Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thoughts on mirror meditation

It almost felt like a date. Every time I glanced in the mirror, I realized that soon I would be REALLY looking at myself. Not just pushing my flyaway hair out of my face, not just checking to make sure that none of my clothes had pureed sweet potato on them. Just...looking.

I decided I needed to somehow "fix" myself first...try to take care of the frizzies and maybe do something about that alarming little growth of hair above my lip and on my chin and... But this seemed somewhat against the principle of the project. Not to mention, I had a rainy day and a cranky almost-toddler on my hands, so I didn’t exactly have time to go into an extensive beautification ritual. Or, you know, any.

All day, I talked to myself about this, surprised at how apprehensive I felt about it. I was trying to orchestrate the experience, trying to prepare the insights before I even sat down.

It came to me that I do that too often in my daily life...project myself into the future and try to force experience into whatever narrow frame I’ve wrenched together with gritted teeth and throbbing temples.

So...Madam went down for the night, I went into the bathroom with the nicest lighting, and sat in front of the mirror.

This is so silly. I feel like a little girl making faces in the mirror.

I tried to look deeply into my eyes, but it just made me laugh. So I let my eyes roam over my face, trying to empty my mind, focus on accepting those tired bags under my eyes, that new blotchy skin near my lower cheek, the aforementioned alarming hair growth...

Stop! I took a deep breath, determined to stop the litany of my physical failings. No one expects me to look 18 anymore, or 21, but my mental image of myself has frozen there, and slides the image in front of my eyes whenever I am looking in the mirror. A kindness, perhaps. But also a way to avoid what is right in front of me. I looking for beauty or for myself? And why have I decided that the two are incompatable?

As I look for another minute, I slide into focus. Not as the 18 year old who seems to dominate my memory. Not as the 33 year old who gets glances only when she needs to be chastised. But just

I need to grow back down into my body. Perhaps as a reaction against pregnancy, since Madam has been born, I’ve avoided the physical as much as possible—choosing to lose myself (find myself?) in books and online, or in my writing. I can’t be bothered to take care of my body, my stretched, sagging, postpartum body.

It occurs to me that I don’t WANT to take care of it. It has disappointed me by aging, by requiring time I don’t want to give it, because it doesn’t deserve it.

What value does it have, after all? My mind is mind is the place where I can still pretend that I am the same person I was before I gave birth, where I can range lightly and freely in memories of my many selves.

My body is just there, inert. Unused and unusable. I treat my body the way other people treat stay at home mothers--like it needs to justify itself. Like it has nothing to say. Like it might have mattered once, but now needs to remember its place and remember that people just want it to be quiet and inobstrusive.

It occurs to me that this needs to change, somehow. I am a divided woman. Can my body be as interesting, as beloved as my mind?

I look away from the mirror now, unable to sit with this realization for very long.

But I know that I will be back tomorrow.
Thanks to Liz Elayne for the inspiration.



Anonymous Fern said...

"It occurs to me that this needs to change, somehow. I am a divided woman. Can my body be as interesting, as beloved as my mind?"

I have always been one of those people that desperately wanted to believe that the only thing that *really* mattered was how much I knew, how much I felt, and not the way I looked.

It's just the last year that I've come to conclusion that unless I'm half-way happy with the way I look, I am miserable, even if I win the freaking Nobel Prize.

And honestly, some of that comes from the fact that I feel like I have something to prove to other people. How can I possibly show them how well I'm doing when all they see is what I look like? I could have the most wonderful life, accomplish the greatest things and when people look at me I imagine they get they stuck at that extra few pounds I put on over the summer, or my oily hair. Has it really come to that? *sigh*

4:58 PM, August 02, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

Great post -- even without having had a baby, I've found myself neglecting the body, I guess in favor of the mind. As if I must choose one or the other. My parents are opposites in an interesting way: my mom is like a hummingbird. She only stops moving when she's asleep. Go go go. My dad likes to sit and read and tinker and be still. I think they must drive each other crazy sometimes. I take more after my father. I kind of hate exercise. Reading and writing are so much more interesting and important, right? Sure, but our bodies can be really fun! Swimming, dressing up in polka dots, and for some people, dancing (I'm a terrible dancer so that one doesn't count for me). Anyway, I hear you. I struggle too. I worry about how it will be for me after I have a baby!

