Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Have to Look Away




We have two mirrors only in our house, I realized today. They hang in our bathrooms, rudimentary vanities to aid in the minor ablutions of tooth-brushing and hair-combing, my bit of lipstick, Sarge's shaving ritual, and nothing more.

I grew up in a house of many mirrors--the tomblike wardrobes fronted with mirrors, the entry hall and its floor-to-ceiling beveled mirrors, the little decorative mirrors framed with brass candle sconces; possibly the Victorians who built the house had grown up lacking such abundance--in place of the enormous mirrors, a piece of copper, hammered out and polished, hanging on the wall? or silvered looking glasses that held only the tiniest bit of face, warped and tantalizingly abbreviated? In adulthood, they loved the novelty of their full-length doubles and desired limitless access to their own images. I am just surmising, but whatever the reason, my own adolescent self from crown to foot could be found reflected--doubled, trebled, and quadrupled--throughout the five stories of that castle. And as the Victorians before me, I liked to look at myself.

Now, a grown woman, I'm ambivalent. But I found the answer to this quirk of mine tonight as, suddenly mindful, I caught my own gaze in one of the two mirrors, and was overwhelmed with the feeling of being looked at and truly, deeply known.

I'm unnerved by the intense brown regard, the eyes that, staring, reflect back my sins and strangenesses and secrets, my psyche overflowing.

I can't bear to be so known, by anyone

and I have to look away.





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58 comments:

The Unbearable Banishment said...

That's a beautiful post but I would have been intensely unnerved if I had read it right after a big bong hit. It's a very abstract, metaphysical thought.

savannah said...

the last three lines surprised me as i would have thought differently of you. as in, you are very (to my limited observation) aware of your self. but then, i am surprised by the face i see in the mirror reflected back at me, so what do i know of knowing? xoxoxox

mapstew said...

It still amazes me what people tell me they see when they look at me! Obviously not what stares back at me from my mirror.

I prefer what they see.

But are we not all the same?

Maybe sometimes we look too closely.

xxx

Kris said...

I'm not a huge fan of mirrors.

Leah said...

UB: you know, I did have that surreal feeling, staring at myself. Wouldn't have been so good on LSD either...

savannah: what's funny is, I think I am very self-aware ( I could argue, too much so)...but something about the eye contact gives me the willies...is that weird? hmmm...and I know exactly what you mean about being surprised by the face in the mirror, but of course, that's a whole other topic, lol...

Leah said...

map: if you tend to be a cerebral, introspective sort of person, making eye contact with yourself in the mirror can be a very strange experience indeed...and very different from just glancing up as you brush your teeth...

Kris: mirrors are overrated...

willow said...

Intensely personal. What a great read, Leah. Compared to my looking deep into my own eyes and traveling back in time, you on the other hand, choose to look away. Fascinating.

Leah said...

willow: I love the ghostly magic of your post, and how your world expands in the mirror. I think my post is a testament to my extreme solipsism!!

Mr. Shife said...

Great post Leah. I really enjoy your thoughts and love how you express them through your blog. I am not a big fan of mirrors either but I like them more when I get to share them with my little man. He is at the age where he likes to check himself out.

Poetikat said...

Especially as we age, we find it harder to look - not just at the lines and grey hairs, but at who we have become. There's always the question of who we are now and who we might be yet.
I don't look away—quite the opposite; I find I'm looking at myself more intently and I'm okay with that.

Really introspective and thought-provoking, Leah.

Tracey said...

Okay, now I am going to have to look up solipsism!

I love this. And I think it is good for Hedgehog to grow up with so few mirrors. When I think of all the neurosis I could have been spared had I looked less in a mirror.

Brian Miller said...

wow. great post leah. the only mirrors we have in the house are in the bathrooms as well...and i only use them to shave.

Karen ^..^ said...

What a great thought... And naturally beautifully written, as always.

Hmmm... I have found, upon reflection, (NO PUN INTENDED, I SWEAR) That I have a hard time staring my self in the eyes... There is an unease. Hmmm... I'll ponder that awhile, and see how it gels.

