Trust30: “Mirror, Mirror”

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fa...

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“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mirror, mirror on the wall… find the nearest mirror. Look. Keep looking for 3 minutes. Write about what you see.

I felt the timing was right to dig out this prompt. My internet tanked in the middle of the Trust 30 Challenge, so I didn’t get to this in June.  But now…it seems right.

A doctoral student at UCLA, who is preparing for her wedding in October, started a blog called Mirror, Mirror…OFF the Wall. After spending so much time gazing into mirrors as she tried on gowns, and not liking how she felt afterward, she decided to avoid mirrors and her reflection all together…for a year. This started back in March and will continue until next March.  She wrote, in part:

“In those moments I felt like the worst version of myself – insecure, indecisive, vain…More importantly, I had lost both time and emotional energy in the process.  The dress shopping had put me over the edge, and with the requisite wedding make-up and hair trials, there would be more vanity to come.  Something had to give.  It was time to take a serious look in the mirror – or was it?”

My gut reaction to the news coverage this received was, “What a crazy, extreme reaction! She’s a beautiful woman. Why is she avoiding looking at herself?”

But once I read her intentions, and understood where she was coming from…well, I still think it’s kind of extreme. I understand her intent and reasoning, and in her academic life, she studies the relationship between beauty and inequality. So it’s like using yourself as an experiment.

I’ve surrendered access to technology and clocks before with joy. Never missed them. At Lent, I gave up my obsessive need for answers…and was much better for it. So I can appreciate her motivation and intention behind this test.

So when I found the above Trust 30 prompt from Esther Poyer, I decided to take the challenge…to really, truly look at myself.  I’ve spent decades disliking myself with intensity because I didn’t look like the popular girl next to me in class…because somewhere in my psyche “tall” morphed into “fat”…

…and because I insisted on focusing on how I didn’t look, what I didn’t have, and what I couldn’t do, rather that the opposite.  Mirrors were a necessity for blow-drying my hair and applying mascara.  That didn’t mean I liked them.

Even as recently as last year, I sometimes felt a lump in my throat when I checked my reflection. I saw myself and wanted to cry in frustration.  I disliked the way I looked, the way my clothes fit, the way my hair fell. And I kept it to myself. I’m embarrassed to say that there were days I didn’t want to leave the house because I saw every flaw in vivid detail.  I’ve learned since that the root cause of the insecurity had other sources, and I was taking it out on my appearance.

Recently, I compared two sets of photos of myself, taken five years apart.  There were marked differences. The 2006 me looked good.  The 2011 me looked good…and happy. Because she was being more true to herself and appreciated herself “as is.” She didn’t just look happy – she WAS happy.

What I see…and what I know to be true…are not the same things.

When I look in the mirror, I see a vessel. A vessel with blue eyes, crow’s feet, and manic skin that can’t decide if it’s 16 or 50 – prone to breakouts and wrinkles at the same time.  The vessel has squared shoulders and a straight bearing, a strong spine that bears much. It’s spent a good amount of time in the sun recently, and it glows.  The vessel’s roots are starting to show, and it’s time for another appointment with Clairol 110.  But red or silver, there’s a crazy amount of curl that persists despite previous efforts to straighten it. And I rather like it now.

Looking deeper, harder, more intently…past the surface…the vessel contains a soul put here for a reason.

The vessel is a receptacle for knowledge, talents, gifts, and abilities.  It bundles together compassion, wisdom, courage, faith, love, curiosity, laughter, and tears.  It’s powered by spirit, motivated by a need for happiness, and capable of great good.  It writes, breathes, dances, embraces, and thinks.

She is fearfully and wonderfully made. Imperfect, but for a perfect purpose.

Look in your mirror. Fearlessly. Defiantly. What do you see?

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Frailty, thy name is internet service…

Park in Ropczyce

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It’s going to take me until September to get caught up on Trust30 at this rate. I had an internet snafu at home and am still sorting it out – but at least I have prompts stockpiled for those inevitable dry spells!

In addition to Trust30, I’ll have plenty to say about a book I’m reading: “The Joy of Doing Things Badly” by Veronica Chambers.  Finding this book on the shelf at my local library was a case study in great timing!  I’ve been wrestling with a lot of familiar demons lately and getting increasingly frustrated.

The secondary title is “A Girl’s Guide to Love, Life, and Foolish Bravery.” Veronica tackles all of this and more. 

My favorite topics so far:

The Everyday Picnic.  The notion of a picnic captures joy, childhood, relaxation, and carefree days.  It can be in the middle of the living room floor, on your apartment balcony, or at the public park. It’s another way to bring something special and joyful into your life any time of the year!

Rejection. (Yes, rejection.) When you are rejected, either professionally or personally, allow yourself a little time to grieve, but get back in the saddle ASAP.  I have two jobs at the moment in which rejection is as much a part of the deal as setting my own hours. I needed her sage advice. Veronica said she allows herself one day to cry as much as she wants. The second day, she’s allowed to cry but has to make an effort to get out of the house. On day three, she allows herself to be sad, but also does something that makes her “turn the page.” It could be going out with friends and having fun, or sending a query to another magazine or publisher.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the book. So far, I feel like she’s the friend who showed up on my doorstep with a box of tissues and a huge box of Godiva chocolates and said, “Tell me all about it, sister friend, because I’ll bet I’ve been there too. It’s gonna be okay, and so are you.”

