Ella’s Very Bizarre Relationship With Mirrors

The readers have spoken, and with a clear majority of 66.67%, my very bizarre relationship with mirrors won tonight’s post competition.

I have to admit that I am the sort of person who looks at themselves in mirrors a lot. Like a lot, a lot. But it’s never been because I’m checking my hair or makeup.

Mostly, when I look in the mirror it’s to make a silly face. For example, a few months ago, I decided that I wanted to be able to raise one eyebrow independently from the other in order to expand my repertoire of goofy expressions. Of course like with any new expression, I need to strengthen the facial muscles so that I can do it in the most exaggerated manner possible, so every time I see a mirror, I automatically start practicing. I have been caught doing this many, many times, and I must say that people in public restrooms give you funny looks if you’re pulling faces while washing your hands.

However, it must be noted that my tendency to make weird faces at myself is a huge improvement over what childhood Ella would do. I used to–and I kid you not–have this running “tv show” with myself where I would pretend to be a newscaster or a political talk show host.

Of all the times that I have been walked in on in the bathroom, the by far most awkward experience was when someone opened the door to discover ten-year-old me still standing in a towel after a bath, talking about the weather to the mirror. We also have extensive videotape footage of me doing the same thing (but this time fully clothed) complete with “guests” to interview and “graphics” (achieved by holding a copy of the newspaper very close to the camera).

I also spend an awful lot of time observing people very carefully, so I’m always interested to know what I look like when I’m doing different tasks. If I’m writing, I often need to go watch my face or the way I do something in order to depict it properly. It’s akin to getting up to go smell coffee or touch cashmere. Also, I enjoy the humor in how ridiculous I often look, particularly when I’ve bundled to go outside in the winter–I end up looking like puffy marshmallow from the ski jacket and numerous scarves with a very small, multi colored head.

Unfortunately, in our house, the large antique mirror we have at the base of the stairs is in clear view of the window in the front door, which has led to me being caught looking at myself numerous, numerous times, which is always horribly embarrassing. I always feel very vulnerable knowing that I’ve been caught doing something wacky and a bit socially unacceptable. People who look in mirrors a lot are thought to be vain and petty, I don’t consider myself to be either, and I certainly hope that others don’t think I am.

Of course, I am sure that what I am describing is a lot less weird than it sounds in my head. Who isn’t fascinated by the reflection of ourselves. It’s only natural to want to know what we look like, and I am sure that other people enjoy making faces and pretending host weather reports.

One of the best things about being alive is knowing that you are never the only one to feel a certain way. The moment I realized that everyone else is insecure and worried about how the rest of the world is perceiving them and their actions, life got a lot easier. It reminds me of Postsecret, a project where people send in secrets on homemade postcards to a man who posts them on the Postsecret blog every Sunday. He’s always talking about how he receives multiples of almost every secret and how people find solace in knowing that they’re not the only one.

The more I think about that, the more I read, and the more I observe of others, my amount of empathy towards others and comfort with myself only increases. Things like what I do with mirrors are funny, yes, and perhaps a bit abnormal, but they’re never shameful. I like sharing eccentricities and discovering how universal and common they are.

So if you’ve managed to get this far in the post, I’d love to know what you think.

  1. What do you do with mirrors? Do you know anyone else who does the same thing?
  2. What do you think about other people sharing the same emotions and eccentricities about you? Do you think it’s true?

As I only got six votes total on these two polls so far, I’m keeping the voting open for about a week longer. I’d really like to know what people did and didn’t like about my daily posting in 2011, and what they’d like to see in 2012. Finally, you can vote at the bottom for what you’d like to see in Saturday’s post.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Love and Spider-Webs

I’ve been trying to write an email to a friend who has been struggling with similar issues as me. Try as I might, it continues to come out wrong. Rather, it doesn’t come out at all. The words are stuck in my head and never make it down to my fingers.

