50 ROADS #20 – THE ROAD MADE OF MIRRORS
One morning in 2012 I woke up with horrific hives. I had just turned 40 years old. They quickly grew and turned to welts that swelled about 1/4 inch from where my skin was supposed to be. They would start out the size of dime or quarter and end up growing and growing, then growing into each other until they were covering different parts of my body completely. They were hot to the touch and they itched, burned and ached. The ones on the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet were excruciating. The ones on my face were humiliating. The ones on my scalp were horrifically itchy and anywhere my clothing touched, the hives/welts would rub raw. It was not a fun time.
The first time it happened I went to the hospital because they started on my scalp, went down to my ears and then to my throat and mouth. My throat started swelling up and I was afraid I was going to lose my air passage.
The doctor at the hospital gave me an IV of Benadryl and told me I was probably just having some kind of allergic reaction, but that he’s also seen these kinds of hives/welts show up on women about my age. There is no explanation and no cure. It’s just called Chronic Urticaria – which simply means, hives that won’t go away.
I figured they’d be gone by morning, but they weren’t. They were even worse.
And this was just the beginning of a 3-4 year mystery illness that turned out to be one of the biggest mirrors of my life.
If you know me, you know that I hang mirrors all over the place, many times in places so high that a person would not be able to see their own reflection in them. I do this because I love how they reflect light, how they expand a room, how they dance with whatever is moving and create all sorts of aliveness wherever they are.
Those aren’t the kinds of mirrors this road is about, but similar. The kind of mirrors this road is made of are the things in life that reflect you back to yourself, that make you take a good hard look at yourself and only yourself.
The hives/welts were a mirror because they were a manifestation of my fears, anxieties and past trauma — secrets. I would have horrible breakouts that I could not hide from when I was trying to stuff something away, avoid something or when I didn’t feel safe. I had a dream the first week of those hives that told me every single hive was a secret I was keeping that wanted to be released. There was no way to hide from any of it, it stared me right in the face. For all of those years, those hives disfigured me and woke me up. They didn’t go away until I learned about boundaries and until I started telling the truth about some things I was keeping secret. They would show up when I said yes to things that weren’t good for me and no to things that were. They would show up when I had to have conversations with people who weren’t a good match for me. They were the ultimate truth serum. They were relentless until I started making some agreements with myself about what and who was allowed to have influence over my life and how close people and situations could get to the core of who I am. Of course, that was only the beginning of my boundaries journey, but I don’t know that I ever would have started on that journey without those hives/welts that forced me to face things that needed facing without looking away.
Mirrors are fun to look in when you have a new outfit or you’ve spent a lot of time doing your makeup or you just got your hair done. They’re fun to look in when you’re dressed up in a costume or you’re making a funny face, or when you’re holding a baby.
Mirrors are not very fun to look in when you’re not feeling fabulous about your life or your self or what you’re surrounded by. Mirrors are incredibly difficult to look in when you’re only pointing your finger outward and not taking responsibility for your life and your circumstances. But nothing can pull you back to your truest truth like having to take a good hard look at yourself.
It used to take a whole lot to get me angry, and that’s not something I’m particularly proud of. It’s just that I used to be so afraid of anger and I even thought that if I was angry, it would make me a bad person. What I’ve learned is that anger is our friend, a nice little package delivery guy bringing an urgent message that needs to be dealt with ASAP. These days, I welcome anger when it comes and I open the package at the time of delivery. Anger is not so scary after all.
But when I first stepped foot on the Road Made of Mirrors, I was one big ball of anger. And resentment. And bitterness. I felt betrayed, abandoned and discarded. I felt indignant. My anger certainly felt justified, and it was — but anger kept too long turns toxic. It’s really just supposed to be there to deliver the message that something needs dealt with, it’s not supposed to move in and change its address.
At this time I had a big journal where I would write letters to Heaven. And then I’d listen and write down what I heard Heaven saying back to me. It was my way of dealing with things I didn’t want to talk to any other human beings about.
So I was writing about my anger, and then an answer came back about mirrors. This message felt right on target. I was writing asking questions about what to do about the betrayal I felt. What to do about how I was wronged, hurt and left to die bleeding in the street. It was all very dramatic. And I loved the answer I got back in my writing prayers.
