I am constantly amazed how my friends hold up a mirror for me to see myself. My self-image is blurred by my shortcomings and my personal failures. I first experienced the magic of seeing myself from another’s point of view when I was involved in an Empowerment Circle in Memphis. It was a women’s circle affiliated with a training organization called Woman Within which is designed to help women discover who they are. At first I thought it was a little hokey, but when I look back on my life, it was the beginning of discovering who I was and of dealing with the biggest problem I had in my life – my inability to say no to people who didn’t have my best interests at heart. It was – and continues to be transformational.
Throughout the weeks and months and years that I met with these women, we got to know each other well. There were always somewhere between 4-6 of us, and we had to commit to the group. This wasn’t a group where you could come when you could get away. It was a commitment. We were establishing family, and we were creating a place where we could show up in front of others in all of our brokenness. Trust was essential. We could ask for what we needed each week to get through whatever storm we were facing, and one of the techniques that provided support was a mirroring exercise. We would tell each other how we saw each other. I was stunned at the view that others held of me. It was so different than the view I had of myself. Their image was so much more beautiful and strong than I felt. Through the years that we met, my insides began to believe some of what was being reflected to me from the outside. I re-invented myself.
This week several friends have held up a mirror to me again. It was all unsolicited and part of everyday conversation, but it happened just the same. My friend Alayne and I were reminiscing about our journey together and how we’ve changed since we met 8 years ago. We both ended marriages and re-invented our lives. I was a few steps ahead of her in time, but she has far surpassed me in scope. We talked at length about how inspiring it has been to watch each other as we stepped out and took courageous leaps of faith to be the strong single women that we are. Neither one of us wanted it when we met. We were pulled into this unlikely transformation kicking and screaming and with very little choice but to do it. But, do it we did. I saw myself mirrored in my inspiring view of her and her awesome view of me.
Another friend told me how inspired she was by me. She wants to move, and as soon as she gets started applying for jobs and thinking through the hurdles of doing it, her breathing stops quite literally. She added, “Yet, you have done it several times.” I never have thought of moving like that. I did it the first time when I was 23 and just out of college. I looked for a newspaper job and found one in South Texas. I packed up my Mercury Lynx – not knowing what the hell I was doing – and drove off. It almost seems like moving and changing is in my blood. Maybe re-inventing my life is part of my creative process. My insides often see it as an inability to find a place that works, but, I guess really it is more about my lack of fear in moving around in space and my desire for adventure. I love exploring and living in a new place.
My acupuncturist reminded me this week that I have re-invented myself several times. She assured me I’d have no problem doing it again. The gift in this feedback from her and my other friends is that they truly know me. They are not people who have only seen the good side of my life and my moods. They have supported me through struggle and listened to my tears and watched me painfully push down personal barriers. I believe that all of the barriers are inside me. Making change is actually fairly simple. It’s not easy. Don’t get me wrong. Moving sucks. Working the financial part of life sucks. Dealing with a transition sucks. But, it’s all very simple. I just have to commit to myself the way I did to my women’s circle and show up no matter what else is going on. I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Today, I’m choosing to look in the mirror and see what others see. I can focus on my bulges and bumps if I want to, but I think I want to look at that mirror that is more forgiving and loving than the voice inside my head. I somehow thought I was ready to quit re-inventing myself. That was pretty silly. That’s who I am. It’s like saying I’d like to learn how to live without breathing. I’ve been struggling lately to re-invent my day. I made the decision to move to Seattle in the late 90s after a naysayer told me, “You won’t do it. You’re always talking about taking another job and moving, but you never do.” In that instant, I realized that I didn’t want to be the woman in her mirror, and I said yes. I am a woman capable and supported enough to re-invent my life again. And when I get there, I’ll probably re-invent myself yet again. I hope that when I’m 90, I’ll look across the ocean and say “I think I’d like to live on the other side of that – just to see what it’s like” …. and sail away.