When my children were young, I asked them to learn to become monitors of themselves. As a parent, I wanted them to become aware of their surroundings and their feelings so that they could keep themselves safe while away from home. I wanted them to think for themselves because I would not always be there to do it for them. I asked them to notice their behaviors and monitor if they were being appropriate in situations. I knew they would act a certain way around their friends, but they needed to learn to adjust those actions when out in public. It was important for them to learn boundaries and respect for others. I also told them to trust their feelings and if they were at someone’s home and felt uncomfortable, that they could take the steps they needed to remove themselves from the situation. I wanted them to learn to trust their higher voice, to be able to monitor their emotions and use them as guides.
My boss is always using the term “constant vigilance” to remind us to keep our eyes out for issues that would cause us to get a tag in a state survey. Once a year, the nursing home must undergo a state survey, where a team of surveyors come into the facility and check on all our systems. It is a stressful time, but if we always do our jobs in accordance with the rules, then we know there will be no worries when survey comes. Constant vigilance is needed year round to ensure that the needs of our residents are being met and that we are operating under proper procedure. It is also needed in our personal lives to ensure that we are making choices in accordance with our values and what we want for our future.
You and I have a lot to say. We want to share our experiences, our stories, with others. Sometimes we feel our story is so important we forget to listen. When we start telling our story we expect everyone will pay attention. The problem is that the other person in the room feels the same. They hear your story and cannot wait to tell theirs. What happens next is there are two speakers and no listeners. Their stories are lost to each other, they cannot be shared. When they walk away from each other, they are not aware of what just happened because they are still living the feeling of their stories. They don’t realize they were not heard.
Over the past couple of weeks, several people with whom I work have gotten new eye glasses. Each one of them picked out something that suited their tastes. Some are metal framed, some are plastic. Some have colored bows, some are silver or gold. Some have frame all around the lenses, some only have half frames. Each pair of eye wear is unique to the person wearing them. In the nursing center where I work, I am amazed at how many pairs of eye glasses turn up on my desk each week, and no one knows to whom they belong. Once the glasses are removed from the face of the wearer, they seem to lose their uniqueness. Each frame and each prescription are made exclusively for the individual and it is through those lenses that the wearer sees life.
My youngest son recently began his foray into the college world with an introductory course on his major subject. Introductory courses, often designated with a 101 number, are the first level courses that give an overview of the subject. These types of courses introduce concepts, terminology, and basic subject matter that will be used as a basis for building upon for future courses associated with that degree. I enjoy seeing his interest and his confidence increase as he takes this course. Starting with the basics in an area of interest is like whetting your appetite. You get a little taste and it makes you yearn for more.
Back in high school, I was involved in the drama club. I did a little acting, some set design, some lighting, and eventually ended up directing. I felt more comfortable behind the scenes rather than being in the spotlight. I looked at the other actors and saw their confidence. They appeared to be bolder and less self-conscious. I told myself I wasn’t good enough to do that and I faded into the background. From that time until recently, I have been more comfortable remaining hidden in the background. I didn’t like to be noticed and I was happy to stay quiet and watch everyone else. That has all changed and I am delighted to say that I’ve met someone new. She’s the one in the picture on the left.
Facing ourselves in the mirror can be tricky business. First, let’s talk about looking at our physical selves. We often spend a lot of time in front of a mirror trying to perfect our look – we fix our hair, our makeup, we lighten our teeth to a brighter shade of white, and yet, we often continue to be dissatisfied with the results. When cosmetics no longer work, then maybe we start thinking about plastic surgery. We get a nip here and a tuck there and emerge with a look that will hopefully satisfy the mirror on our wall and the one in our mind. Perhaps we are the type of person who avoids spending any time in front of a mirror because it is too difficult to face who we really are. Looking at the reflection may cause us to face our denial of reality. We can’t change what we don’t know, right? Which one do you identify with?
This week I had a view into a different type of mirror. This is a mirror that is held by another person but reflects something from within yourself. My first memorable experience with this type of mirror happened when my daughter was very young, around 4 years old. My husband and I were sitting on the couch when I became aware of some noises from behind the couch. The couch was positioned to divide the room so the back of it was not up against the wall. The sound being made was something like, “ch, ch” and she was repeating it over and over again. Eventually I became curious enough to look over the back of the couch to see what she was doing. She was holding her hand up to her mouth and squeezing her fingers together while making the sound. I knew immediately that she was copying me using my asthma inhaler. I was both humored and mortified all at once. It was like looking in a mirror and seeing my self as she saw me. It didn’t feel good to see that particular picture of myself. All my feelings about being unhealthy flooded through me. I hoped that my daughter would not come to believe that about me.
This week’s mirror came in the form of words that were spoken to me. On two separate occasions, two different people said something to me causing me to feel a pit in my stomach and a dip in my self-esteem. As I walked away from the second remark, I realized the reason I felt so bad after the comments was because they mirrored a belief I held within myself. It was painful to hear that internal belief spoken out loud. This is not the first time another person’s words have resonated with me. I am grateful to be able to recognize this resonation as a type of mirror. In the past, I would’ve felt devastated and sunk into a temporary, but satisfying, place of self-pity. Now, even though I may still feel the sting from looking in the mirror, I can recognize the feeling as coming from a place within me that is from my past and is untrue. I am thankful to the mirror for showing me what continues to hide inside. The only way I can change something is if I am aware of its presence.
My final example of a mirror is the one you look in when you are triggered or bothered by someone else’s actions. When that happens, ask yourself (and be honest here) is this person showing me a trait that I myself possess and do not like? This is a real scary mirror in which to look and admitting this truth is not for the feint of heart. None of us like to admit our negative traits, especially when we dislike seeing them in other people. With time, introspection, awareness, and honesty, we can learn more about ourselves and develop the courage to look in any mirror. With practice, we may even begin to like the image that reflects back.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is most wonderful after all?
Yours in transformation,