Looking in the Mirror

Ish – this is a hard post to write.  It’s always difficult to hold a mirror up to yourself and see something ugly reflected back, but I would guess that these kinds of self-discoveries are the kinds that help us grow – make us really LOOK at ourselves and reflect. I’m all about reflection – it’s just sucky when you realize you have some maturing to do.

The backstory to this begins in high school. I’ve written quite a bit about a friend who I hold dear in my heart. Someone that has meant a lot to me throughout my high school years – someone that I lost touch with in my 20s but reconnected with in my 30s.  Someone that I loved and idolized. Admired and wished to emulate.  Someone that I held to be all the things I felt I was not.  That’s a lot to put on any one person – no one wants to be on a pedestal because at that point we cease to see the real person; we only see a being towering above us – if you can’t see right into someone’s eyes, you miss the real story.   She was someone that I felt a deep connection with on many levels, mostly in our common core beliefs.   Someone who I thought had a pretty good life despite early trials, tribulations and tragedies that the best of us would find hard to survive without some internal damage.  I knew there was damage – but until a couple of years ago I didn’t realize the extent to that damage.  But that’s her story to tell – the hard part, for me, was when I started to read about it in her writings.

She started blogging, anonymously, in the area of addiction and recovery.  I never knew she was an alcoholic.  I never realized that during our time together (and we spent a lot of time together) she was desperately trying to numb herself from her past – pushing down the demons. I knew she had demons but I thought she was in control. That’s what happens when you keep looking up – you see what’s on the outside but miss entirely what’s on the inside because, like I said, you cannot see into their eyes.

And here’s where it gets difficult.  I started reading her stories – and whilst part of me was filled with sadness for her and a deepening love for her courage to talk about her life…part of me, the part that I wanted to just stuff inside myself and not acknowledge – that part of me felt betrayed.  Betrayed that she was sharing this secret pain – some that she’d shared with me – to everyone.  I felt like I didn’t know this person – and I felt hurt.   And not even in a way that I can really explain with words.

And then the big news came. The news that completely rocked my world.  She told me she’d become a Christian.  Growing up, she was always pretty flippant about western religion, we both were interested in Eastern religions in our teen years and very liberal in our social views. I’m a solid agnostic with a Catholic upbringing, she’d always had no religion and had more of an atheist bent.  I was so taken aback – and very afraid. Afraid I’d be judged and found wanting, afraid that we’d have no common ground. Afraid she’d be praying for my corrupt soul.  Afraid she couldn’t or wouldn’t be my friend anymore. Afraid I couldn’t be her friend anymore. And then I went through a period of wondering if our friendship had been based on anything solid.  Was it all a sham what we connected with in our teens? Did I ever really know her?

And then the realization HIT ME LIKE A FREAKIN’ TON OF BRICKS.  Everything I was worried about – EVERYTHING came from my own selfish point of view.  It was all about “I” – and how I felt about her situation and how it would affect me.  I did slow turn in the mirror and saw an ugly monster staring me in the face.  It was humiliating.  Or maybe it was humbling. I’m not really sure –maybe it was both things.  But I do know this – I wanted to change that.

So I talked to her. I never said anything about feeling betrayed or the selfishness I’d discovered within myself, but I laid out my fears on the table in written form, because that’s always been our way. We can write and write and write – that’s one of the things I love about her the most. Anyway, I suspect she knew I would have them because she wasn’t able to actually tell me of her conversion when we were hanging out one day – she wrote to me about it the day afterwards, letting me know how hard it was for her to share this with me. I don’t think she would have thought I’d have been angry or scornful, that’s not who I am, but she knew it would have surprised me to say the least.  And, because she’s the most atypical converted Christian I’ve ever met, she laid all my fears to rest.  She is not evangelistic. She is about her own relationship with God – and that’s all. She is not anti-anyone nor needs others to agree with her own beliefs to have them validated.  She’s made me more thoughtful about her beliefs and we both respect each other’s points of view.   I may or may not believe in God, but I believe in her belief of God. Does that make sense?

