Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by mirrors. When I was little, we had a mirror awkwardly placed on the wall beside our garage. It was only tall enough for adults to see their shoes and shins, but for my pint-sized self, it was the perfect size.
My Mom says that when I was younger, she would often find me asleep by that mirror. As children, we don’t fully grasp the concept of who that face is in the mirror, but as I was told that face was mine, I gained great comfort from it.
After I got a mirror in my room, I would spend my afternoons singing and dancing in front of it. It was a way for me to express my joy and instantaneously see that joy reflected back to me.
Face-to-face with a stranger
During adolescence, my mirror became my solace. There were still moments of joy, but my mirror had a new job; it became my counsellor and confidant. When my best friends and I fought, I would cry and reason with myself. When the cute boy talked to me, I shared my giddiness, and when the popular girl laughed at me for it, I divulged my dejection.
I recall my dance teacher preparing me for competition one year. She had me stretch by the barre and practice making faces in the mirror. I felt stupid. I no longer knew that face staring back at me, and became disenchanted with myself. I didn’t look like me. I wasn’t doing it right. Why did my hair make that funny part on top? All that mirror did was criticize me.
As an adult, I consulted myself less and less, only using my mirror for getting dressed and making sure I didn’t poke myself in the eye with the mascara wand.
One day I got into a wicked fight with my spouse. I don’t know what it was about, but I can tell you I was fuming. As he stormed out with the dog, I locked myself in the bathroom and came face to face with an unattractive stranger. Yelling into the mirror all the things I felt, questioning how the hell I’d gotten here, I was exhausted and unrecognizable.
At some point, I decided this was no longer productive and opened the Insight Timer app to meditate. I’m pretty sure I typed in the search bar, “Why are people stupid?”
Surprisingly, I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I typed in “anger” and listened to a soothing voice explain how my anger had nothing to do with the other person.
You own your feelings
It’s sobering when you realize all your strife, anger and resentment is of your own making. Regardless of what other people say or do, only you own your feelings. So if you feel shitty, it’s your responsibility to change that.
And so birthed the notion that we can use our relationships as mirrors to our souls. Inspired, I wrote on the notepad by my bedside, “You, the mirror in front of me, are the one my soul needs me to see,” and meditated on it some more.
Meditation is a wonderful tool, meant to cultivate a greater awareness throughout the day. However, I realized that I was not fully utilizing this greater consciousness. I noticed when I was mad, tired or overly excited, but I was never sure why and never thought it mattered. Being aware of myself in the moment meant that I could simply change how I felt and move on, like a task on a checklist. But did I really move on? No. I just got angry at the next small thing.
It wasn’t until I happened upon this concept that our interactions reflect where we are and how we’re feeling that I started to shift. It’s up to us to be aware of the feeling and then consciously uncover what’s behind it. If we don’t dive deeper, then those same feelings and stories will just keep popping up.
Less triggered by small things
Last month, my son drew on his door and lied about it. I yelled at the mess (which was easily cleaned), but later realized it was the lie that upset me. As a child, I stretched the truth and made stories larger than they were because I was afraid of being boring or seen as a failure. COVID-19 brought a lot of those feelings back.
I had been lying to myself, thinking I was OK with where I was. But paying attention to the feelings evoked by my son’s door doodles, I uncovered the insights of my soul’s longing for something more. His lying was the reflection I needed to see, and my emotional response to it was my soul nudging me to wake up and pay attention.
By listening to the real “why” of our emotions, we can learn from our conversations and take action for ourselves. With any luck, we’ll be triggered less by the small things, and have room to become more.
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