Search

chicwhitesheep

SPEAKER OF THE FLOCK

Category

Sister

The Mirror Has Two Faces

“Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.”–Jean Cocteau

About a week and a half ago I sat in a beautiful, crowded church in Atlanta with about 1,500 other women (and roughly 7 men), awaiting the arrival of one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton.  A year ago I devoured Glennon’s book, “Carry On, Warrior,” and I regularly follow her posts on social media and her incredibly popular blog, Momastery.com.  I put quite a bit of effort into making it to this speaking engagement.  I arranged for childcare for the day, made sure all my regular duties were covered and drove from Greenville, SC to Atlanta for the program.  All the planning must have had me pretty scattered, as I discovered halfway there that I FORGOT MY FLIPPING WALLET.  But it was ok, because Glennon talks a lot about “sistering,” and I got to be the recipient of that wonderful concept, as my good friend whom I was visiting took care of me for the whole day.

So, here I am sitting in this lovely church, buzzing with polite, well-heeled ladies, and my role model Glennon appears, with her kind and supportive Sister and we all settle in for a listen.  She gives us her story, and it is honest and raw, but she delivers it with the right amount of self-deprecation and wit so as not to fall into a pit of dull seriousness.  It is a masterful balancing act and I want to love her more.  But, to be honest, I was kind of like, “Meh.”  What was going on?!  Why was I not giddy with excitement over this?  I thought to myself, “I mean, she’s good…but…maybe TOO good?  She’s just SO cute, and SO funny, and SO relatable and there are just way too many ‘SOOOO’s’ for me right now.  Hmph.”  I’m still enjoying myself and the talk, but I’m a little deflated.

Then Glennon gets up from the stage and she walks down the aisle toward me in the back of the church (I was raised Baptist and old habits die hard; my comfort zone lies in the back quarter and balconies of all sanctuaries).  She sits down, and looks in my eyes, and begins relating a story about herself.  She said that earlier in her life she had a hard time getting started with her writing, because every time she came across another author with a style similar to her own, she was overcome with the feeling that she could never be as good as that author.  That every time she thought she had created something good, it felt like there was someone else who was doing the same thing, but better.  Why would she put her ideas out there if someone else had already done it?  She went on to talk about the idea that many times women view other women through a mirror.  They look at their peers, they form their assumptions about them and compare them to the assumptions they’ve made about themselves.

OK, so Glennon wasn’t really sitting beside me when she said all this.  But it felt like she was talking DIRECTLY to me.  And I am back to loving her again, because I never really stopped, I just got a little jealous, I think.  And my summary of her ideas barely scratches the surface of what she really said, but I cannot stop thinking about it.  It’s been rolling around in my head since it entered my ears.

I am so, so, so guilty of this, and have been for way too long.  Just before the presentation that night, I went to dinner with a group of ladies, some I was meeting for the first time.  I looked around the table and saw a group of dynamite women.  Successful careers.  Business owners.  Heads of households brimming with children being prepared to be responsible members of society.  Women who are:  Stylish.  Fit and healthy.  Socially conscious.  Funny and kind.  I saw all these things and fully appreciated them!  And then I held up my mirror and saw my own perceived flaws reflected back at me.  A career abandoned.  Subpar creativity.  A curator of unfinished projects.  Often overwhelmed by what some would view as a non-challenging life.  Socially awkward.  And my lipstick was almost certainly too bright.

It took Glennon metaphorically sitting beside me in that church to make me realize how automatic this way of thinking has become to me.  How old was I when I started doing this?  A teen?  A tween?  Long enough that it’s become an automatic response.  “Hi, nice to meet you!  You seem like a lovely person.  I’m maybe, sort of lovely, but I’m also sort of a troll.  Enjoy your evening!”

The fact of the matter is that mirrors are terribly unreliable.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time in dressing room is familiar with the idea of a “skinny” mirror and a “fat” mirror.  And then you have to figure in lighting and angles and all sorts of other factors.  Sometimes I do my makeup in my bathroom and think it looks pretty good.  Then I pull down the visor in my car and open up that mirror and am HORRIFIED.  Almost as bad as accidentally having your cell phone camera turned around to selfie mode.  Almost.

Brows in the bathroom mirror vs. brows in the car mirror.  Eeeek.  Always keep tweezers in the car.

