Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 52 - If a tree falls in the forest, does the tree exist if she can't see herself in a mirror?

It's been more than a week without mirrors of any sort, and it's time to report back on the emotional experience.  To put it shortly, I am in withdrawal.  I ache to see myself in a mirror, and I have no logical explanation other than addiction.  I'm sure things will get better as I adjust, but here's the current situation:

The strangest experience, thus far, has been a weirdly philosophical questioning of whether or not I actually exist, if I can't see myself.  Yes, I'm serious (please don't laugh).  I work from home several days per week, and it has been much more lonely than usual, now that I can't wave hello to myself in the mirror.  Do mirrors bear witness to our very existence? ( Note: "proof of existence" did not make it on to the list of things I'm willing to  give up for this project, so I'll be working to remedy this issue ASAP.)

Original image found here.
I imagine, now, that if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear its sound, said tree would probably feel less shitty about the situation if it could at least watch itself in a mirror during the fall.  (Here I am, promoting vanity for redwoods!  Forgive me.  It's been a tough adjustment.)

On a less philosophical (i.e., more superficial) note: I've experienced mild paranoia about my looks.  I know - in the most pragmatic sense - that my appearance has not changed dramatically over the past several days or weeks.  Yet, I have felt lost without the reassurances from mirrors to which I have become accustomed.  

To give my people credit, I've had subtle reassurances from the various V.I.P.s in my life, as far as my looks are concerned.  My fiancé, his sister, my sister, and several friends-of-friends have seen me over the weekend.  I've had no (unsolicited) compliments on my looks, and no insults either. (okay, okay, while writing this, M leaned over in bed just to tell me that I'm "beautiful" - bless him!).  This is good, right?  I trust these folks to tell me if something not-so-good is going on with my appearance.

Fresco by Raffael, 1511
And yet, I feel a bit wild (i.e., restless, unsatisfied and high-strung - more than usual!), wishing to be gifted by angels with a stark, factual, and highly-detailed description of my looks.  Is my hair bumpy? Fluffy?  Sleek?  Is my makeup invisible-yet-ethereal?  How about visible-yet-tatesful?  How  'bout that belly-button doughnut?  (I've brought concept of obnoxious academic navel-gazing to a new low, me thinks!) I am at a loss.  Yeah... I used to not be so vain, but now I know better

To wrap things up, life without mirrors has been simultaneously freeing and yet paralyzing.  It's been priceless to leave the house in less time, and with a conscious "good enough is good enough" attitude.  Yet, I have felt haunted by the question of whether or not I've actually accomplished "good enough."  Additionally, without mirrors I feel less able to understand the intricate details of why people are interacting with me as they are.  According to Charles Horton Cooley, this shouldn't matter, but it has mattered for me.    This same response has been experienced by others, and yet I feel embarrassed to report it to you.

Yesterday things reached the point at which this blurry image of me (reflected in my apartment buildings' elevator door) became pathetically intriguing. Yes, random reflections are against my "rules," but I couldn't resist.   That said, I imagine that this was about as satisfying as Nicorette gum feels to most trying-to-quit smokers.  Here's what I learned: my 6-years-old Banana Republic blazer still fits, and... I still exist.  Good news on both counts, right?
I promise you, I'm not a wallower; my life (and this blog) should perk up quite soon.  Hang in there with me and I promise good things ahead. :)  

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  1. Hahaha! I love how you and I can totally play witness to things that people who haven't done this yet are unable to. I totally get the "do I exist?" part--I had fleeting moments of the same, and had a couple of moments of thinking that if I did look in the mirror I wouldn't be there. Obviously I didn't *really* believe that but it was in that sense that you described above.

    Several times during the first week I became convinced that my head was very, very pointy, like that old Saturday Night Live sketch of the Coneheads, and I was dying to look in the mirror to assure myself that, in fact, my entire head had not reshaped itself. So bizarre!

  2. Ugh, the pointy-head situation sounds a bit bleak! Did you ask a confidant, or suffer in silence??

    As for your concern that you might "not be there" if you looked into a mirror.... I kind of WISH that would happen sometimes. Sure would make this project easier! It annoys me that I have to look down so often when I'm in public places with mirrors. I usually take pride in having decent posture and a confident gait, but these days I shuffle in and out of public restrooms like a scared puppy who can't make eye contact.

  3. I am in complete awe of you and this project. I love reading about it. You are incredibly strong to deal with today's social/physical pressures all the while maintaining such a positive attitude about this project! You ARE beautiful! =)

  4. Paige, I'm blushing! Thank you for your kind words, and especially for reading this stuff and letting me know. It totally helps me stay motivated. :)

  5. Even in your frustration you have humor... and that I love. Calm spirit, steady heart.

  6. So today, I began reading your blog from the very beginning and let me tell you. It has turned my mirror-seeing world a bit topsy turvy. I've never had much of a problem with my self esteem, especially in the appearance department. No it is not because I am drop-dead gorgeous or anything. I think it has to do with the fact that I have this whole "everyone is beautiful, beauty is on the inside" philosophy engrained deep in my mind. But yeah, ever since I read it I kind of don't like looking at mirrors that much. It feels weird because I've never thought much of them but now I feel vain if I do. So anyways, I really think it's amazing what you're doing and is truly inspiring. It has given my 16 year old mind a lot to think about. Good luck with everything! :)

  7. We are really grateful for your blog post.

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