Tuesday, May 24, 2011


In A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle discusses allowing other people to be a mirror for our self-image:

But what about that self-image?

We talked, this July in Columbus, about how you can be walking down the street and you will catch a glimpse of yourself reflected in a store window and think: who is that? Oh, no, it's not!

But it is.

We really don't know what we look like. We are moderately careful to spend a certain amount of time in front of the mirror; we choose the mirror before which we comb our hair, shave, or put on lipstick or eyeshadow, with a good deal of attention. We don't use a distorted mirror, or ones like those in the fun houses at fairs and carnivals. The bathroom mirror tells us a certain amount about our outside selves.

But the inner, essential self?

I don't know what I'm like. I get glimpses of myself in other people's eyes. I try to be careful whom I use as a mirror: my husband; my children; my mother; the friends of my right hand. If I do something which disappoints them I can easily read it in their response. They mirror their pleasure or approval, too.

But we aren't always careful of our mirrors. I'm not. I made the mistake of thinking that I "ought" not to write because I wasn't making money, and therefore in the eyes of many people around me I had no business to spend hours every day at the typewriter. I felt a failure not only because my books weren't being published but because I couldn't emulate our neighoring New England housewives. I was looking in the wrong mirrors. I still do, and far too often. I catch myself at it, but usually afterwards. If I have not consciously thought, "What will the neighbors think?" I've acted as though I had.

I've looked for an image in someone else's mirror, and so have avoided seeing myself.

Since reading that, I have questioned who I let be my mirror several times. Sometimes I allow people who I don't trust or who are angry at me to be that mirror, much to my detriment.

When one allows another to tell them who they are, they had better make certain that they trust that person with themselves.

Why is it that we'd never get in a car with a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but that we allow our feelings to be hurt by someone under the influence of anger, which is a powerful influence which distorts reality just as much as a drugs do? Why would we allow them to be our mirror of how we see ourselves in those moments?

We would never use a fun house mirror to get ourselves presentable in the mornings. Why? Because we can't trust it.

Similarly, we need to find mirrors to our inner self that don't distort how we really are.

Mirrors are only good for what can be seen, however. We can't use a mirror to see if a bone is broken or if an appendix has ruptured. Similarly, even close friends can't see what we don't allow them to.

In church a couple Sundays back the lesson was on using our talents. The advise was given that if we don't know what our talents are, or we feel that we don't really have any talents, to ask a friend, a family member, or any of the ladies in that class. I would hesitate to ask. Especially someone who doesn't know me deep down.

Why? Because I feel that the answer would be distorted.

Not maliciously, but because I am a private person and keep a lot to myself. I don't boast or brag over my accomplishments. I go along pretty quietly in the world. What *is* obvious in my life is Michael. Michael is anything *but* subtle or quiet. He is very outgoing. He loves everyone, friend or stranger alike. He loves to make other people feel loved. Because he is so outgoing, it is what most people link me to, and that is ok! I love being Michael's mom. But if I was looking for Melody, I would need to ask someone who knows ME. Me, without my husband. Me, without my children.

A few years ago, I wrote this:
"When I got divorced nearly fifteen years ago from my first husband, I discovered this phenomenon. It took me nearly a year to reunite Melody (ex husband's last name) with Melody (maiden name). Melody (maiden name) had given way to Paul’s wife or Josh, Amber, and Jared’s mom. I had forgotten who I was. I was lost for many months, feeling like I was a broken woman. Since that experience I have tried to never lose touch with Melody, all the Melody’s I am, ever again."

Since "no man is an island", it is difficult to sift away what is and what is not part of a person.

While I am indeed Michael's (and Josh's, and Karen's, and Amber's, and Emily's, and Ammon's, and Matt's, and soon-to-be Tino's) mom, and Steve's wife, that is not all of me. I am bigger than that. There is more of me that is put away for now and is waiting for another day, another season, if you will, to become even more Melody than I am right now.

So, to ask a person that I see only in church on Sunday to tell me how they view me would give me glimpse of me, but only enough to see something like an eye or an arm. Their mirror is too small.

To get the whole truth, I would have to inquire of many people, because the parts I allow people to see varies by situation. Even my mother, because she is a mortal, though she knows most things about me, only sees things that she is interested in (even if that happens to be my flaws). Same for Steve. Same for all of my children, friends, & neighbors.

Only I know about all of me. Only you know all about you. It takes courage to look closely at yourself, wisdom to be able to sort through and make sense of it all, and mercy to love yourself in spite of everything you see.

As a side-note: Is it important to love yourself? Jesus thought it was. His counsel is to love our neighbors as ourselves, which implies that we need to love ourself first.

When a person starts giving you distortions of yourself, realize what it is and think of it as a fun house mirror. Realize that there will be a little truth muddled and twisted amongst a lot of lies. Take their reflection with a grain of salt. Extract what truth there may be and leave the rest.

And above all, love yourself. Your strengths, your flaws & imperfections, everything that makes up you. You can change yourself for the better without becoming your own worst enemy. Nurture yourself. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.

I will work on doing the same.

I hope that you have a wonderful day today, full of all of the great things that life can hold!


  1. This is fantastic! You rock!:) And it is so true, we let others run our lives, when we could be running them, or better yet, letting God, who is the perfect mirror. Inspirational!:)

  2. Absolutely! God is the best mirror of all. :)

    Thanks for the praise; I'm glad that it resonated with you too. :)

    (& thanks for being a great mirror in my life :)