Reveling in life: 'You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand' (2024)

(Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 15, 2003)

Reveling in life: 'You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand' (1)

The revelation struck a few weeks ago. Up until then, Becky Slabaugh had ignored the truth. She had refused to acknowledge that the attack by her husband, Bill, had forever changed her life.

Now the vision that had appeared in her head while she was stretched out in the rear of an ambulance a year ago made sense.

Though she was weak and in agonizing pain, the dream was vivid. In her mind's eye, Becky's body was shrinking, shriveling.

"Oh, I'm dying. I'm dying," she thought as the emergency medical team worked on her.

The notion that her life was over seemed not so much a disturbing thought, but rather reality -- a simple fact. "I fought so hard, but didn't make it."

She frequently recalls that image of herself, withering. And she reasons the dream contained a message: The very moment Bill drenched her body in nitric acid, the perceptions she had lived her life by began to die.

Prior to the assault, she viewed life in a positive light. She looked for the best in people, and turned her head when the snapshot wasn't so picturesque. She suspects that's how she ended up at the altar with Bill Slabaugh.

"There were good things about Bill. But the things that didn't fit, the coldness, the aloofness, the arrogance, I ignored."

Worse, she compensated, promising herself that she could make up for the traits he lacked. Still, she never thought, not for a second, that she would be a victim of domestic violence -- not at the hands of Bill Slabaugh. Though distant, he was never threatening.

But now when she looks back, Becky remembers how obsessive her husband became after she told him, six weeks before the attack, that she may be leaving. That's when he began keeping her up late rehashing things. Telling her how much he would miss people seeing her on his arm and never having sex with her again.

Perhaps, she reasons, those were warning signs -- ones that she missed.

And while that still disturbs her, it's in the past. She would rather look ahead.

"I see now how fiercely I have fought to hold on using every ounce of strength until there was nothing left. I was empty," she wrote in her journal May 25, 2005. "And, so, I begin a new life with no framework, no footing, only my desire for beauty, love and wholeness. Letting go of illusions that do not serve me anymore. Thank you disillusionment because my illusions will be replaced with truth and love. . ."


Today, Becky accepts that her life has changed, even if the images aren't always rosy.

Each morning, she begins the day by applying three types of oils and lotions to deal with the burns and other skin problems. Yoga is followed by a 20-minute process of pulling on her pressure garments, needed to minimize the scarring. Then it's off to work for a six-hour day at Tallmadge's Heather Knoll Nursing & Rehabilitation Center where she is the director of staff development.

After dinner, she throws her compression garments into the washing machine and hand-washes her clear mask. She does Pilates, takes a shower and applies more lotions before putting on her night garments, including a hood with holes for her eyes, ears, nose and mouth. She jots her personal thoughts down in her journal. And then -- always -- she prays for guidance.

There are multiple doctor's appointments, as well as therapy sessions twice weekly to stretch the skin on her face. This fall, she will have the first of at least five reconstructive surgeries.

Still, despite the gawkers, the pending divorce, therapy, and pain, she feels blessed. So many have come to her rescue -- Dr. David Andrews, who gave Becky hope, but always told her the truth; the stranger who has sent a card every day for the last year; family and friends who continually remind her how beautiful she is, despite the scars; co-workers who have offered their shoulders and cried with her without offering suggestions on how to "fix things"; and the people she's never even met who have come up to her on the street to say they would be praying for her recovery.

While Becky has always held dear the people and things she loves, now they've become even more precious.

"What's changed is . . . (I have) a heightened sense. I loved nature before, but now it just takes my breath away."

She looks at the woman in the photos of herself, taken before the attack, and sees a stranger. Today, she's at ease with the person whose reflection she sees in the mirror.

It's certain that Becky's future will be filled with more pain, but it will also be mixed with great joy. And she welcomes it, this new life of hers.

She compares herself to the Velveteen Rabbit -- tattered, bald in places, visible areas of makeshift repair, but, as the book says, "these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I have lost the ability to reserve uncomfortable feelings. They are readily accessible, but so is joy, love and gratitude. All is easily expressed, nothing stilted or pushed down," reads her June 27, 2005, journal entry. "The truth of who I am, and where I am, flows freely. Life flows like a river and I no longer swim upstream. Without fighting against the flow, I find myself (pushed) gently forward by the current of life. The first time in my life that living feels effortless. It feels like peace."

