I am not quite certain how old I was when the battle between ugly green sweaters, pink sparkly unicorns and the mirror took up residence in my psyche. I think I was probably around 9 years old.
Up until the age of twelve I attended Catholic School and as a result, much of my wardrobe consisted of catholic school girl uniforms. You might be able to imagine that my young creative soul was yearning for something a little more expressive with a larger color palette. The details surrounding the circumstances of the warring factions of the ugly green sweater, pink sparkly unicorns and the mirror are a little fuzzy, but the exact moment that the war was declared is vibrant and clear.
So, some of the fuzzy details are as follows...
It must have been the weekend or school vacation because I did not have to wear the green and blue plaid uniform. I remember being excited about being able to wear different clothing and I had selected a pink, sparkly shirt. Truthfully, I cannot remember if it had a unicorn on it, but as the revealer of my own psyche, and the writer, I get to take some creative liberties. I do remember bursting out of the bathroom in my my magic sparkle freedom state and thinking I had pulled off something wonderful.
My "burst" was short lived. On the other side of the door was my mother and she had a look on her face that I would come to identify as the, "this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you" look. Immediately outside of the bathroom on the wall to the left was a mirror. It was not quite a full length mirror but it was long and I could see all the way down to the top part of my legs. Now we are at that sharp and very clear part of the memory and the decisive moment. If you listen closely you should be able to hear the warring sides lining up and taking their positions...
My mother stood me in front of the mirror and from under her arm she pulled out a large bulky green wool sweater. As lovingly and gently as she could, she told me that when someone is shaped as I was, it is better for them to wear large things that cover and hide and do not draw attention to their body. She then proceeded to pull the pink sparkly unicorn over my head, and the ugly green sweater dropped down, successful in concealing what only moments before I had been convinced held and was filled with sparkle and magic - me. The ugly green sweater was also scratchy and from the moment forward it itched my skin and my sparkly soul.
This is the first time that I was aware of wearing the battle garments. This is also the first time that I can remember knowing and understanding that something about me was wrong and did not measure up. It needed to be hidden, concealed and remain as unnoticeable as possible. I remember something inside of me (perhaps the hidden sparkle) wanting to revolt. I was angry at my mother. I wanted the pink, the sparkle, the magic of a unicorn. I also remember looking up into her face and seeing and feeling her sadness. My decision was made. I associated her sadness with disappointment in me and whatever it was that I needed to cover and hide. If hiding my "sparkle" could make her happier then I would do it. I desperately wanted her to be happy with me. I desperately wanted her to be happy in general.
So...the point of this story is not about what my mother did wrong or how angry or hurt I was with her. I love my mother immeasurably and deeply. She was an amazing human and she too was in possession of some of her own metaphoric ugly green sweaters. On that day she simply handed one down. This story is only a moment, albeit a decisive and memorable one. This is a moment in a very complicated and layered story and one that extends beyond my mother and myself. The story stretches beyond this moment and includes gender, society, culture, families and how beauty, value, and worth are determined.
What I am most interested in in this story is the role of the mirror. There is a saying that mirrors don't lie. Perhaps this is true from the perspective of the mirror, however what truth is seen by the persons looking into the mirror is determined by their stories, memories, and what they have come to believe. In other words, the particular lens that they are looking through. I believe that what we see when we look in the mirror is formed and defined by the stories that are looking back at us. I have lost over 100 pounds twice in my life. I have looked into the mirror with many different external versions of myself looking back. All of these versions have worn parts of the battle gear that came into existence on that day because I was on both sides of the battlefield.
Three years ago I made a very conscious decision to purchase and wear a pink fuzzy sweater. If you click on those words you can read more about why. I believe this was the day that I made a decision to call a truce with myself. That does not mean that everything has been fine since that moment on, there have actually been some really challenging and uncomfortable moments. The laying down of your own weapons of self destruction, well...its a process.
A few moments ago I was dancing around my kitchen cooking a meal (this includes the Pots de Crème from my previous post) for my family who will be arriving shortly for our weekly Friday night gatherings. As I was dancing I was thinking about the contents of this blog post. I was also thinking about my mom, she was one of the most amazing cooks that I have ever known. I took a moment to acknowledge how happy and grateful I truly am. Every single moment in my life has led up to this beautiful one, and every one of those moments has been exactly what it was meant to be. Every single moment has led me to right here and right now; in which I am wearing large pink and purple glasses, sparkling from the inside out, and cooking for my family. I understand that the work I am doing undoes the curse of the ugly green sweater for myself, for my mom, and assists in preventing it in others such as my beautiful and fresh, four month old granddaughter.
I am beginning to trust what I see when I look in the mirror, and that my friends is a freedom that is immeasurable indeed.
Today is day 90 of the 365 Project.
The next time you look in the mirror I hope there is someone looking back who is sparkling, smiling, kind and loving you back.