Invite the care of others, and it’s our actually our perfections that are distancing, that make people, people think, Oh God, I don’t want to talk to that person. They’re so perfect. But in fact, our fragility, our asymmetry invites a beloved to say eye to eye, to a symmetrical eye to walk through the world with, with some level of brokenness. So I’m just really moved that you wrote in. I’m really honored to be part of this podcast, which builds community in such a beautiful way. So just very, very grateful to be here.

Speaker 1: A sincere thank you to Rell and Sarah Ruhl for letting us explore this with you. Before we let Sara go, I asked her to read this final passage from Smile.

Speaker 3: As I near the end of this story, what I would like to say to myself is this I would like to accept my face, my story as it is written on my face, my joy, and what I would like to tell you, reader or listener. I don’t know you though I have never met you, is I love your face, I love your eyes. Reading across the page, the wrinkles, the furrowed brow, whatever asymmetries you might have, whether it’s a yellow snaggle tooth like mine, or a crooked smile like mine. All the lines denoting story this small that scar all are protuberances, battle scarred, wounded, incomplete, almost healed, barely healed, or never going to be healed in the outward sense, not in this lifetime. Scar tissue or just plain growing older.

Speaker 3: Oh, how beautiful you are. I want to cherish the wrinkle that is a marker of whatever it is that makes your joy hard. One and human. A little prayer. May all the broken faces heal me. What appears to be broken actually be in the midst of an untold, unforeseeable healing.

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Speaker 1: Is there something in your life that needs healing? Send us a note at how to add Slate.com, or you can call us up and leave a voicemail at 6464954001. We would love to have you on the show. And if you like what you heard today, then give us a rating or review. Tell your friends. Spread the word far and wide. This helps us connect to more people. How to as executive producer is Derek John, Rosemary Belson and Kevin Bendis produced this episode. Merritt Jacob is senior technical director. Amanda Ripley is my co-host and Charles Duhigg created the show. I’m Carvell Wallace. Thanks for listening.