Jill said...

I find myself looking and then wondering how I have come to be where I am today...the place, the age...etc.

I like your self reflection here...it runs deep, very deep.

Jimmy Bastard said...

I am arrogant and profuse when it comes to not using mirrors. However I will admit to a certain reluctance to view myself through anyone elses distorted looking glass.

Superlative in your turn of phrase, elegant as always, as is the mind behind the words.

e said...

Poignant post, Leah. I look only ocassionally, but find myself caught as if I can intently surmise where to go from here...

I can relate to blues/ickiness these days...

Happy TT!

Pat said...

We have many mirrors - from three homes - and they serve as a reality check and a reminder that it's time to grow up.
Don't be sad - we all have sins and secrets and strangenesses and it's no bad thing to know thyself.

nick said...

Those eyes do look very knowing and introspective, I must say. Although I look in the mirror quite a lot I'm never bothered by what I see, even at my advanced age. My eyes don't look particularly soulful, more bemused by life's complexities!

When we moved into this house, there was a huge mirror hanging over the lounge mantelpiece. Jenny removed it straightaway, she couldn't bear to see herself every time she went in the room!

bohemianshadows said...

Yes, there is somehting of being looked at, even with our own reflection!

kylie said...

you cant bear to be known and i cant bear not to (by the trusted few)
interesting

Alan Burnett said...

I love this post Leah. It says so much more about you than your mirror image ever could.

Stephanie said...

Thought provoking post, Leah.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Sometimes it's the best reaction...a bit of a softer focus has always helped me. -J

Dreamhaven said...

Don't let those imperfections scare you, embrace them.

Everyday Goddess said...

You've gotten some amazing feedback already ~ I would only add that I too have looked away more than not!

I'm glad to be here now
~Elise

Leah said...

Shife: that's funny about Baby Shife--and it really is adorable when they come to that stage of mirror-staring. I always wonder what they're thinking.

Kat: that's so insightful--that we find it harder to look at "who we've become." I'm going to work on being able to meet my own eyes!

Tracey: I'm glad you said that, and I agree that it hasn't hurt her at all, not being able to look at herself constantly! Although I think I may get her a full-length mirror for her room now...and just tuck it away for whenever she gets the urge to look!

Brian: really, you guys only have the two mirrors as well? That makes me feel much better.

Karen: it is very very hard to make that sort of intense eye contact with yourself! As per Kat's comment...I am going to work on it, like a meditation exercise...or on second thought, maybe I won't...I don't think I can handle that kind of truth.

Jill: I always think there are two parts to the experience of looking in the mirror--the superficial part (are we satisfied with how we look, our clothes, skin, bodies, etc?) and then the more existential part--as you say, confronting the question of how we've come to the place we're in...

LadyCat said...

Very intriguing post. I never really thought about it that way. But you are right...we know everything about ourselves. I have learned to accept the shortcomings of that person looking back at me in the mirror. I think that comes the older we get. Happy TT and thanks for stopping by my place.

Nanc Twop said...

Loved the ending.

And also read your 'Facebook Freed Me' post. Interesting stuff!

Ronda Laveen said...

Poignant introspection. It leads me to ponder the vastness of the soul. It can be too overwhelming to experience it all at once. But, over time, you will become good friends.

I find it interesting that this theme caused you to notice that you had only two mirrors in your house. I had the opposite experience, I found a I had many very old mirrors. I didn't realize that they call me to give them a home.

Leah said...

Jimmy: there are always those who wish to turn their warped mirror on one, I suppose the trick is to have the character to resist...

And thank you for saying I have an elegant mind. That is some swell compliment.

e: probably that mirror, once faced, can be used as a bellweather...I wish I could...