Let’s try to imagine a time before mirrors were all around us.  Before selfies and photo filters.  Back to when the only time people saw their reflections were when they walked down to the river and leaned over for a drink.  What do you think they thought the first few times they saw themselves?  Did they look at that image and think, “What an amazing creature!  What is it?  Look how it moves just like me!  Is it thirsty like me?  Can I get closer to it?  It looks like other creatures I’ve seen, but a little different.  Do the others know about this?”  Or did that person look in the river and think, “Damn.  I look all wavy and wet.  I don’t even want this stupid water.  I’ll just be thirsty.”

I’m going to venture to say that if I’m thinking and writing about this whole mirror thing, and Glennon has dedicated a whole section of her talk about this whole mirror thing, then that must mean we can’t be the only two people out there guilty of this phenomenon.  There are multitudes of us going about our days, interacting with people all while holding up a mirror.  And we’ve been doing it for so long, we don’t even realize all the places we’re holding up our mirrors.  Which leads me to another idea.  Do we sometimes judge another woman based on what we think she thinks of us?

In my role as a homemaker (do you like how politically correct that sounds?), I have the “opportunity to view” (a.k.a. “burden to endure”) my share of daytime television.  The formula of a soap opera relies on misperceptions and miscommunications.  We pity the poor woman who hastily breaks up with the love of her life because she catches him kissing the town harlot.  But actually, he was just giving the harlot mouth-to-mouth while standing up!  But then he’s so wounded that she would break up with him he never explains it to her.  And the town harlot is so vicious and self-serving she would never tell the truth.  It’s a game of near misses and misunderstandings.  And so it is with our mirrors.  We assume that another woman is giving us the once-over and arriving at the conclusion we don’t have our act together, when maybe she’s actually holding up her own mirror and wishing she could have what we have.  Of course, there is the chance that woman IS actually, judging.  Heaven knows there are certainly plenty of judgies out there.  And, by the way, giving someone mouth-to-mouth is not really a thing, so, uh, if your man tries to use that as an excuse, BE SUSPICIOUS.  I don’t want to be naive in my dealings, but I want to adopt an attitude of grace that will keep me from jumping to conclusions.  Sometimes it’s just not about you.

I have no advice on how to combat this whole mirror thing.  I’m just trying to note it.  And maybe by putting it into words I can reinforce my efforts to STOP IT.  I want to look around at all the tables with all the women and see their good qualities and then STOP RIGHT THERE.  It’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  We’re all here for something different.  And the mirror is getting in the way of all the other things there are to see.

I always start these posts with a quote, but for this one I want to end with a quote, too.  It’s from a Jimi Hendrix song, and it’s wildly out of context, but it also sums up all I’m trying to say:

“I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me.  I take my spirit and crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see.”  

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Week Old Toast

“This is true love! You think this happens every day?” Cary Elwes as Westley in the Princess Bride

It has been a week since my sister’s wedding, and I think my mother and I have fallen into the Post Wedding Slump, that period of time that follows every huge event that takes great planning over a long period of time. Past the point of picking up the pieces of all the tasks that got neglected while you were celebrating. Getting back to eating salads and bran cereal instead of stuffing our faces with beef tenderloin and cake and wine. We’re looking around; wondering, where is the macaroni and cheese bar? Why am I wearing these yoga pants instead of a hot little number? Are there no presents to open today? And while it’s nice to not be thinking of headcounts and outfit changes and the general business of making memories that last a lifetime, there is a bit of a feeling of “Well, what do we do now?”

That’s a rhetorical question. Because the answer is “laundry.” The answer is ALWAYS “laundry.”

I had the distinct pleasure of serving as Matron of Honor for my sister. I don’t like to emphasize the age gap between us, so let’s not actually count the years but just say that, between the two of us, I have a few more years experience in being a human. I’ve also lived in my own wedded bliss for almost 15 years now, and saw most of my friends married off in the early 2000’s. Suffice it to say I’ve been out of the wedding game for quite some time. For most of the wedding season, I fumbled through my duties as Matron Sister Lady and tried to remember the right things to do, to give, to advise, and when to shut the hell up. I think I did ok.

