Life, Unfiltered

The more comfortable I become with myself, the more unabashed I am in my continuous spelunking for beauty. I search for it daily – behind glass panes at the patisserie, or under the ocean’s highest tide, or in my daughter’s marbled eyes.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to think that an admiration for beauty, or design, or art, suggested vanity. Or lack of depth. Or a dull, narrow mind.

I don’t know where this belief stemmed from, but I know I have to work hard to un-know this; to uproot this weedy belief and promptly offer it to the compost.

It is a gift. Beauty is a gift, and it is one with searching for, and being surprised by, and running toward. It is a field of multi-colored tulips, planted and lined as certain as toy soldiers. It is a songbird, and a river, and the precise taste of ripe blackberries from an overgrown bush. It is bubbles in the bath, and lemon in the tea, and a wool sweater in the closet.

And my favorite kind of beauty – the most wonderful beauty of all – is the hidden kind; the kind that can only be arrived at after a period of toil, or discomfort, or hardship. It’s a beauty wrapped in resilience, resulting in strength. Raw and native. Pure and fibrous.

It’s the precise way a pillow feels – welcoming, luring – after days of sleep interrupted by nursing babies or ailing parents or bouts of insomnia. It’s the scattered landmine of toys and blankets and books after a snow day indoors where tempers are high and reserves are low. It’s the sweat tendrils on a feverish baby, the loopy signature of a rejection letter, the lone, single tulip sprouting amidst a harsh winter.

That, to me, when I’m looking and noticing and squinting, is beauty. Unrefined.


When Shiseido asked me to share my life unfiltered in celebration of the new Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate – a product that seeks to spotlight the best of our truest selves – I thought it would be impossible. Because we all see through a filter, right? We all carry a color throughout our days – an anthem that plays just under our skin: mother, wife, daughter, sister. The judge and the judged. The right and the righteous. The wrong and the wronged.

I filter daily, hourly, minutely, viewing my world through a lens of second-guessing and truth-comparison and faith. Is this appropriate? Is this true? Is this good? Can I do better? Can I be better? Is this caring? Is this serving? Am I doing these things with an attitude that represents the person I was created to be?

And the beat goes on.

We will always look at life through the colors we’ve seen, through the hues we’ve been given, searching for something larger than ourselves to saturate the mundane and transform it into stark, unadulterated beauty.

And yet.

There is beauty in peeking beyond our filter, isn’t there? In allowing the swirly colors of our eyes to adjust to the jolt, search the room, scan the shades, see things from a different vantage point. To drop our red and peer through blue. To look through orange, or yellow, or green and to see the world tinted with beliefs that are not our own. To look and listen and see – truly see – and maybe, just maybe, understand.

Hands extended. Eyes opened. Perceptions shattered.

Life, unfiltered.

That’s beauty, right? That can only be beauty.

p.s. This essay and photo series is in partnership with Shiseido, a brand I love. Thanks for reading!

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