Mirror, Mirr-Oh, Dear, Is That Me?
Somedays in my life, I have splashed my face with cold water, pinned up my hair, put on lipstick, and I look in the mirror and still I think, “Geez. What bus hit you today?” And then on other days, I roll out of bed, stand up in a tank top and underwear and stare at my impressive self in the mirror and greet myself by pointing my fingers at my reflection as I say out loud, “Hey, Good Looking."
In short: Some days I feel ugly, slow, lethargic, smelly… Other days, I feel beautiful, energetic, inspired, fresh…
For a while, I went through this strange low. You know the low: You stop wanting to try. You wear sweats, not because jeans are uncomfortable, but because you don’t think you’re good enough for the jeans. You obsess over little things, but in the end you’re still alone and you wonder why you even tried or thought it would matter. And when you miss your chance with the opposite sex (or same sex, depending on which way you swing), possible theories of went went wrong range all the way from not having a stable job to not being sure if you did or did not remember to put on deodorant that day.
^ Up there. That paragraph above. That’s where I was at. And it got to a point quite recently, where I had started to speak out about it. As open as I usually asm, I couldn’t find it in myself to brave my words of shame beyond my family. And my mother listened to me. And my sisters listened to me. And never had I ever fully disclosed how worthless I felt as a possible date for a nice young man (after all, we all want a nice young man, don’t we?). I had never admitted that I wanted what I felt I couldn't get, until Thanksgiving week when the whole family was present to whine in front of.
My feelings of self-doubt and insecurities had been existing in a deep slumber, but after one long and one shortish-long relationship followed by over a year of being single, the monsters had awakened. Lately, I had started meeting people with unicorn things. You know what things I’m talking about: stable jobs, their own cars, their own houses, their own dogs, expensive gym memberships, cashmere sweaters, hell, even good hygiene. It made me list all of these strange things about me - things I knew about myself but never cared about...until now: No stable job, super-small dingy apartment with a broken front door, a-hand-me-down car, sneaky stratagems to get into gyms without a pass, and well, memory short-term enough for me to doubt my deodorant-wearing routine.
I had always known I was never a stella on paper; but it had never bothered me until the most recent weeks of my life. And it wasn't just the "inside" of me that was bugging me, it was the outside of me too...Actually, it all seemed to start with my appearance.
I was in a funk. I didn’t know where my hustling confidence had gone to… I wasn’t sure how to get unstuck. How did I once look at myself in a full length mirror wearing my lucky rocketship undies, flex, and think, Damn, you fly, Woman…? Really? Where did that confident, young woman go? Jade! Come back!
It took a familiar face, a familiar heart, and probably the most unserious person I know to stay up and talk to me late beyond Cinderella’s lame curfew. It took this beautiful voice to calm my doubts. And the goofiest, funniest, most comedic person looked me straight in the eye with the most sincere and serious tone, and said, “Jade. I think you’re really really pretty.” And she started crying as she said it. I was stunned. I could feel how sad she felt that I couldn’t see what she was seeing when she looked at me. In not seeing the good in me...I saw how it hurt her. How she wanted me to know what she was saying was true...How she wanted me to open my fucking eyes and see how healthy, beautiful, brilliant, and lucky I was to be me.
And I’ve received many compliments. I get nice comments on my Instagram. Likes on my Facebook photos. (If those don't count, I don't know what does. AmmIRight?) Some men in trucks shout out “Wow!” as they drive by me when I'm walking to work. Friends tell me I’m pretty and fun to be around. I get those often enough...
But this was different. I had never seen her so serious. So sad. So honest. I couldn’t shrug the compliment off. I couldn’t deny it. I only believed it, and felt guilty for not having believed it or known it before. And I looked into her eyes and felt truth. And I was so relieved that this truthful person saw beauty in me, that I choked up and started crying. I was so relieved that someone I respected and loved knew I was more than a in-progress resume. I could trust in what she had said. I was so relieved she knew I had needed to hear it from her.
The ugliness poured out of my body with my tears. And when she hugged me, she squeezed out all of the doubt that had been building up in my body from my toes up to my neck. I realized I had a job with good hours and fun coworkers, that worked with my flexible lifestyle. I had a warm apartment downtown that was walking distance from seeing a ballet, getting a drink at a bar, reading at a coffee shop, or book hunting in one of the most beautiful libraries I had ever seen. I had a car with character and stories shared between sisters that never failed me despite its battles with deer, intoxicated vomit, and mascara marks on the ceiling. I had the quick-wit and cleverness that allowed me to enter gyms that I never lacked motivation to want to go to, and had proven to be resourceful in more times than one. And... Well, the deodorant part still was a problem that needed to be fixed, but that's an easy fix.
I went to sleep that night with tears still trickling down the side of my temple. When I woke up, I touched my fingers to my skin and felt the salty trail my tears had left on my face. I sat up in bed in my old bedroom at my Mom's. I opened the blinds to a too enthusiastic sun. I walked to the bathroom in only my floral underwear, flipped on the switch, and looked in the mirror:
Chestnut eyes with a drop of honey that were swollen from a night of tears. Golden skin, brightening up to a lighter, paler shade with every winter day that passed. Sun spots, lines, wrinkles, scars, blemishes. Plum rose lips. Large, thin eyebrows. A proportionate forehead. Wispy hair. A round button, Asian nose. Broad shoulders and curvy round breasts. Strong forearms, strong torso, strong hips, strong legs.
I thought to myself: I am very, very pretty.
And that thought carried with me...Not necessarily, the “Pretty” part, but the “I am.” And I took that “I am” part and I drove back to Salt Lake with it after the Thanksgiving holidays came to an end and my entire family traveled back to their respective locations.
And when I drove up State Street and said hello to the capitol and rolled my eyes as I turned east from the temple, I knew there were some changes that were to be made. The last few weeks had been lived and breathed by the “I Am Not” Jade. The new Jade was the “I Am.” And I started that Monday by remembering who I was, soaking up the world, and reminding myself what was important to me.
And this isn’t some strange mother’s mantra that leaves you with a feel good, positive, go eat your vegan noodles and keep being one with the Earth feeling. No, it wasn’t some strange feeling that made me want to hold hands with strangers in a circle and chant out loud, “I am smart, I am kind, I am important.” No. It was more of a Jessica Jones, I’m going to kick through this wall, open that locked door with my brute strength, and get shit done kind of a feeling. It was a self-fist-pump kind of a feeling where I could walk away from a huge explosion without looking back or even flinching. I felt tough. I felt strong. I felt myself.
I felt ready to kick some ass.
In the last 7 days, my life has felt different and I have made changes...Or maybe I have made changes, and now I feel different. (Chicken or the egg?) I feel pretty. I feel strong. I feel enough. I have also watched the entire season of Jessica Jones and feel tough, nocturnal, and far more independent than I thought was possible in this colder weather. I know on paper, my resume may not blow those LinkedIn scouts away, but I know that when I pass a stranger by on the sidewalk, sit next to a stranger at the bar, or maybe meet them by chance on the ice rink...They don’t stay strangers for very long.
Also for the record, I put on deodorant today, but I worked the lunch shift and ran in the evening so I just smell like hard work and satisfaction. Yeah, that’s right. Breathe. Me. In.