It’s been one of those day/weeks/months/years. I thought I knew myself. You know what I mean? That I knew who I was, that my identity was clear, so clear to me that it was clear to everyone else, too. But then life happened. A series of events over a series of years, each one painful and redefining in its own way, and then I’m in that space where people are saying, “who are you anyway?”. And let me just say I really hate it, I mean it pisses me off, when someone tells me that I don’t know who I am. As if they knew!
After seminary and moving to the midwest, I came to the realization and the admission, that there were certain things in life I needed to feel like myself, like I knew where I was and how I was doing, and, perhaps more importantly, I realized that those things were easier to find in the classroom than the office. I was looking to others to tell me who I am, what I am, what I’m worth.
More than 10 years later, I’m learning that I’m getting frustrated with others defining me incorrectly– defining me by terms that don’t ring true to who I believe myself to be or in line with who I strive to be. We all have mirroring needs, and I’m no exception, but the mirroring doesn’t help if I don’t agree with it and it can’t help if it’s nonexistent. Mirroring to me is the idea that people reflect back to me the positive and affirming things I know to be truthful about myself (that I am worthwhile, loved and ok, to start). But if I don’t believe these things (that I’m good enough, smart and doggonit people like me), then their words will fall flat before they reach my heart. Yet, at the same time, I need to hear these things to build that belief. So maybe it is that if I hear those mirroring things often enough and begin to see them myself that I can build that truth and live into it.
I’m learning that one of the reasons I am the way I am is because I didn’t have enough of that mirroring in my childhood. I’m quite certain that my mother didn’t have much mirroring either, which is part of the reason she wasn’t able to provide it for me. I’ve learned also that her unhealthy ways have effected me too. I’d like to believe that I do a better job of mirroring for my children. I’m learning again how to mirror for myself. And I’m learning about shame and how Dame Shame creeps up and turns the mirror of reality into a fun house mirror that distorts and destroys the true self image, making it harder to see the good things for what they are, and though there might be an auto-correct setting on the mirror, it can take a long time to adjust. (If you’ve had issues with body image or weight, you may know how long it takes to appreciate the new cute clothes you can wear when you get into shape because you still think of yourself as the one who could never look good in something like that. That’s shame controlling the mirror with fear of humiliation and the sense that I’m not all that, even after you become the swan.)
And here’s where I get down in the dumps again. My Dad was the one I could depend on to mirror for me. (Sure there were times when he didn’t, but for the most part, when I needed him, he was there.) Now that he’s gone, I feel like my number one fan is gone too. Now I rely on the memory of how he supported me. And I try to think of what he would say to me, if he were here now. My big regret at the time of his death, was that I didn’t get to hear the words one last time. Oh how I wish he had said them or that I had something written by him. Maybe I do. Maybe I’ll find a note or a card somewhere in the cards and things I’ve kept over the years. Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll visit me in a dream.