The message came as “visualize that you have surrounded your RV in mirrors so that when these people come toward you, all they can see is their own faces and what they have done.”
And, of course I was thrilled to have gotten this answer. I felt so validated, vindicated and RIGHT.
But then more of the message came . . . “and now visualize that you have surrounded the inside of your RV with mirrors, so that wherever you go, you can see your own face and what you have done.”
WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING?
This road was like the hives, there was no getting away from what it was trying to teach me. It only escalated my anger at first but then I started to soften as I imagined others seeing themselves in this situation between us, and as I found the courage to look at myself in this situation between us.
I kept writing about this for days in that journal and I would see more and more of the roles I’ve played in circumstances and consequences that I really really really dislike. When there’s a mirror right in your face as you’re screaming accusations, it’s a wake up call , and you don’t always like what you see.
It’s a 2-sided mirror on The Road Made of Mirrors. And you’re not allowed to see each other until you take a good look at yourself. The mirrors don’t become clear until you can both see yourself first. Usually by the time you’re done looking at yourself, you’ve sheepishly put down your pointer finger and gotten to work on your own nonsense.
I don’t know what the other person can see when they look on their side of the mirror. Of course when I’m in my righteous indignation, I want them to see how selfish, cruel and hurtful they’ve been . . . but on The Road Made of Mirrors, I first have to look at how maybe I’ve been selfish, cruel or hurtful – or any other variety of hive-inducing behaviors I’ve participated in.
This road taught me to investigate the accusing feelings I feel toward another and see if maybe there’s some of those unsavory things also inside of me. Often I find at least glimpses of the things I’m most fired up about right inside of me and it’s a perfect opportunity for me to start healing and changing that part of ME rather than spending my energy wanting the other person to see that in themselves so that they will change and apologize.
And when there has been blatant abuse, true betrayal and gross manipulation, looking in a “mirror” can help us to see just how hurt we I actually are, and instead of focusing all attention on the other person who did the hurting, we can suddenly see our own self and how much attention we need, how much healing we need, how much comfort and mercy and nurturing we need. After you see yourself in that way, suddenly proving the guilt of the other person becomes much less important than it was a few minutes ago — when you’re looking in the mirror and you can see the fragments of your own crushed heart right in your own eyeballs, you know that the most important task is now to tend to your own hemorrhaging wounds.
The Road Made of Mirrors taught me that there is always so much more than we can see, and the only thing we can truly influence is what we see in our own mirror. But that we have to have the courage to look, and we have to preserve and protect our time by not spending it looking at the thing or person that we believe wronged us. There will be hurts in life that will never be made right through apology. There will be things that happen with others that we may never understand. There are tragic things people do to each other, but what makes it even more tragic is when we either let it steal our life from us or we don’t take the opportunity to look in the mirror and first see the role we played. We feel free when we own our part, we feel validated and seen and powerful. We feel whole because we aren’t hiding from or leaving out parts of the story. Don’t deny yourself the whole of the story. Don’t gaslight away the parts of the story that can . Don’t pretend not to see what you see. Being a human is hard and messy so sometimes we are going to see things in ourselves that are hard to see — and messy to clean up. But man it feels good when you take your own power back and stop feeling like everyone else has all of the power.
And here’s the beautiful surprise . . . when you cultivate the courage to really look at yourself, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all. It’s lessons, it’s learning, it’s another chance to do better the next time. But mostly it’s magnificence and resilience and beauty and bravery and loveliness — that’s mostly what we’re made of!
I hope we can see these life mirrors as enormous blessings that give us tremendous opportunities to see things as they are rather than how we thought they were. It doesn’t matter what things look like, it matters how things ARE. And we are all so much more than what we look like and so much more than what we think we are. We shouldn’t be afraid to look at the raw truth . . . because the truth is always what sets us free.
So, authentic soul,
What are you afraid to see when you look in a mirror? AND
How can you look even deeper to see the truest and rawest beauty?
Thank you for traveling this very reflective road with me. Tomorrow, we will take an easy stroll down The Road of Unfathomable Relief.
See you there.