Who’s In Your Mirror

true self

I was 20 years old and on a Greyhound bus from Seattle to Denver, for no real reason other than I had taken a semester off from Chico State and wanted to head East for once. The drive took several days, and at one point during the trip we were stopped at some random town somewhere, it was night, and the interior lights went on. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window across the aisle, and after so much time of being alone among strangers I was struck by the familiarity of my own face and overcome with an aching love for myself. I suddenly came to the realization that one day I would be gone from this earth and I missed myself fiercely, wishing that I could stay until I decided, on my own terms, when to go.

When I think of that moment now, it’s about confronting one’s own mortality but also about how we’re always saying goodbye to some old version of ourselves, often not realizing it in the moment. That was a self that was single, childless, still searching, still constructing my own version of the world and what about it was important to me. Part of me feels like that was the truest version of myself and always will be. Sometimes I think about that moment as a goodbye to the girl version of me, who still had so much to learn.

Here’s the thing: I have this dichotomy happening in me right now. Since Mina’s birth I’ve been grappling with this question of who I am now. When I gave birth to a child, my old self died. So suddenly and completely that I can’t compare it to any other event in my life. For the first time in my life, I felt that I didn’t matter. It wasn’t about me anymore. I stopped looking in the mirror- Mina was my mirror. When someone asked me how I was, I would respond with Mina’s state of being. For a while none of my needs were important to me, except to keep myself functional so I could care for my baby. In some ways it was liberating- so much of my life up to that point was spent focusing on myself, my wants and needs and feelings, my appearance, my identity; how freeing to feel selfless for once, without ego, without ambition aside from being this child’s mom.

But every day it got a little easier to remember my self and put energy towards doing those things I used to do. As she gets older I am remembering how to be an individual person; but now I have to get reacquainted with myself, like seeing an old friend again after years of living overseas. I slowly got back into art, music, writing, reading, biking, friends, time with Benny, time alone. But of course it was different. Motherhood has changed every single thing about me. I feel like there is still an umbilical cord connecting me and my daughter. She is still my mirror.

The funny thing is, I’ve gotten used to the feeling that I don’t matter. When I became a mother, my vision suddenly zoomed out- I saw the whole world in her, every person who has ever lived and ever will live. I saw my place in the cycle of life, I saw her place in my family tree and the family tree of all humanity. I understood my parents better, and I understood my childhood better. The combination of motherhood and growing older has given me a much bigger view of things. So much so that it’s hard to stay within the confines of my small self and my small life- I find myself often looking down from above, trying to make sense of the whole ecosystem. I’m often struck by the strangeness of the human experience, how lucky and how cursed we all are. How complex and intelligent and how foolish and weak.

Part of me wants to figure out who I am now and establish a fresh identity, and part of me thinks, “Who cares?” I don’t matter and I kind of like it that way. Working to establish an identity is the work of someone younger. I’ve heard it said that the first half of your life is for building your ego; the second half of your life is for dissolving it. I want to be pliable, flexible, open, unguarded. I want to keep a loose grip on who I think I am and what I believe in. I want to flow in and out of everyone, hear and feel others, go by different names, find kinship with the changing seasons. I want to feel comfortable saying goodbye to an old part of myself, knowing that being a part of this world means that she was never meant to stay.

 

 

I took this self portrait at Burning Man when I was 20. This was supposedly a mirror that showed your “true self”- not a mirror image but the way others see you. 

8 thoughts on “Who’s In Your Mirror”

  1. This is very nice stuff. How about putting out a small book(let) that I could put in my bookcase and pull out whenever I thought of you? Grampaw

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Yes, yes. I feel like having a baby and the postpartum experience opens up a weird magic portal in our bodies. Once the babies sleep all night and we wake up to ourselves again, we find we’re completely different, and yet maybe more ourselves than we were before. I think a lot of women find themselves on this search for self/meaning/”what’s this all about” after having kids. Maybe this is the building up/tearing down of ego you mentioned. And maybe it’s a direct invitation to go deeper into what life offers us. I love reading your writing, and I’d love to see you in person again someday 🙂

  3. I am Still and always am blown away by your insight and the way you express it. You take it from one dimension and then expand into all realms. While reading, I find myself nodding and saying yes, yes. Being part of it all and then not at all. Mina is so fortunate to have a Mother like you who sees and senses much more than what is on the surface. And you are fortunate to have you, the one who still seeks to see beyond what is seen. It’s refreshing to read about the songs that play in your mind.

  4. Wow, I feel like I need to read this at least 3 more times to really soak it in. I obviously don’t yet have the experience of having a child, however, I do remember the you trying to find yourself, show yourself, meet your needs and desires way back when in Chico. That is the me that exists now. Figuring out who I am, in my own mirror. I’ve spent so much time looking to everyone else to be my mirror, and rarely in my 37 years have I taken the time to be my own mirror. That’s why perhaps, I feel so unready to make and have a baby. It is an interesting experience to be human, isn’t it? All of us on these journeys. I do however know for sure, you do matter. With or without your amazing child, Mina, you make a huge difference in my life and many others I’m sure. You, mom or not, are a unique and special person on this earth that none could replace. Even if your purpose at this moment is to be the awesome mama you are, I would go so far to say, that is not the only purpose of your life. For you have touched and influenced me in a way no one else has, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I love you Serra.

    1. Thank you Amy! It does me good to read this. You are beloved to me and I’m glad you are working on being solid in yourself and locking eyes with yourself in your own mirror. You are so strong and magical, you are all that you need. I love you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s