Pat: my family is in possession of an inordinate number of mirrors too, but they reside outside my home. You're right about knowing one's self. I am overly self-aware, but somehow confronting that woman in the mirror...

nick: since knowing you, I have always been impressed by your equilibrium! It is most admirable. And I can also say how much I sympathize with Jenny's choice...

bohemian: there is, don't you think?

kylie: isn't it interesting? I really can't bear it, past a certain point, although I think Sarge knows me as well as any one other person has ever known me, and he sticks around, so...not sure what my problem is. But although I seem to reveal a great deal to people, in a sense I reveal nothing...at least, not on purpose anyway...inadvertently is another story entirely.

Leah said...

Alan: thank you; what an intriguing comment!

Stephanie: thank you, and thank you for stopping by!

Jayne: I am all for soft-focus! That and candlelight...

Dreamhaven: I know you're right. And I will try.

Elise: thank you for visiting! It's true, these were especially awesome comments today.

Leah said...

LadyCat: the funny thing about me is that the older I get the harder it is to face myself, in the existential sense...that's not supposed to happen, I think it should be as you say, the older we get, the more we learn to accept ourselves. Oh well, it's a work-in-progress, lol...

Nanc Twop: uh oh, you read my political post? That was something of a departure for me. I was totally insane for a moment there! Well, I am glad you stopped by, and welcome!

Ronda: I am really hoping that I can become friends with that strange strange woman in the mirror...and it is quite interesting, that difference: you with a plethora of mirrors, I with my two little ones! I think you are the brave one...

Terrace Crawford said...

@Brian - mirrors in bathrooms only here too!


--Terrace Crawford
www.terracecrawford.com
www.twitter.com/terracecrawford

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i really enjoyed this post...so achingly beautiful and poignant.

thank you.

i sent you an email regarding something i'd like to email to you - don't know if the address is one you check or like one of my email addresses a 'cover' email which gets rarely checked!

Tom said...

good introspective post. 4 mirrors here, but the full length closet door mirrors in the basement room were there when we moved in. Weird, huh?

Betsy said...

Wow...what a great post! And look at your big beautiful browns! :)

California Girl said...

Hello Leah: I've been away too long. I feel tremendous amivalence towards the mirror but it is the reality of time passing and showing on my face and my body and I have a difficult time accepting it. The mirror, once my friend, is now an unknown. Will I look good today? Will I look tired? Will I look old? Perhaps that is why I usually spend a great deal of time in the mornings applying makeup and generally do not check my makeup again for the rest of the day, except to reapply lipstick.

C.M. Jackson said...

leah--the very same eyes that help you see and feel so deeply about your surroundings,your history and the place you live...see you as well --honest and thought provoking post. BTW, brown eyed girl, if you look long enough I bet you will see the good and the beauty that exists within you--happy tt best c

Magpie said...

I think sometimes I don't like to look at myself in a mirror not so much because of what I see but because of what I don't see...

Princess said...

Dear Leah,

the eyes truly are the windows to the soul

Noni at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

poingant and touching... the eyes are windows to the soul...

JeffScape said...

But where do you look once you look away?

You've been laying it all out there as of late. Intriguing stuff.

Candie Bracci said...

Wow,I love that post,well done Leah!

Baino said...

Beautifully written as always. I don't get the willies looking at my reflection just sheer disappointment. I wonder where I went?

mago said...

It's an awful moment isn't it. Lead Zeppelin has a line something like: "Look in the mirror and describe what you see, and Baby do you like it?"

Ponita in Real Life said...

Very poignant, Leah.

I find myself drawn to the intense gaze of these blue eyes when I look in the mirror... rather like a moth to a flame, I think.

As I've gotten older, I see myself differently. I see more of what's inside rather than just the external view... what actually shines forth from that intense blue stare...

I only have three mirrors: two in the bathrooms, and one full length mirror in my bedroom just to check that I don't have my skirt stuck in my panties before I go out. ;-)

Leah said...

Terrace: what a bit of a relief to find that people only have those bathroom mirrors! it makes me feel less weird...

kim: thank you for the nice comment! And I LOVE the photo. thanks again--

Tom: oooh, left-behind mirrors! That could be spooky, if one were in the right frame of mind. Either that or serendipitous, lol.

