For most of my life, I avoided mirrors. Except when I stared deeply in to them for, like, ever, looking for evidence.
As a child and tween, I looked for evidence that I was pretty. Or at least pretty normal. My definition of normal was small, bird-boned and slender, peaches and cream skin with a smattering of freckles, silky hair that curled just so. I'm pretty sure that idea came from the Brady Bunch. But what looked back at me was anything but.
Mousey brown, limp hair that screamed, "home-hair cut!" (PS: It was) Black, wiry eyebrows atop eyes that reminded me of those of a very. sad. puppy. Wide nose. Too-small mouth. Instead of peaches and cream, my skin was thick and olive-toned, with zits. Crooked teeth, an overbite, a double chin. And below that...ah, below that a body that was never right. Too pudgy, too soft, and as I approached puberty, too...womanly where I wanted it to be flat and smooth. I mean: boobs? On a ten year old? What the hell?
In my early twenties I shed many pounds and what I saw in the mirror....was still not what I wanted to see. Never thin enough, lean enough, acceptable enough. I just knew everyone who saw me was thinking the same thing: Good Lord, what a mess.
It didn't get better. I went through several cycles of losing and gaining the same 40-50 pounds, always warily monitoring my reflection (when I could actually make myself look), watching for signs that this time, something would change. That this time, I'd finally be able to give myself permission to approve of what I saw.
In my forties, my right eye started fluttering at the corner. Then it started squeezing shut. Then my cheek started to clench. Next, the right side of my mouth started to pull to one side. After months of Googling-For-Answeres and repeated referrals to different doctors, I learned I had Hemi-Facial Spam (learn more about that here). I can't say the diagnosis was a relief; HFS is complicated and even corrective surgery isn't a sure thing...and it has risks. But at least now I had a name to attach to the confusing reflection that stared (with one eye) back at me from the mirror. Confusing because I didn't know her. Where I was at least accommodated to the woman in the mirror, I was now looking at someone whose facial features were asymmetrical, who couldn't smile right, whose face was always moving somehow. A grimacing, squint-eyed stranger.
My reaction was grief and anger. Grief for the reflection that had stared back at me for so many years...the reflection I had dismissed and at times despised. Anger that "she" was now gone, possibly forever, and I hadn't appreciated her when I had her. At all.
Does any of this sound familiar? Don't we all find ourselves at some point bemoaning our history of despising our reflection, when we just should have realized how good we really had it at that age....or at that age...or at that age? And now look: that person is gone and the person staring back...oh my stars, so much worse. If only I'd appreciated what I had...
WHY do we DO this to ourselves?
You guys. The person looking back at you today is not going to be there tomorrow. Every minute - yes, minute - we shed 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells. We lose 100-140 strands of hair each day. Our body weight fluctuates by 1-5 pounds daily. We are changing every. single. day.
Think about that.
Yesterday is gone. It doesn't matter any more and we cannot bring it back.
Tomorrow we will have changed. Something will be different. An extra wrinkle, a new gray hair, a little less skin tone, a little more puffiness. Or maybe that new high-dollar serum we brought at the department store will kick in. Maybe we'll have a trip to the salon under our belt. Maybe our decision to stop eating processed food poison will start showing up on our bodies. But that's all just appearance. How will we have changed inside? What new thoughts will we think or what old thoughts will we dredge up again for ourselves?
Today. Today is all we have.
So look at yourself in the mirror today. Really look. Who do you see, looking out at you with eyes just yearning to see love looking back?