Every morning of every day, for all the years of my life, I've stared back at the image. I've seen the blotchy skin, the tousled hair and the bloodshot eyes. I've looked myself in the eyes and watched the slowly increasing signs of age. In recent years, I've had to put on my glasses to see the image more clearly.
Mirrors, unlike photos, give us an immediate and unflinching image of ourselves, albeit reversed. At least once a day, and usually even more often, we face the person in the mirror, and we must admit the reality of how we appear to the world.
I've never been terribly fond of mirrors, and have had very few in the places that I've lived. The power of mirrors is so great that some religions, particularly in Jewish tradition, all mirrors are covered when someone in the household dies so that survivors do no have to see themselves grieving. The power of seeing oneself is so great, that many cannot handle the pull of a reflected image.
I've known people in my life that could not walk down a street without a constant checking of their reflection in store windows. If they passed a mirror, they would come to a halt for a brief moment to make adjustments and to make certain that everything is presentable. Taken to the extreme is the myth of Narcissus, a Greek hunter who was so beautiful that he became completely self obsessed. The gods lured him to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection and became so enamored of his own beauty that he could not tear himself away, and finally perished.
There are others, similar to me, who avoid mirrors unless we have a legitimate need for them. We use the mirror when shaving or brushing our teeth; but, we glance away from them the rest of the day. It's not that I or any of those people don't want to see ourselves, it's just that we don't always recognize the person in the mirror.
As we all get older, we hold the memories of what we look like, what our friends look like, in our heads. When we see our friends or our own reflection, we no longer recognize the faces. There are traces of familiarity; but, we find it hard to believe how the face has filled out, the hair has thinned and the shape of the body has softened. We still recognize them as people that we know; but, have trouble reconciling the way we are now to the way we were then.
I've never been terribly concerned with getting older. There was a part of me when I was younger that truly believed I probably wouldn't live to be 35, so every year that I've gone past that milestone, I've treated my life as a gift. I've easily accepted the changes in eyesight and hearing, the thickening of my waist and neck, the increasing aches and pains. But, when I look in the mirror, I am unable to ignore those same signs.
Living in Mason has taught me some valuable lessons about aging. In a community such as ours, the young and the old exist side-by-side rather than in separate worlds. The knowledge that is shared, the experiences, the history, make us stronger. As a result, rather than fearing my increasing years, I see each new day as a challenge and an opportunity. I have learned that, even though there will be difficulties, there will also be incredible chances to participate in the lives of those around me.
When I look in the mirror, I face who I was, who I am, and who I may become. There are times that such honesty is difficult to process, so I avoid glancing. But, with each passing day I have become less hesitant to allow myself to make that examination and to discover just what it can reveal to me, if I'm willing to learn.
I won't be putting up any additional mirrors around the house or office; but, I won't cover them in shrouds or look the other way when I pass them. I will allow myself the opportunity to see myself as others see me, and to use that image to improve what I can, and to accept what cannot be changed.
It’s all just my opinion.