Betsy: aw, thanks! : )

CG: nice to see you around again! Yes, the mirror seems to bring out a great many ambivalent feelings in many of us, doesn't it...there's the physical aspect, and then the metaphysical. Both can be a bit uncomfortable...

Leah said...

C: thank you for such a wonderful comment. And I think you're right--if I can just bring myself to look long enough--

Magpie: oh that is so true...

Princess: they are definitely the windows to the soul--now if I could just make peace with my soul--

Noni: thanks for stopping by! and yes, they are...

Jeff: I seem to go through these phases of confessional posting--and then I get over it for awhile!

Candie: thank you dear lady.

Baino: I can't even look long enough to feel that disappointment! Maybe that's my secret...

mago: ah yes, you understand...

Ponita: I think that's true for me too--I see much more now of what's behind the eyes than the superficial view, but in my case it really makes me feel funny. I aspire to do as you do--stare right back!

And now that you mention it, that caught skirt? Maybe that's a reason to get a full-length mirror...

: )

ShAKirA CHOONG said...

I think it is very important for us
to be comfortable with our selves ,
be it mirror reflections or otherwise.

Mine is here

http://justmeshakirack.blogspot.com/2010/02/mirrors-of-my-life-thursday-theme.html

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
and
GONG XI FA CAI!
(means WISHING YOU PROSPERITY! in Mandarin, Chinese)

hugs
shakira

subby said...

Leah, Worcester just had their 7th annual "Poetry Slam"...this would have been a great piece to enter! I may do it next year...

Happy TT and hugs!

otin said...

That was very cool! I know what you mean about seeing yourself in a more reflective way than just looking at an image! I usually turn away, also!

Valerie said...

I still say mirrors lie... just like cameras. Interesting post.
I am reminded of my grandmother who never, ever looked at her own reflection. One day, hand clutching chest, she collapsed on her couch. She had seen herself for the first time in something like twenty years. She got over it, but the mirrors disappeared.

lettuce said...

beautiful writing and this has me pondering and half-tempted to go and look at myself... but only half

just bob said...

I avoid looking at my two mirrors as much as possible.

Leah said...

Shakira: thanks for stopping by! I like what you say, and you're very right.

subby: I may just have to look into that!

otin: yes, it's truly the deeper level that makes me uncomfortable...

Valerie: great story about your grandma--very interesting and telling! I can only imagine the shock of seeing yourself for the first time in ages...

lettuce: you might be made of sterner stuff than I am!

Bob: Mirrors only serve two purposes: as a ghostly portal (a la horror movies) or an instrument of existential terror. lol

Mrsupole said...

I hate it when my comments are lost in bloggyspace. Anyway I posted one. So here is another and it better go through.

I know how you feel when you look into a mirror and do not look into your eyes. I avoid looking into a mirror unless I have to and then only for as long as necessary. I am not sure why, but I have always been this way. I would look at my eyes when I was putting on eye makeup or if I had something in my eyes, but that is about it. I just look at the sink when I wash my hands. And I do look in the mirror when I am looking for those stray hairs or other unwanted hair.

I know people who cannot walk by a mirror without looking at theirselves and some that even stop each time to check theirselves out. And they think they are awesome looking. Wait that is my hubby, he does that and I just cannot bring myself to do that. I need to change.

The eyes are the windows to our souls, I wonder what kind of soul people see when they look into my eyes. I hope I make them smile.

Happy TT.

God bless.

PS....dang it I get surgery and am off for a few months and you take me off your sidebar, as some others did. I need to get cracking and start posting again so I can get back on there. When my mojo comes back will you please put me back. LOL.

Leah said...

Mrs. U: you are back in my side bar! I totally erased and then had to recreate my entire blog list a few months ago, and I think you fell by the wayside!

But you are back now, lol..

Thank you for the comment. And yes, in general, I think I don't look in the mirror at all unless, as you say, I'm doing something specific...

xoxo

INNER VOICES said...

excellent!!! **needs to brush up on his skills again**