Thursday, January 20, 2005

Through the Looking Glass

Once I was strolling along Union Street in San Francisco and saw what looked like a hip little boutique below street level. It was a store I’d never been into, so I thought I’d check it out. I walked down a few steps to the door, which was to my left, perpendicular to the street. I entered, went down a few more steps…and then found myself in the path of a woman. You know that awkward thing that happens sometimes where you mean to go around someone, but you both try to veer in the same direction? So you’re sort of doing this awkward ‘dance’ until one of you realizes you’ll have to zag instead of zig? It was like that. I said, “Excuse me” or “Sorry” every time we found ourselves face to face. But she looked really familiar and I had that odd, “Do I know her from somewhere?” feeling. We bumped into each other several times…until I realized I was ‘dancing’ with my image in a wall-sized mirror. (And, yes, I laughed about it for days afterward. Lord only knows what the sales clerks must have thought to see this woman moving back and forth in front of a mirrored wall, talking to herself.)

I thought about that moment last night after a phone conversation with an old friend who was commenting how he hates looking in the mirror these days. (He’s turning 50, too.) I understand the feeling. I’ve been avoiding mirrors like the plague for the last few years. I’ve never been a vain or primping sort of gal. But in years past I’d check out my reflection and think, “Mmm, okay, I guess.“ But in the last few years the stresses of my life (and yes, even life in ‘paradise’ can have its stresses) have played out on my face. And it was uncomfortable for me to witness and a shock to my system--because the image staring back at me didn’t match what I thought I looked like…or had looked like. But just lately, I’ve begun noticing that self-reflection is getting just a tiny bit less traumatic. And I realized the other day (and I’m sure this is why after years of terrible insomnia I’m finally sleeping soundly…and a lot, for me) that as situations in my life have changed-- and as I’ve let go of long-held resentments as a result of those changes--my face has begun looking more relaxed. It’s hard to look bright and chipper when one has spent years lying awake half the night seething. And those years were like that moment in that Union Street boutique: I was looking, but not seeing me. Because on a deeper level, it wasn’t just the discomfort I felt when I saw how circumstances had aged me, it was that I didn’t recognize the person I’d become--someone who would allow others to mistreat her and stay stuck in such a situation. And I let location influence my power of choice. I fell into the ‘This is a small place and there’s not much here’ trap that can easily suck you in if you feel deprived of mainland stimulation.

I’m a bit of an anomaly. I look to others on the outside like I’m a ‘straight’ sort of person. I look ‘normal.’ I know this, because people have often told me that some of my life experiences seem unexpected for someone like me. But I don’t conform easily, and I never have. Yet I have at times in my life appeared, at least superficially, as if I'm adapting. I don’t like to play by the rules, but I will sometimes force myself to become chameleon-like in an effort to seem like I’m fitting into a situation. (Notice that I said “seem” to fit in.) I look on the outside like I’m willingly going along with the program, yet inside I’m kicking and screaming the entire time. It’s not a pleasant way to live.

I said in an entry I posted around the New Year that I’m going to stop ‘trying’ to do what I want to do and stop ‘trying’ to find the money to have what I want. That’s scarcity thinking, and it goes hand in hand with forcibly adaptive behavior. I’m going to coin a new phrase here: Forcibly Adaptive Behavior. FAB. I’m going to let go of FAB…and just be fabulous.


Blogger Katherine said...

oooooooo, yes . . . allow others to think: what a bitch or: even feel uncomfortable around you! I'm begining to clue in to that one too: we aren't responsible for making the entire world feel comfortable! what a concept! :) (and you are fabulous . . . :)

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omigod, Marilyn, your mirror-dancing-with-yourself story made me laugh until I cried. You rock!

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omigod, Marilyn, your mirror-dancing-with-yourself story made me laugh until I cried. You rock! --Lizardek

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh marilyn, what a great post!!!

wishing you less fab and more fabulous. ;-)


3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god...genius....insomnia equals seething!!! That is so on the if I could just get my husband to understand it.xoxo Jeri

12:33 AM  

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