After all this, I went back and re-read a lot of her posts with an entirely different mindset.  With more empathy rather than sympathy.  And suddenly, I didn’t feel betrayed. I didn’t feel cheated and I didn’t feel that our past was anything different than what it was.  I’ve taken her off the pedestal so I can continue to look into her eyes and see who she really is.  And I hope she can see who I really am.  Human – yet a little less selfish.

I leave you with some Flogging Molly

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
This entry was posted in Aversions, Blogging, Childhood, grieving, love, Random Thoughts, Relationships, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Looking in the Mirror

  1. List of X says:

    Looking at yourself honestly is one of the hardest things one can do, but admitting publicly to the unflattering things you saw there is even harder. I hope I can do the same when I have to – and I also hope that I won’t just get obsessed with constantly checking myself out in the mirror. 🙂

  2. Soapmouth says:

    Profoundly honest…

  3. The Hook says:

    I’m proud of you.

  4. stephrogers says:

    That is true self reflection and growth. It’s genuinely hard to do. Well done. You are brave and should be proud of yourself.

  5. Marie says:

    If you were to re-do the “look into the mirror” exercise again, like right now, what would you see? Would it be a different self-reflection? I hope so. I like to think you would see a wonderful friend (why do I always tend to spell it out freind is beyond me) and feel wonderful inside.

    I’m still not fully grown up yet. I’m like Edward Scissorhands “I am not complete” but I know I will be one day, probably the day I’ll lose my mind or something awesome like that!

    • If I did it again – I would definitely see someone that is looking at my friend’s situation from my friend’s point of view – not one that sees only how it will affect me (at least that is my hope – and how I feel).

      I am going to be 44 next month, and I still think I’m a sham/faux grown up. I hope you always grow and never complete – b/c where’s the fun in that!

      Freind/friend – lyxdexia is a terrible thing 🙂

  6. In answer to your question, “Does this make sense?”, yes it does and it sounds like you came through a very big self-revelation. I’ve felt that way myself and it isn’t easy, but in the end it’s worthwhile. I think.

  7. runningonsober says:

    Enjoyed this one a lot. And if it helps, you’re not the only one who has felt this way. I have a close friend who was hurt by my blog, not that she felt betrayed, but that she was jealous. Instead of sharing with her, or sharing with her FIRST, I was sharing on-line in my writing (even though I wasn’t writing about her). A lot of times though, the way I write, I may not know what I’m going to write until its written. And it’s easier for me to write than it is to talk to someone else, especially if it’s tough subject material or an area I need to heal.

    I think ultimately she was sad and resentful that I was growing and healing, and she wasn’t. And see, this is where you and she are different I think. You have faced those feelings and they have made your friendship stronger–you’ve both grown from it.

    I’m glad you wrote about this. xo, Christy

    • Thank you Christy – your insight and comments mean a lot to me. I understand about it being easier to write about than talk about – which I think is why we are here to begin with.

      It is hard when you see people start to change for the better yet you don’t have that same thing happening – because ya know, misery does love company. I have had friendships where I realized it was negative things that were pulling us together not positive – and those things are not what I want to base any kind of friendship on.

      It’s so hard for me to find really great friends as I get older – so the ones I cherish, I want them to grow and last.

      Love to you ~

  8. Mrs. P says:

    Sometimes when you make a major change in your life you want to be honest with others about it. You want to talk about it. But it can be hard to tell the ones you care about the most, for fear of rejection…especially if you only recently had a reconnection.

    Posting anonymously can relieve that feeling in the pit of your stomach that say, I need to talk about what’s been happening to me. At one point, she took a risk and let you know that she had been blogging about her story. She wanted to share with you and took her own leap of faith that you would still care.

    It’s natural that you had some emotion connected to finding out about her story and sharing it with others. To look at yourself and see yourself as the source of your discomfort, takes honesty.

    I am glad that you had a chance to see this truth and as a result…change your mind about how you were handling this. Don’t beat yourself up too bad.