10:53 PM, August 02, 2006  
Anonymous gigergal said...

Hmmm, this is a revealing post. I feel like that about my body and face - don't want to be bothered with it. My mind's become my all.

4:52 AM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

This is a very raw, honest post. Sometimes it's hard to accept our bodies are changing. Sometimes we don't give our bodies enough care. I know I'm guilty of this; living too much in my mind; not taking enough care of myself physically by insisting on the time needed to exercise properly, etc. It's a constantly-evolving process, a bit like life. But I do know if we don't take care of ourselves, our body will respond by getting sick. And then we have another set of problems on our hands - one we don't want or need! The trick it to try to find a balance. Sometimes I succeed; other times I'm hopeless. Thanks for your insightful post.

6:20 AM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger M said...

This is a great post, very powerful. Well done for truly looking at yourself, this sounds like such a good exercise.

11:26 AM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger Star said...

It's very difficult to look in the mirror, isn't it? I knew it would be a struggle when Liz Elayne put out the challenge but recognized that if I was really shying away from it, it probably meant it was something I really needed to address.

This bit "All day, I talked to myself about this, surprised at how apprehensive I felt about it. I was trying to orchestrate the experience, trying to prepare the insights before I even sat down" is something that I find myself doing as well.

I hope as we all move along in this process we can make friends with what we see in the mirror. I admire your bravery in posting your thoughts.

4:17 PM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

they saying showing up is the hardest part...i'm not sure who "they" are but anyway...

i'm proud of you...proud of you for choosing this journey and proud of you for sitting in front of that mirror. i'm here...sitting in front of mine, doing the same work, ready to support in any way possibe. i have the negative talk seeping in at times too and when it does i'll stop right then and there and say aloud, "i accept (insert imperfection here)." and yes my time in front of the mirror does consisit of a lot of talking aloud to myself.

you'll make it! i believe in you!!!

4:38 PM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger liz elayne said...

thank you for sharing all of this. i can so relate to the idea of retreating into the mind and writing and not thinking about the body. yes. it feels so much safer to do this.
and i felt like i was righ there with you as you wrote about the thoughts running through your mind. it is so interesting to be the observer of your thoughts during this experience. oh the "stuff" that comes up. i am journaling after i look in the mirror because i have to write this stuff down. things i would have never guessed i would think about. thank you for sharing all of this my dear.

11:35 PM, August 05, 2006  
Blogger earnest and game said...

Oh, you need to listen to Tegan and Sara: "You wouldn't like me." The whole "So Jealous" Album is pure girlie genius. Serioussssly.

I'm watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang-I think you would love it-it's hilarious and brilliant--hello neo-pulp-noir. XOoxoxoxo

5:46 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger megg said...

I loved this - I am trying to do this too and I am having a LOT of trouble doing any of this. I obviously need to because I am finding it very hard - well done you for doing it!!!

1:10 PM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oh I really do understand these feelings-I too have been ignoring my body simce I had my son.

I too am having a tough time sitting down in front of the mirror.

I am so grateful you did and that you shared this with us.

Thank you

12:16 PM, August 11, 2006  
Anonymous krista said...

Wow, you have no idea how much I enjoyed that post. I did my first mirror meditation tonight. It was highly uncomfortable. Like yourself I think I am stuck expecting myself to look like I am 21 or something, and I am disappointed by the lines, the wrinkles, the bags (and currently the zits, because I haven't been taking good care of myself).

And well- that is ridiculous.

I am unable to post about my experiences. The whole thing is too surreal to me, and I find myself just trying to look away, close my mind, and basically do whatever I can to escape the exercise. I'll start picking at my skin, or whatever. Gross.

Anyway, this is a rambling comment, really I just wanted to say thank you for writing your experience here.

8:09 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Krista from the Silent K emailed me your link today and recommended I check out your post.

I am so glad I did.

Not only have I fallin in love with your stellar writing (great blog!), but I can relate completely. Completely.

Thanks for writing this.

9:16 AM, August 24, 2006  

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