On many occasions, family and friends who have come to visit me at my apartment have asked me after using the bathroom, ‘why is the door to the medicine cabinet always open?’ I always tell them it is because I keep forgetting to close the door as if I have some form of an early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. I have told them the same phrase time and time again for years. I often wonder if they hear me, but do not listen to what I am actually saying.
On the medicine cabinet door in my bathroom is located a mirror and the truth is that I do not like what I see in the mirror. That is the true reason why it stays open. The mirror glass is not smudged, smeared, dull, or scratched. It is clean and clear. It is my reflection does no please me. Unfortunately, this feeling has occurred to me for all my life. It is not an easy thing to admit and announce but it is my truth and I am learning to cope with as I go along my journey in life.
Sometimes when I see my reflection in the mirror I do not see how I feel inside. I have my moments where I feel like I am a bundle of energy ready to boil over in excitement or like fireworks ready to explode on contact with a flame. There are also times where I feel like I could conquer the world through all the obstacles thrown my way on a daily basis. However, when I look up from the sink after washing my face or brushing my teeth, my reflection in the mirror never fails to catch me off guard. Somehow, I manage to forget that I am no longer the same 23 year-old who had hopes, dreams, and ambitions while traveling overseas on the government’s dime. Admittedly, I miss those days. Instead, I see a broken, numb, perhaps bitter, older woman.
My jaw tightens and I feel myself emotionally spiraling into a rapid, internal rage bubbling from my gut like an active volcano. All I can see is red. I often get a sudden urge to ball up my fist and smash the glass to distort my reflection into something unrecognizable. This bout of rage is often fueled by the sight of multiple gray hairs on my head, the wrinkles in the corners of my eyes, dark circles under my eyes, a sprouting goatee developing on my chin, my dad’s wide nose, my gapped front teeth that have yet to be claimed by either one of my parents’ side of the family. All that I can say to myself is, ‘What have I become? Where am I going? What am I doing with myself? …. How did I even get to this state?’ I tend to feel as if I will go over the edge to the point of no return. I have to catch myself before I go too far. Inevitably, I have to force myself to close my eyes, to breathe in deeply, to slowly unclench my fists, and finally, to walk away from the reflection that causes me such pain. It is a sad and overwhelming feeling to admit but I feel that addressing how my emotional state can drastically change upon the mere sight of myself in a mirror is a part of my healing process.
Minutes, hours, or even days pass by before I return to any mirror. In the meantime I would glance briefly to clean my face, to correct a stray hair, or to adjust my clothing. It is usually when I am at my lowest point I persuade myself to look in the mirror to see a reflection which I have grown to hate. During this low, emotional state of mind I go through a ritual in which I look into the same mirror once again but longer than the brief glances. I examine myself intensely like an architect scans blue prints for his next project. This is when I recall when a former teacher told a shy and timid me that I have a beautiful smile and that I should smile more often. I had never heard this before from anyone. I struggle remember the teacher’s name or face, but my former teacher’s words have remained with me as this time. With those words vivid in mind as if they were spoken yesterday, I look in the mirror and I smile to myself, sometimes through tears.
Through my self-perceived flaws I see my grandmother’s dimples. I have one but that’s alright. I say thanks to my grandma on my mother’s side for leaving a little bit of her with me. I do not remember her but I can see her whenever I want, in the mirror. I glance up to my dark brown eyes that my father passed on to me through his mom. Thanks to my grandma I can either seduce you with seductive glances or reduce you to a figment of my distance imagination. I cannot hide my emotions well on face and my poker face is terrible. I am grateful for dark sunglasses sometimes.
As for the many gray hairs that began to adorn my head at an early age, I no longer view them as a genetic curse from both of my parents. Contrarily, I see knowledge entangled with wisdom coiled around experience growing from my head as my crown and glory. I ask where is the shame in that? I have come to realize that I no longer need to dye my hair to cover the grays as a necessity but as only a basic want. For instance, if I want to dye my hair for fashion and style, then so be it. They key word is that I would do it as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’.
As you can see, I struggle every day to close the mirror and to appreciate what I have become, flaws and all. Attending 45-minute weekly sessions with multiple therapists at high prices has not resolved my personal issue. So I have incorporated writing into my personal healing process. Poetry and journal writing about my feelings is my best therapist to this day. Some days are harder than others but such is life with its ups and downs. It is a slow process but I have convinced myself to make every conscious effort to love myself, completely and unconditionally…I will arrive there one day…with the medicine cabinet door closed indefinitely.