  9. JackieP says:

    You are a brave, honest woman and I like that. I too had to look at myself in the mirror lately and didn’t like what I saw. It’s not easy is it? You and your friend can now become even better friends. Good for you and good for your friend who found what works for her to overcome her difficulties.

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    Humans by nature make everything about themselves. The ability to recognize that and step away from the pattern–like you do–is what helps make others want to be around us. Your post also shows how important communication is. Look what happened once you two discussed it. So many misconceptions were cast aside.

    • Exactly, I firmly believe communication is the key to so much stress relief – sometimes you just gotta lay your cards on the table (but with thoughtfulness) and see what happens.

      I see it all the time in mine & my husband’s job (IT) – people are afraid to let someone know that their computer is wonky b/c they don’t want to waste the IT person’s time – and the problem just gets worse – so when they have to do something about it- it takes longer than if they’d just spoken up prior. OR they give absolutely no information in the help request: My computer isn’t working…um…that’s not really giving me anythign to go with 🙂

  11. Amy Reese says:

    People change as do friendships. It’s great you hung in and discovered what was eating you inside. I think a lot of people, myself included, react and think about themselves and how they are affected before they realize it’s not about them at all. Great post, Missy. See you at the B&B later!

  12. BigLizzy says:

    Baga-baby! This is awesome! So real, so deeply honest, and just delicious. I LOVE how you stayed with your process, held it, dove into it, and came out of the experience with such insight about your psychology and feelings. I love this. You are remarkable for hanging in there and getting to the core of it all and owning your stuff. Thank you for sharing your humanity with us, sister. XOXO

  13. I have done the same thing – put people on pedestals, although often they weren’t friends, just people I knew who seemed to have everything “perfect”. Then it’d turn out, oh, they’re human too. She has pimples under her makeup. Her beautiful house was bought on credit. Etc. It happens. I’ve had to tell myself over and over – it really isn’t all about you. And in a lot of ways that is a relief, because that means when someone is angry, or hateful, or whatever to me, it doesn’t mean it’s because of me. Maybe it’s because of that other person instead. All I can control is me.

    Although really, I think some people would do so much better if they’d let me help. The ones on TLC, for example.

  14. SUCH a fantastic post. And this line was perfection: ” I may or may not believe in God, but I believe in her belief of God.” If everyone could work that way about all things, not just religion, I think there would be a lot less strife in the world.

  15. Twindaddy says:

    Perhaps you saw a monster for a second while looking in the mirror, but your recognized that monster, confronted it, and conquered it. Most people have trouble merely recognizing the monster, so good on you. You’re an incredible person, Ladycakes.

  16. El Guapo says:

    It’s a hard thing to realize we aren’t the center of the universe. And it’s a great thing to realize too.
    Go you, Ruta!
    And go you for getting past it and sticking with your friend after this.

  17. Pema Chödrön says “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” I know that we both put each other on pedestals but ours is a friendship that deserves to be side-by-side. I love you for all you are and am honored to be in your life!

  18. Robin says:

    Goodness, what a tough subject to tackle, and you did this beautifully. I have been re-evaluating old friendships a lot lately–because right now they all seem to be changing on me. It’s very difficult to determine who changes the most, is it them? Is it us? I also have wondered sometimes why it’s my “closest” friends who I hear from least in regards to my writing and try not to be hurt, but your perspective on her sharing to a wide audience vs. just them, is interesting. Makes me wonder if my writing has given others this impression too. Anyway, so glad you had the self-discovery and sounds like this will bring you and your friend even closer.

    • Robin – thank you so much for your kind words.

      I think my perspective and those feelings were all coming from my own insecurity about my role in her life (which I know, in my heart, is just as special as her role in my life).

      That self reflection on friendships is something I’ve been doing beyond just with this friend – it’s so much harder to find friends (for me) as we get older – so I cherish the ones I’ve made and love that some that I’ve had as a child – lost touch with and now am friends again are still so special to me.

      have a great day – thank you for reading 🙂

  19. Katalina4 says:

    Great story with wonderful writing and a very refreshing honesty.

  20. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Great post and perspective. It’s got me thinking now of my interactions on and offline.

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