- Jenny Simon MC, LPC, PhD
Olivia stares into her bathroom mirror. Her counter is covered in mini sample products, tubes, and lotions. It gets later every night; 1:20 a.m. blinks at her from the clock in the corner.
The woman in the mirror rubs coconut oil on her hairline, making sure her crown is coated. Her roots have been neglected, and one inch of grey covers the top of her head. The dark circles under her eyes show that she has not slept over five hours a night for months. She has yesterday’s mascara and glitter on her cheeks. She leans in, paying close attention to the red bumps under her nose and along her brow line. She states out loud to no one, “Where did these come from? Adult acne?”
Her asthma has caught up with her, and her wheezing and sneezing are restrictive. “I am a feral mess.”
A tick, tick, tick echoes in the background. Behind the bed, a bucket collects rainwater coming through the ceiling.
As she flosses her teeth, Olivia imagines her pregnant mother staying up late, pacing around the house. As an infant, Olivia learned that her diapers and her cries would be ignored until late morning. So, she would remain asleep until almost noon, knowing that her mom would not attend to her needs until the sun was hot. She was trained to sleep late and wake up late, trained to become a night owl.
Tick, tick, tick…like Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart… the heartbeat of rain dripping into the room.
Olivia asks an important question, “Who am I right now? I feel numb and detached. My soul feels lost; my spirit is crushed.”
She uses a yellow baby washcloth to clean off her face, “I am on autopilot. I turned off my heart, so I could survive the limits of the current situation. A numb body and brain. A meat puppet walking through life.”
As she braids her hair, she says to the mirror, “Don’t feel too much, or you might lose it...”
Images flutter in her memory and remind Olivia that it hasn’t always been like this. Her heart was awake once. She has felt moments of aliveness. Memories of travel, lovers, and nature flash through her mind.
These memories are painful. On the one hand, they are reminders of passion, love, and vibrancy, and on the other, it stings…they are so far from her present experience. These short, shiny memories stand out in direct contrast to the dark, grey clouds of slow motion and apathy.
Olivia notices a wormy, black bug crawling out the drain and up the mirror. “Just a silverfish. It is that time of year. I wonder what it is like to be a silverfish. Life in the dark, damp places. So small, so micro. What would be a good day? What would make a silverfish happy?”
AH-HA! There is that sense of humor, that curiosity. “What do silverfish eat?”
Olivia brushes her mouth guard and vows to do research tomorrow.
“There are so many things that I don’t know. Why do we take ourselves so seriously?”
What if we could see beyond the daily grind? Beyond the limits of identity? This numb zombie staring into the mirror, this is not who she is. The truth is, she is vast. Her deeper-self knows that she is the universe, radiating light and energy. She is not this human reflection standing here, awake in the early hours of the morning.
“Life is always unpredictable, stuff goes wrong, and we have limited control. Where is my sense of humor?? I need to laugh at all of this.”
She stares into the mirror and announces to the silverfish, “This bathroom, this life, this small self, it isn’t the only truth. The outside, the day-to-day matrix isn’t all there is. It isn’t the whole story. I have suffered enough; my true self is also here. So stop listening to your mind and go to your heart.”
Tick, tick, tick…The raindrops have lulled her into an altered state; her mind stops trying to figure everything out. Finally, Olivia switches off her mind, and she begins a meditative journey with her heart. She takes a break from how hard life is and remembers herself.
She listens to her heart, the heart that knows how to come back home. She remembers, “Let go of your fear and open to love.” Olivia takes a deep breath, rests her weight back into her heels, drops her shoulders, and stops seeing her face. Suddenly, she is the ancient tree, the wind in the leaves, the locust shells on the fence, the music on the porch radio, the raindrops, the beach, music, the smells of breakfast, the butterfly.
When she returns from her memory, she accidentally drops the vitamin D lid in the toilet. She laughs and reflects that life is BOTH a worried mind with a series of to-do lists AND a bright, infinite being.
“Life is challenging, painful, remarkable, beautiful, and amazing.” Olivia muses, “For all of my complaining, I need to remember, when you die…you can’t eat cheese enchiladas, smell the creosote bush after the rain, wear cashmere, or experience a carnal kiss. What beauty there is in being human body!”
“I am on earth to experience all of this. But I have forgotten the beauty, the fun, and the magic of being alive. I am deeper than my commute to work…there is light, mystery, wonder, love, play, laughter, and an open heart. I am part of a larger pattern. I can remember the source that is me. I am here for such a short time.”
Olivia is in all of us. We can “zombie through” with to-do lists and survivor’s brain, or we can have fun and play with life. Everything right now is absurd and unpredictable; can we be curious? I think we all know deep inside that we are so much greater than what we can see in the mirror.
We may not be able to change our external situation right now, BUT we can change our INTERNAL focus. We can tune out and watch Netflix or reconnect to the heart and stop trying to mentally solve our problems. We can go inward until our mind quiets and our mental noise stops. We are both this tiny, daily complaining human AND the vastness of the universe; we are both. So, find your joy and play more.
1. Make a list of the times that life took your breath away.
2. Write down the moments of awe that reminded you about the mystery of life.
3. Read this list every day. Remind yourself of who you really are!