Looking in the mirror

Most of us don’t like looking in the mirror. Yes, to brush our hair and check we’re presentable, but not to linger. Perhaps we’re not sure we’re going to like what we see. So we move on…

Move on, before we find something we have to deal with. And we really don’t have the time. Today. Or perhaps any day.

If only…

Move on before it feels awkward. Self-indulgent and vain. Shameful.

So we don’t look….

We don’t see who we really are. Instead, we carry around a caricature of who we think we might be. Of how we think others see us. And it’s too costly to stop and gaze.

Another day, perhaps…

But this caricature isn’t us. It isn’t me. It’s the simplified version that we quickly dismiss, or laugh at with embarrassment. Constructed from the layers of our life.

The words that have been spoken over us and we’ve absorbed. The comparisons that found us wanting. Stories with beginnings, middles and endings that suited some other truth or avoided some other pain.

It’s also an easy option. And permits us the default of If only…

Sitting with the complexity of who we are is uncomfortable. We aren’t neat and predictable. There won’t even be an occasion when we inhabit a box with defined edges and a clear label – until the last time. And even then we will still be an enigma. We won’t be fully known by those left behind, just partially remembered.

What if…

What if that complexity is a glorious mystery, not a dark secret? Not something to be dissected or feared, but to be honoured and held reverently.

Recently a friend wrote about walking with her daughter down a dark lane, lit by street lamps. These were spaced such that they cast different shadows depending on how close you were to the light source. Her daughter delighted in running and jumping over her own shadow at the midpoint.

What an amazing thought. We have multiple shadows depending on the light source! Yet not even the shadow is substance – it’s the reflection of something far more profound.

Seeing ourselves is more than the reflection in the mirror. And we need more than our eyes to see well.

This week Krista Tippett was in conversation with Teju Cole, the writer and photographer, in On Being: Sitting Together in the Dark. She quoted from his new book, Blind Spot:

To look is to see only a fraction of what one is looking at. Even in the most vigilant eye, there is a blindspot. What is missing?

And yes, the light source is important. John Hedgecoe captured it brilliantly in his definition of photography as ‘Painting with light’. To see well we need to be intentional about the kind of light we choose to be immersed in.

So what if we could really see ourselves, without fear, or shame, or comparison. What difference would it make?

Who might we find that we are? What might we choose to do, wholeheartedly, because we are unique?

And what might we bring light to, because no one else has our eyes?

Go well and see clearly with compassion,


This week

The posts this week have had a clear thread of looking and seeing. Exploring light and the way we interpret what we observe. Yesterday at First Fridays @ The Waterside, we exchanged perspectives on ‘Through the eyes of David’. There were a delightful range of perspectives (and different Davids) with encouragement that we can see more – and be more fully – if we are more intentional about looking.