I’ve spent hundreds of hours looking at myself. Thousands.
I took this photo with my phone after I had been gazing at myself in my bedroom mirror. I’ve since taken all mirrors out of my bedroom. Sitting in front of one sometimes felt like a black hole in time.
I started young. There’s a photo of myself that I have clearly suspended in my mind’s eye. I’m probably about two-and-a-half, naked, and in our downstairs bathroom. I’m brushing my hair in front of the mirror. I have an innocent, absentminded look on my face. It’s cute.
The childhood years were full of innocent, playful mirror gazing. Silly faces. Playing in the sink without even considering the mirror. Once I hit puberty and grew things like pimples and more eyebrow hair the mirror started to catch my attention. I remember standing to the side of the sink counter so I could get really close to get all those new dark eyebrow hairs. Get them with tweezers. Find all of the blackheads. I remember those strips that squeezed dry on my little nose. I remember burning my hair to a crisp with Angela to straighten out the curls.
For all of middle and high schools I wasn’t really concerned with my body, but with my face and hair it was a battle. I never thought I was beautiful in high school. I was always checking. Mirror checking, or window checking, checking in bodies of water. Checking to see if I was beautiful yet, hurry up, come on beauty, where are you? My parents often told me I was beautiful, but parents are supposed to say that. I see now how blessed I was for such amazing parents.
The mirror. Such a powerful thing, to view your reflection. To not only see your physical reflection but to assess, compare, observe how your mental reflection of the physical is so transient. Elation at the accepted, at the normal; depression at the rejected, at the strange.
The whole world shifted when I went to college and was aware for perhaps the first time that I had a body that was different than others, and that certain women’s bodies were idolized, noticed, and talked about more than others. I became very small so I could become very noticed. And thus began my more conscious journey with eating. I can’t even remember what it was like to eat without thinking about it. I often wonder if I will ever reach that ease again, that innocent, carefree state of nourishing myself.
This beautiful photo of me was taken at one of the saddest times in my life, when I first moved to Mount Shasta. It’s important to remember that it’s difficult to assume the state of someone’s heart by their outside appearance.
Still, I miss all that hair.
I still spend hours looking at myself. In my bathroom, at the yoga studio, in store windows, in the rear view mirror. I still spend time with tweezers, although less than before. I still spend time with those blackheads, although I’m slowly convincing myself to be more gentle with my skin. I still have moments when I’m terrified of what I see in the mirror. How did I come into this strange body? Why do I have so much hair everywhere? Why does my belly look like that? How does it feel to be delicate, blonde, and pearly, translucently skinned?
This was taken four minutes ago. This is what my 27-year-old self has grown into. This is the face that I look at every day, with love or with fear.
I also have moments when I look into the mirror and see an incredibly beautiful woman, a woman who has traveled the world for music, who has traveled the world for inner peace, who has traveled the world for love, who has run a marathon, who has climbed mountains, who has fasted in the wilderness alone, who is preparing to move home to Alaska. A very strong woman with long dark eyelashes framing blue-yellow eyes. And I gasp at all that beauty.