I want to tell her that everything will be okay. Someday. Not now. Not tomorrow. But someday. We just need to keep plugging along and have hope. Because, really, hope’s all we’ve got. But hope is certainly something worth living for. And with our hope in hand, we know that there will be sunny afternoons and mornings; laughter in the evenings; and peace in our heads when we lie in bed late at night. Just not now. But in a little while. Someday. Maybe soon.

I want to tell her that there is such beauty in the world. No matter how dark our minds are. No matter scary the outside world may seem with all of those people who keep moving, moving, moving and talking, talking, talking until it’s just a cacophony of sound and color. No matter how much we want to put our hands over our ears, close our eyes, and rock back and forth. There is such beauty. There’s snow on the ground right now. And come spring, that air that’s the perfect temperature will envelop us, and we’ll flop onto the damp grass. And it will be lovely in that moment. It will. Because there is such beauty, and it’s worth sticking around to see.

I want to tell her that there is so much love, in spite of everything. That there are too many people to hold close. Too many cats to pet, too many dogs to run with. That just because we’re messed up doesn’t mean that we’re unlovable. That we aren’t loved despite our differences. We’re loved because of them. That our parents would cut off all of their limbs before loosing us, because they love us so much. We could lose everything, and there would still be that love. That love will never, never, never go away. No matter how much everything collapses. It’s worth slamming back against the darkness for all of those people. Hanging on so that we can love them back. And holding each other up with love. That love matters more than anything else.

I want her to know that our demons are only demons and not anything more. Sure, they are a part of us. And perhaps they always will be. But they don’t define us. We’re ourselves when we’ve pushed the demons into hiding. When we’re cheerful and rosy. The dark thoughts and electric jolts of anxiety don’t outshine our ability to read or write. Sometimes we can’t get out of bed. Sometimes we can’t move or speak or open our eyes. Sometimes we can’t do a whole slew of other things. But we can still give awesome hugs. And we can still get out of bed or move or speak or open our eyes. It just happens a little later. A little later on. They’re only demons after all and not our whole selves. We’re too good for that.

I want her to know that there is some sort of romance in the life that we lead. That the power to feel emotions more intensely than others can be a good thing. Such a good and wondrous thing. That the picture of the postcard that I saved from PostSecret many months ago is entirely true. We are a special breed. I firmly believe that if we can feel darkness as deeply as we do, then our happiness can also outshine “normalcy.” We have these moments when we feel a burst of joy, right where that ball of anxiety is normally lodged, and we just know that maybe a few of those scarier times when we thought that nothing could ever be better were worth it.

It is too easy to feel alone. But we never are. We’re standing at the center of a spider-web. That little dot at the center. And all the strands that stick out from that dot to form the first band is our family. And the next, our friends. And after that, our doctors. All the way out until we’ve covered every piece of grass from every place we’ve loved and every grain of sand from every beach upon which we’ve stood. Until it’s all there. Surrounding us and twinkling with dew. And it is lovely, and we aren’t alone any longer. But when the sun comes up and the dew dries, it’s harder to see, but it’s still there. We just have to learn to trust it.

I want her to know that she isn’t lost. We’re right where we’re supposed to be. We’re loved and supported, even when we can’t feel it. We have our spider-webs and our beauty and our gifts and ourselves and it’s never too late for things to start being right. We’re not lost if we’re doing everything we can to push our demons into hiding. Besides, it’s impossible to be lost when you’re loved.

I want her to know that she is understood. That there are so many people reaching out their hands to us, asking to help, asking us to let them in, asking to relieve some of the pain. We just have to learn to let them. We have to hold out our arms and ask for help, cry out for it, when the darkness threatens to swallow us whole. They know that we need help. Sometimes, we just have to learn to better ask for it.

Most of all, I want her to know that I care. That even if she doesn’t think that anyone else does (And they do, oh I promise her that they do.), I care. I am here. I am here with an open laptop and phone. I am here waiting to listen. To understand. To crack horrible, terrible, horrendous jokes. To listen when she cries. To try to offer some sort of advice. I am here. Ready. Waiting. Even at three a.m. I am here. And I care. Just like everyone else in her spider web. And I am holding out my arms, begging for her to let me in when she needs it.

[Insert name here], I am here. And I love you.