Then we got right up to the end.   It was go time, a week before the wedding, when I realized I had no heartfelt, sentimental gift for the sweet sister who had been by my side for so much LIFE. No handmade trinket, no time-filled scrapbook, no catalog of memories of any kind. I was a crappy Matron Sister Lady. Add this to the fact that the days leading up to the wedding seemed so full of other demanding tasks. What the hell? Didn’t the rest of the world understand that I had more meaningful things to do? How dare there be regularly scheduled after school activities and projects and LAUNDRY during the week of my baby sister’s wedding. THE NERVE. Anyhoo, the day was perched on top of us. It was rehearsal dinner time, and I had this vague recollection of rehearsal dinners I’d been to before, and how there was usually a time for Toasts to the Bride and Groom. I remembered from my early days as a wedding party participant when I and a couple of other tipsy bridesmaids would venture to the front of the room with a few silly inside jokes, some jabs at the groom and a sentimental poem that would make us all misty. Then we would raise our glasses and dab our mascara and make plans for where to go next to ensure we would be bumbling hungover zombies the next day. But the formula that made it all work 15 years ago didn’t seem to apply now. I wasn’t even sure if my future brother-in-law’s family would have a spot for toasts in their dinner. It kind of didn’t seem like it, and I kind of didn’t want to ask, because ignorance is bliss. As it turned out, the day was so busy I couldn’t have prepared anything in advance if I’d wanted to. I walked into the rehearsal, and my sister’s B-I-G weekend completely unprepared. As we sat at the dinner, I overheard my husband tell someone he’d spoken with Broseph’s dad, who was “a little nervous about the toast.” My stomach dropped to my knees. So there would be toasts. And I had nothing. Soon, everyone would know I was a crappy Matron Sister Lady.

Well, they didn’t do toasts that night, thankfully. So, I did what I do best, which is ignore the task at hand, put something together at the very last minute and then completely overthink what I’ve done.

Seester has been honeymooning in paradise all week, leaving us to the rain and weird Fall weather of the Carolinas, and hopefully she hasn’t been checking in on social media too much. (Hey, Seester, you haven’t missed a THING, I promise).   So, maybe when she gets home and sees this somewhere in her virtual mailbag, she can pretend the wedding fanfare is still upon us and we can all raise a glass of detox juice together in celebration of Seester and Broseph.

Here is my Week-Old Toast.

Hi, everyone. Most of you probably already know this, but I’m Seester’s older sister. We are so happy to see every one of your faces here tonight, and for the love that you’ve shown Seester and Broseph. It’s because of the love that you have for them that they’ll continue to love each other for many, many years to come. When I sat down to prepare this toast to them, I was in a bit of a panic, because I’d waited until the last minute. But then it hit me that I actually had NOT waited until the last minute. I’ve been writing this toast all of Seester’s life, recording all her stories, because they are also my own. Aside from my own children, Seester is one of the few people on this Earth who has known me her entire life, and yet she chooses to still keep me close to her. For that I am eternally grateful.

One of the advantages to being the older one in a set of siblings with a wide age gap is that I have distinct memories of when Seester came into my life. While she does not know a life without me, I can vividly remember the day she came howling into mine. That morning, our mom took me to school and said, ‘Now, today might be the day that the baby comes, so if I’m not the one picking you up from school, you’ll know why.’ Since I’d been told several times over several months that it takes a long time for a baby to arrive, and stop asking about when the baby is going to get here, there was no way I was going to be tricked by this line.   AS IF the baby was just going to come TODAY. Just like that! Riiiiight. Little did I know that my mother was laboring at that moment, and before I got my school lunch that morning, she’d be holding a bundle of joy whose birth she got to experience au naturel (not by choice). That afternoon, my dad picked me up from school in his clunker of an old Ford, a fixer-upper project that somehow never got fixed up. He bypassed the ENTIRE carline, leaned over to crank down the window and yelled, ‘Get in! We had the baby today!’ The level of mortification I experienced was off the charts. I mean, this was carline. You can’t just JUMP to the front! There are rules, man! But since the ground was not going to swallow me up anytime soon, I did a Frogger-like maneuver in front of all the other cars in line and we zoomed off to the hospital to see our new baby.

Seester was a beautiful baby. So sweet. And I really wish I could say she was that way all the time. But that would be a lie, because she actually wasn’t sweet all the time. She cried a lot. I mean, a lot. And really loudly, too. But my mom bore the brunt of that struggle (thanks, Mom) and the rest of us got to enjoy Seester’s beautiful smile, her precious curls and warm, sweet snuggles. One of my favorite things to do was to watch her sleep and smell her head. I made up a game where I would pretend that I was a tour guide, bringing a group of people through our house to look at her because she was the prettiest baby ever.

