The other day I had a revelation. I was standing in my bedroom wearing an adorably mismatched set of underwear, rifling through the closet to pick yet another perfect outfit for work (the posters in our break-room suggest that fasionistas like use must “wear the brand well”). I selected to a jacket with interesting seams and colorful bangles with idioms engraved on the inside (my favorites – dive in and a place in the sun), and as I set all the pieces out on the bed I stopped, noticing the reflection in the mirror on the wall.
It’s not that this morning looked any different than any other. I have a steady routine now: usually working the same day-time shift I rise at the same time, eat the same breakfast, and go through the same wardrobe selection process. And the mirror certainly isn’t new. I use it every day to decide if the shoes I’m wearing compliment the outfit I’ve assembled and which pieces of jeweley sit just right. It’s just that this morning I happened to notice my body, my self. First, I leaned my head close into the glass, dismissing the few tiny eyebrow hairs growing back where they don’t belong and observing my face. Its roundness, now covered by faceframes and bangs and the decisive chin. I followed the few freckles down my face and neck and stepped back to observe them and the rest of my body. White polkadots on black hugged my chest and below that purple elephants paraded across my hips. I looked, like always, at the space in between. Turning to the side and forward again, putting my hands over my hips like a camera-trick, the same one I have always used. I turned to the back, rising to my tiptoes and looked behind me, readjusting the elephants and smiling. Turning back to the front I stood, hands on hips and burrowing my toes into the carpet, staring at myself for a moment longer.
For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I recognized my body. I’ve never been one with much feeling for my own body. I wasn’t an athlete (though I’ve always been told I’m built for it), and unlike many of the interesting people I know, I’ve never had an eating disorder. In fact, my body never seemed to react to much of anything; for a solid six years I was exactly the same weight regardless of what I did or didn’t. I’ve never seen my body as a sacred temple or considered myself such a bombshell beauty that my frame demanded more than a glance here and there.
In college I grew so gradually into a different body and a person that I hardly noticed it until it was done. Frequently I’d look in the mirror or say on some green-carpet night I don’t even recognize myself anymore, but I was never quite sure what that meant. I gained some weight and hardened in a hundred other ways that made me into a person I honestly didn’t even understand. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t say a single thing about the person who was staring back at me; I didn’t know her and wasn’t sure I wanted to.
A sister said it best the other night when she referred to that girl as Reactionary Rachel. She said they knew exactly why I did all the things I was doing and loved me in spite of it, knowing that it was all some kind of Newtonian law at work in our cornfield of a universe.
Looking in the mirror that mundane morning, I saw the girl I used to know. Not just the college self who shed five or ten pounds, but the girl I once was. Sure there were bangs (for the first time since the third grade) and a few more lines, but the eyes I saw were my own – just a little deeper.
I can’t even put my finger on what once was lost and now is found, but I know I was blind and now I see myself. And that, my friends, might be the most incredible feeling in the world.
“When we discover that the truth is already in us, we are all at once our original selves.” – Dogen