By Asia Voight
“Some day my daughter is going to be Miss America!” my dad boasted to other parents waiting outside dance class. Standing beside him my leotard glimmered in bronze over my long smooth legs. Every daughter wants to make her father proud. Believing that outer beauty reigned supreme, and that one day I would be Miss America, I signed up for every lesson that would get me on that national stage. Gymnastics, modeling, piano, cheerleading, singing and baton twirling lessons filled weekly schedules. Determined to please my family and make myself a star I pressed hard to excel.
By my teenage years, the momentary highs of my many accomplishments were followed by a deep sense of shallowness and darkness that lingered inside me. And at night I became haunted by a re-occurring dream where layers of bizarrely expressive African looking masks came off my face only to reveal nothing but a void, a black space. I began to see myself as empty and hollow, a mannequin of changing masks. The positive outward appearance and talents of my waking self was intended to bring me love and acceptance but instead, it brought about a severe disconnection between my outward persona and what I felt. Until one day, I found myself on my knees in prayer.
“God, show me how to be real. I’m sick and tired of feeling like a hollow shell.” Like a small tornado my prayer swirled up to Heaven.
In my early twenties, a speeding semi driver crashed his rig into my van and into my dreams of beauty. Trapped inside the van, a raging fire closed in on me. Managing to wriggle my body through the partially open driver’s side window, I jumped into an inferno of flames and miraculously made it to the other side
As days and weeks passed, lying immobile in my hospital bed with 72% of my body charred, I watched lovely new skin begin to form over raw flesh. Maybe I still can be Miss America, I thought. However, all hopes cast off with this new skin as it became twisted like roots and vines. The skin fit so poorly over my bones and muscle constricting my every movement. I could not even wipe my own tears away. Hope ebbed away as each new scar formed. All the softness and gracefulness of my skin and body had been burnt off and taken with it the only avenue to love and acceptance I had known in the world.
“It’s time to look,” a staff nurse said. She handed the mirror to me but I would not take it from her.
“Your going home soon, you have to look, “ She jetted the mirror in my face.
“I want to remember myself as beautiful,” I kept my eyes closed.
“You have to face the truth,”
“I’ll do it on my own.”
Later that day, shuffling weakly with the use of my cane and a grip on the wall handrails I made it to the bathroom. Once in I closed the door behind me. Elated to have accomplished my longest walk since the accident I relished a moment alone. This euphoria didn’t last long. Seeing the large wall mirror caused me to break out into a cold sweat. Can I do this?
Cautiously peeking out one eye at the top of my head in the mirror I let out a sigh, Not so bad, I Initially thought. Scanning down the rest of my face I grasped the sink’s edge as both eyes fixed upon my neck covered in a speckled, discolored skin-graft that looked like dead bare chicken skin. Steadying myself against the vanity, hot tears streamed down my cheeks like water down a tumbled mine shaft.
Any illusion of beauty gone, I set into hating the hospital staff, and made God an enemy of mine. Doctors call this healing? God betrayed me by keeping me alive for this. Death would have been the miracle here. I am utterly worthless now. Hideous.
My anguish only deepened as the staff got me ready for the day before leaving intensive care. My nurse gave me a package – a Jobst pressure garment used to compress raised scars. Painfully, the tight nylon-like suit stretched over my thin-skinned legs, torso, and arms – at the bottom of the package, a facemask. Refusing to put it on the staff held vigil at my bedside. My shouts of “No!” and “Get that away from me,” would not deter them. Finally giving in, the mask came over my face like a suffocating white sheet placed over the dead. The binding magnified my shallow breathing as the Velcro at the back of my head became fully attached. The nurses walked away pleased at saving my face from contracting, while I disappeared under the restricting tan mesh and ceased to exist.
The next day they wheeled me from the hospital to a vehicle waiting to take me to the airport and eventually my hometown. A staff nurse handed me a laminated card. If anyone around me were to become overly frightened I could show it so they knew I was not a bank robber or dangerous somehow.
Sitting in a narrow wheelchair on the airport runway, the crew and my mother cautiously lifted me up the airplane stairs. Rounding the corner into the aisle, the piercing stares of alarmed travelers bore into my eyes. Tightening my throat to stifle tears, I put my head down until landing. Upon arrival at O’Hare Airport with one more flight home, my mom wheeled me through the crowds to our next gate. A stranger faced us; I shielded my heart ready to be confronted by her glare. Instead she pulled a flower from her purse and looked deeply into my eyes. My breath sucked back into my chest as our gazes locked. Mouth agape, I reached out for the flower. I felt her heart open like the pink carnation she handed me. Smiling through my Jobst mask my heart lifted.
During the next few months of recovery it continued to be painful turning over in bed and reviving my paralyzed leg, but the image and sensation of the unknown airport traveler continued to give me strength to progress with my physical therapists. Likewise, meeting new people in the hospital became easier as my skin and body continued to heal. Now it was time to take my new face out into the world.
I no longer wore the mask and yet I continued to be self-conscious about the red scar that covered the left side of my face, and the graft on my neck that looked like a patchwork quilt. I drove into my old neighborhood and pulled up to a favorite hangout. My heart raced in my chest as I thought, What if no one likes me anymore? Or worse, they don’t want anything to do with me since I’m not pretty. I sat there for long moments of breathing and searching for my confidence to take this step out into the unfriendly world.
Then the image of the pink carnation sprang from my mind, energizing me like new blood. And I heard an angel speak to me through the darkness like one of the caring night nurses; “Inner beauty and love shines out as attractiveness, be this splendor and wear it on your face.”
Every cell of my body savored this declaration and I found the courage to walk into my old haunt. And to my amazement, familiar friends from my past gathered around with hugs and kind words! Looking deeply into their eyes I witnessed authentic beauty reflected back to me as if each of them had handed me a pink carnation.
About Asia Voight
Asia is an internationally known Animal Communicator, teacher and speaker, who has worked with over 40,000 animals in the last 13 years. Asia’s inspiring work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and Fox TV, as well as, countless radio interviews like the Rick Lamb Show and dressage rider Jane Savoie’s tele-seminar. She has graced the covers, of many publications such as Brava and Women Magazine, the front pages of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Fitchburg Star with her amazing personal story and words of animal wisdom. Asia has published a chapter in Crossing the Rubicon: Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Life and Death, an inspirational and uplifting story of the healing aspects of her Animal Communication work.
Speaking in front of thousands of animal lovers, Asia is often a popular keynote speaker for countless events like the Midwest Horse Fair® in Madison, Wis., where she has delighted audiences with her on-the-spot personal readings, humor and warmth.
Also, a popular teacher in her Animal Communication workshops, Asia generously shares her skills by gently guiding course participants on how to connect with one’s own animal companions, through exercises and guided meditations.