Spending some time in front of the mirror
I own a mirror, in my room, for the first time in years.
It happened kind of by accident, because I moved into a room with my partner last week that just so happens to be a master bedroom that is gigantic and has a big-ass mirror mounted right on the closet door. I was kind of surprised when I saw it, and honestly a little bit dismayed.
I see myself in work out gear in gym mirrors all the time, but I hadn’t seen myself naked in front of a mirror since 2010, when I moved to California from my mirror-containing apartment in Portland, Oregon. The last time there was a mirror in my room I checked it constantly, pinching fat around my waist and holding my arms over the outer edges of my thighs to imagine what I’d look like if there was no curve there.
Because I will always be a person in recovery, no matter how good I feel, I worried that my new mirror would make me feel weird. I did not have the desire to pick myself apart while staring myself in the eyes, and I had honest concern that the urge might sneak up and overtake me. That sort of thing simply waits in the wings for me, always ready to pounce when I feel weak or overly tired.
The suspicion I felt when I saw my mirror made me remember a journal entry I wrote in my LiveJournal (yes, LiveJournal!), dated April 16th, 2013. I had been doing Crossfit for just a little under a year when I wrote this post, and my body had changed drastically. The entry reads as follows:
“I am having some real body image crap come up lately. As I’ve said, Crossfit was the thing that stopped me from being bulimic, but sometimes I feel really confused about the results of that for my body. I stopped puking and I started lifting really heavy weights, and- shocker- I gained weight. My thighs are basically giant (This is seriously not like, me being body dysmorphic. They definitely got much bigger due to muscle from lifting and eating more). I am well aware that people find my body attractive when I am more curvy, but I really feel self conscious about it, especially as a high school teacher. I feel like when I have more curves I can’t help but be seen sexually, when in reality I don’t always want that to be my M.O. Adding insult to injury, my body image really keeps me from feeling excited about myself at all and I never EVER look in a mirror. I mean face mirror, yes. Full length, no fucking way. I am sure my body is fine, but it is kind of intense to have gained at least 40 lbs. in the past few years. I am just not used to taking up that much space.”
HOW SAD IS THAT?!
Since I moved into this room with the mirror I have thought a lot about my relationship to myself both in physical and emotional ways. My capacity to acknowledge that I am a good, positive person doing good, positive things in the world has grown exponentially since 2013. The fact that I approach my life with a baseline level of self-care and self-compassion has changed how I interact with the world around me. I no longer contend with hating myself on a daily basis. I have learned to navigate my body and it’s sexuality outside of other people’s perceptions, or even numbers for the most part. I do not assume I am flawed and, what do you know, that makes my life way more enjoyable.
I do believe that choosing to avoid the mirror for a spell of time was good for me while I was doing the work to get here. I had grown so accustomed to using a mirror as both a tool of torture and a tool of validation that I needed to step away, do my best to put on clean clothes and brush my teeth and hair, and hope that the way I looked was good enough without constant spot checking. But as I ran past this entry in my old journal, I knew it wasn’t right for me to avoid the mirror anymore. I wasn’t exactly afraid of what the mirror would show me any longer anyway, and there was no use hiding from something that was right across from my new bed day in and day out.
So, I did what I had done all those years ago, in the darkest days of my sickness. I got buck fucking naked, stood in front of the mirror, and took a peak. What stood before me was something kind of amazing.
It was the body of a woman that had changed her relationship with herself through serious years of hard and consistent work.
A body that had been many weights and sizes, and showed signs of such struggles.
It was the body of someone who worked hard. At her business, on her mind, at her ability to be a partner and a friend.
It was the body of a woman that was getting really damn good at olympic lifting.
The body of a woman that looked a lot like the body of some other women I deemed really seriously important. My grandmother. My mother. My sister. This body was not the same as theirs of course, but it was very, very similar.
I have the body of a well-nourished woman.
A body that I respect.
And most of all, I have the body of my friend.
Someone that I love, and someone that I trust.
And so, with that acknowledgment, I high fived the mirror, and put my clothes back on.
Good job, body.
Thanks for baring with the process.