Trust30: “Fear” (Confronting Myself)

A mirror, reflecting a vase

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These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is fear holding you back from living your fullest life and being truly self expressed? Put yourself in the shoes of the you who’s already lived your dream and write out the answers to the following:

Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize? or the love you’ll never venture? or the joy you’ll never feel?

Will the blunder matter in 10 years? Or 10 weeks? Or 10 days? Or 10 minutes?

Can you be happy being anything less than who you really are?

Now Do. The Thing. You Fear.

Domino Project/#Trust30 Project, Prompt #12: “Fear” by Lachlan Cotter

I’ve been waiting for Lachlan Cotter’s prompt. First, I fell in love with his name – saying it aloud is like warm caramel for your vocal chords. And it conjures an image of a story hero who is two parts angel, one part devil, who mows his own lawn, and leads a double life as a secret agent. Then, I fell in love with his web site The Art of Audacity – an in-your-face, what-the-hell-are-you-waiting-for guide to Living with a capital L. You have to love a site that welcomes you to its mailing list with an email subject of “Congratulations, Badass.” I’ll take a dose of that, please and thank you!

I had no idea his prompt would require me to face my personal boggart in the wardrobe…my Dementor….

Fear.

It’s a hell of thing to wake up to when you haven’t finished your coffee.

But someone…Someone…is trying to tell me something. The knot in my throat and the matching one in my stomach tell me nothing’s going to change until I find a way to beat it.

You know that old chestnut, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”? What do you do when the thing you fear shapeshifts? Grows heads like a Hydra? It’s all fear but one head is Success, one is Failure, one is Rejection, another is Criticism, another (for some reason) is Fat, another is Appearing Brainless, another is A Broken Heart, another is Inflicting Hurt, and there’s Regret. And if I beat one, three more pop up in its place…

Whoa! Okay, sister, hold on a minute!

Who are you?

I’m the You who followed your dream. See the prompt for details.

I see. Is that anything like “She Who Must Not Be Named?”

Very funny. We need to talk.

Ya think? If you have some answers, I’m all ears.

Well, that’s what we’re here to find out…if we have any answers. I’m willing to bet we do.

God, I hope so. You know that whole “Trust” thing? I’ve been more focused and more decisive than in years past, but…it’s like most of those changes have been superficial. No one was going to get hurt if I was wrong or if things didn’t work out. But now…

Okay. I know. It’s hard. If it was just you, if there was no mortgage, no kids and all that, the occasional screw up would be easy to manage, right?

Right. At least I think so…

Well, just go with that idea for now. What happened to your mantra of “trust God, trust the process, trust yourself?”

Nothing! I keep telling myself…every day…it’ll be all right. Even if you don’t have a solid answer now, just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Okay, then let’s cut to the chase. Look at the prompt. Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize?

I am NOT defending my insecurity! And what do you mean “the dream you’ll never realize?” Didn’t YOU live the dream?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did…and I am. You’ve made a difference in the lives of a lot of people. Not always in grand ways. Most of the time it was in ways you weren’t even aware of. And by the way, your books did really well, both the fiction and nonfiction.

So WHY are you clinging to this insecurity you have? You’re not confronting fear! You’re using it as a shield! You’re not afraid of hurting people with your mistakes or “wrong” decisions…you’re afraid of hurting.

What?

You’re the one who’s afraid of hurting…because every time someone close to you hurts, you feel it. And every time someone expresses disappointment in you, it hurts. And hurting makes you feel weak, and you don’t like being weak. You don’t like people thinking you’re fragile.

I take it by your silence, I’m onto something…

Look, Liz, you’re a tough chick. And it’s not because you have a right cross that can stop a truck. Look at everything you’ve been through in the last 42 years. You’ve survived embarrassment, heartbreak, mistakes, bottomless grief, job loss (twice, I might add), and now you’re taking on new things that are out of your comfort zone…there’s no doubt about that.

If you make a mistake, will it matter in ten minutes? Yes, it might. In ten days? Yeah, it’ll bug you a little now and then, and if someone else had to deal with the blunder, they might be a little disappointed or honked off. That’s okay. You know as well as I do that you cannot, can NOT, control how other people feel or react.

But will the blunder matter in ten weeks? No. Because you will be onto something new. You will have written it out, sweat it out, or cried it out, or something beautiful will have come along to take its place.

Will any mistake you make matter in ten years?  Girlfriend, unless you’re the CEO of a company that goes belly up due to mismanagement of funds and puts a thousand people out of work, odds are NO mistake you make is going to matter in ten years. It might prickle under your skin once in a while…when someone or something reminds you of it. But there will be plenty of joyful memories to smooth it over and wash it away. You will have much more to be grateful for than you will have to regret…and you will have learned the art of learning from your own mistakes, recognizing them for what they are, and moving on…rather than letting them paralyze you with fear.

Lachlan is right. Defending this insecurity, this fear, is not worth the dreams you’ll never realize, the love you’ll never venture, and the joy you’ll never feel. Risking and failing hurts a lot less than getting to the end of your lucidity and realizing you never tried.

Can you be happy being anything less than who you truly are?

No.

Well…you know your Dementor now. It’s Hurt, not Fear. But your Patronus still works. Trust. Still. Works.

Pain is going to happen…but the greater pain is realizing how much time you wasted being afraid.