And this Christmas, a time of joy and celebrating family, Becky plans on curling up in a chair and cradling Erin and Greg's new baby -- her first grandchild -- in her arms.

"I am resting in the lap of God," she says. "I live."

Reveling in life: 'You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand' (2024)


Reveling in life: 'You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand'? ›

once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” This is one of my all time favorite quotes. It's from “The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is a British children's book written by Margery Williams (also known as Margery Williams Bianco) and illustrated by William Nicholson. It chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit's desire to become real through the love of his owner. › wiki › The_Velveteen_Rabbit
” by Margery Williams Bianco. “Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse.

What is the real quote from Velveteen Rabbit? ›

"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."

What is the message behind The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The Velveteen Rabbit is a story about finding self-worth and acceptance through love. The Rabbit initially struggles with feelings of inferiority, because he does not perceive himself as important compared to the more impressive, modern toys in the nursery.

What is the advice from The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The Velveteen Rabbit demonstrates that true happiness comes from self-acceptance. The less concerned he is about his appearance, the more he enjoys life. Even before others see him as Real, he accepts and believes in himself.

What is The Velveteen Rabbit story about? ›

Based on the book by Margery Williams

Soon becoming the Child's new favorite toy, the Rabbit's appearance becomes worn and shabby from play, and a wonderful change begins to happen. Through his adventures with the Child, the Velveteen Rabbit learns about love and friendship, and the true meaning of being real.

What is the first line of The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

HERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.

What is the psychology of The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The Velveteen Rabbit could never have enjoyed the beauty of being Real had he not been “broken open” by the experience of vulnerability. To me, the moral of this story is that we become Real through the process of connection.

What illness did the boy have in the Velveteen Rabbit? ›

One hundred years ago, author Margery Williams wrote the children's book The Velveteen Rabbit. In the story, the main character, a young boy, gets sick and to decontaminate his room, all his books and toys, including the velveteen rabbit, need to be burned. What illness did he contract? Scarlet fever.

Is the Velveteen Rabbit an allegory? ›

But the fairy-tale satisfaction of this short, perfect allegory would not be valid if the rabbit were not part of the child's real life. The allegory is about human love and human childhood.

What does the rabbit symbolize in Christianity? ›

In Christianity, rabbits represent rebirth and resurrection, particularly during Easter celebrations. The rabbit's ability to reproduce quickly also signifies fertility and new life. In Buddhism, rabbits symbolize humility, kindness, and compassion.

What is the final fate of the velveteen rabbit? ›

The ending to The Velveteen Rabbit is a bit of a cry-fest, so you might want to arm yourself with some tissues. So, the Velveteen Rabbit has escaped the bonfire and been turned into a Real Rabbit. Yay!

Who is the fairy in the velveteen rabbit? ›

A fairy steps out of the flower and comforts the velveteen rabbit, introducing herself as the Nursery Magic Fairy. She says that, because he has become Real to the boy who truly loves him, she will take him away with her and "turn [him] into Real" to everyone.

What is the moral of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The Velveteen Rabbit shows us that hardships are a normal part of life, and that eventually they will pass. When you're in the middle of a difficult time it's often hard to see to the other side, but remembering the good moments and hoping for better times ahead is an important part of dealing with hardship and grief.

What is the real quote from the Velveteen Rabbit? ›

"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."

What is the universal theme of Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The story's universal themes of imagination, play, and deep, abiding love, along with the author's original wit and heartfelt honesty, are all respectfully reinvented in this touching tale filled with humor and sincere warmth.

What is the allegory of velveteen rabbit? ›

The story of The Velveteen Rabbit was argued by Daniels to be an analogy for the inner life of infants or children. Furthermore, he argued that the Kleinian interpretation is a "standard against which the question it poses can be best understood" (p. 27).

What is the philosophy of The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The velveteen rabbit is an object that can be touched and seen and played with, and therefore it is real in a physical sense. The second is that something can become real when it is loved enough. The third and final definition of reality in the story is when the toy becomes a flesh and blood rabbit.

What is the rabbit's foot quote? ›

My Rabbit's Foot I've got a rabbit's foot and I feel lucky that I have it, but I still know that it must've come from one unlucky rabbit.

What is the final fate of The Velveteen Rabbit? ›

The ending to The Velveteen Rabbit is a bit of a cry-fest, so you might want to arm yourself with some tissues. So, the Velveteen Rabbit has escaped the bonfire and been turned into a Real Rabbit. Yay!

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