But yeah, the crying. Wow. If Karma is really a thing, good luck with those babies one day.

As I said before, as sisters, our histories are completely entwined. I can stand here for days and tell story upon story about Seester. Some that are happy, some that are sad and some that are super embarrassing for a lot of people in this room.

Whenever we would fight or be petty with one another, our mom would get exasperated and sometimes say (yell), “Be nice to your sister! She’s the only one you’ve got! Having a sister is a very special thing.” It didn’t seem special at the time. It seemed like a giant pain in the butt. Looking back at it now, I think that maybe Mom was a little jealous. The youngest of four, with the older three all being brothers, she never had a sister and didn’t have the chance to force someone else to always be the Ken to her Barbie.

But for all the different types of stories, one thread weaves through them all. Seester is, hands-down, the most loyal and loving person I know. The type of love she gives is so rare and precious, it humbles me to try and put it into words. This girl, well, woman, really, has seen me at my worst and she continues to love me in spite of it. When she bestows her love on someone it is fierce, and it never seems to run out. Her well of love is deep and continually full.  I know that there is nothing I can do that will make her turn away from me. I know that I have her full support in all my endeavors. I know that when I try to be funny, she will laugh. What a comfort to know that there is someone in this world that understands where I come from, literally and figuratively.  Broseph, you are a lucky man to be the recipient of a love like this.  Please treasure it and guard her heart as closely as you can.  Your reward will be immeasurable, I assure you.

For all that I can say about Seester, today is actually not about her. The dress, the cake, the flowers, all those things that she has spent the last year of her life working on and perfecting are here to celebrate something new. A marriage! A union!  After tomorrow, there is no longer just a Seester and just a Broseph. There is something new: a SEESTERANDBROSEPH. Two threads, woven together to create a new, stronger rope that the world will constantly pull and tangle and knot and try to unravel.

From the moment our family met Broseph, we knew that he was special to Seester. And for that reason alone, he was special to us. As time went on and we got to know him better, we saw many of the wonderful qualities that drew him to Seester. And so, when Broseph proposed, exactly a year ago, we were pleased and excited to welcome him to be part of the cast of characters that we call our family.

Back in the old days, it was customary for a family to offer a dowry to the family of the man marrying their daughter. A goat, maybe. A plot of land on which to build a house. Something practical like that.   But I can’t imagine a better prize to offer a suitor than Seester herself. She is her own dowry. She is the very best of what we have to give.

Seester, do you hear what I’m saying here? YOU ARE A BETTER GIFT THAN ANY GOAT.

Broseph, do you hear what I’m saying here? Marrying my sister is the best thing that may ever happen to you. DON’T MAKE ME GET ALL MEDIEVAL ON YOU.

I don’t want to rely on my own words completely here. Over the history of the world, many, many people have fallen in love and gotten married and lots of them had a bunch of stuff to say about the whole experience. Most of us are probably familiar with the great American author Mark Twain. Fewer of us know about his wife Olivia (aka Livy). Like most wives of her time, and even our current time, Livy was always hard at work supporting her husband, but taking no credit for herself. She was his main editor and the driving force behind cultivating his public image. By most accounts he was completely smitten with her from the start and he loved her intensely through their 34 years of marriage. He traveled often and was away from her for much of their marriage, sparking rumors, but he was quoted as saying, ‘Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.’ (SWOON) During their courtship and after, they wrote letters to each other. This is an excerpt from one of Mark’s letters to Livy, before they were married:

“This…will be the mightiest day in the history of our lives, the holiest, and the most generous toward us both—for it makes of two fractional lives a whole; it gives to two purposeless lives a work, and doubles the strength of each whereby to perform it; it gives to two questioning natures a reason for living and something to live for; it will give a new gladness to the sunshine, a new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth, a new mystery to life; and Livy it will give a new revelation to love, a new depth to sorrow, a new impulse to worship. In that day the scales will fall from our eyes and we shall look upon a new world. Speed it!”

 Damn. Just when you think you have something profound to say, a Great American novelist comes along and just knocks it out of the park. Perfection, Mr. Twain/Clemens, whatever your name is.

And so here we are. The Big Day. Go Time. T-minus Zero. Two becomes one, to have and to hold and ‘til death to you part.

And here’s what I have to say about that:

“Speed it.”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