When I look in the mirror there is a disconnect.
I am literally split into two beings—the See-er and the Seen. The See-er judges the Seen freely—she is, after all, the brains of the operation.
The Seen accepts the judgements: “fat, old, ugly” and agrees with the See-er that something is clearly wrong. The Seen then puts on a baggy sweatshirt and crawls into bed for the rest of the day because she is too hideous to appear in public.
The See-er often pops up when I least expect her, slicing me right down the middle into “this” and “that.”
She comes to life when I pass a polished store window, when my image is reflected in the door of the microwave and sometimes even when my shadow slides under my feet in the late day sun.
As soon as she is there, I can hear her mean voice, admonishing me to stand up straighter, suck in my gut, put on some make up for Christ’s sake and put down the cookie, wine or peanut brittle I have clutched in my sweaty hand.
Recently, as I was making my way through O’Hare airport (a place I seem to have an oddly large number of revelatory moments) and I caught my likeness in a glass restaurant sign—“Jerry Mulligan’s” or “Skippy McGuire’s” —something like that. Among the shamrocks there I was, just briefly, striding along after 15 hours of grueling travel; dirty hair, wrinkled coat, drug store reading glasses perched on top of my head where I’d forgotten them when I got off the plane.
Right away, I heard that b*tchy See-er gearing up. And for some unknown reason—maybe just because I was exhausted—instead of bracing for her onslaught, I heard myself tell her—quite sternly might I add—to Pipe down!
Well. Who knew Miss Seen had any voice at all?
With those two simple words, “Pipe down!” I shut the See-er up and stopped the painful cleaving of myself in two.
Surprised, I settled into my bones and shifted around a little, seeing how it was to feel, rather than observe.
I felt the broad span of my back and how my arms swung generously throughout the air, propelling me forward with an efficient gait. I felt my skull, perched artfully atop my spine and thanked it for holding in my brains so nicely, a little freaked out by the idea that I was carrying around such much important informaion in that 44 year old case.
I felt my knees and my feet and the skin covering them all working in lovely concert together, a masterpiece of co-operation and I felt the tidal wave my smile caused as I set it free and saw it bouncing off the faces of my fellow travelers leaving other smiles in it’s wake.
And I realized as I felt these things, that the feeling of them trumped the seeing of them. Feeling is a much more powerful, directly interactive way to be—it makes seeing seem absolutely pointless.
As with most epiphanies, as great as this one was, it still had to be tested for it’s inherent truth.
I walked around all week, not scorning my reflection, but choosing, when I saw it, to feel the inside of myself rather than observe the outside of myself. What a difference!
My superficial criticisms drained away, replaced by a feeling of connection and even power. Noticing and appreciating the strength of my muscles, the quality of my breath, the way my brow works to furrow or become peacefully smooth was an immediate remedy to my standard obsession with appearances.
Before I got too confident I noticed I could feel “bad” things too—my thighs rubbing onerously together, the fat rolls in my belly when I sat down, the ache of my misaligned vertebra—but it was still easier to shift my attention from those things back to my breath and bones than it was when I was weakened by my own peanut gallery.
From now on, I plan to sap the power from my See-er by remembering that I am not just pieces of a thing, but part of a dynamic whole. She may be the brains of the operation, but she’s only smart when when she works in tandem with everything else.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock