One of the differences between living in a small southern town and living in New York City with millions of strangers constantly streaming past is that in the big city the frequency of bumping up against icons dramatically increases. The extremes of humanity seem to seek out Manhattan, which may say something about who I was that I haven’t quite figured out yet but first things first. At least once a day, particularly if you ride the subway system, you’re bound to see someone who represents an idea you had in a way that is better than you could have imagined or will even be able to tell anyone later. One morning it was the man in all-white leather who was angrily protesting to no one in particular about how hard he had to work to get respect. It was enough to get other riders on the train to look at each other with a look that said, ‘is he kidding’?
Take that and mix it with the philosophical and spiritual tenet that everyone who we interact with is supposed to be a mirror of what we really believe about ourselves, good or bad. All of this human flesh then becomes a way to figure out what you’re really thinking underneath all of the layers you’ve constructed for public viewing. It’s all a constant lie detector test just for you.
Peek around you and pay particular attention to those who are grabbing most of your focus. Look over at the young man in church who is wildly applauding and whooping at everything and is ecstatic just to be there. Or how about the woman with the really obvious panty-line who is standing in front of you in the grocery store line? You’re not done yet. Now, take note of what your reaction was to either of those images. Mine were, how can I move far away to another corner of this church without hurting your feelings and I wonder if that’s what my backside looks like and who’s looking at mine.
In the first instance, I didn’t move and instead tried to be a good sport in order to take care of someone who was probably unaware I was even sitting nearby. In other words, I was rescuing someone who didn’t need it while ignoring my own feelings. In the second instance I started feeling defeated about my lack of an exercise routine and continued to ignore the entire human being. Instead of coming up with a solution, like choosing an exercise routine that’s not as far-fetched and buying pants that actually fit me now, I assessed worth based on clothing choices. In both examples it didn’t occur to me to just handle it and move on with my life. I had found myself lacking and got stuck there.
However, an icon snapped me out of a bad habit. Jesse Garza, who is a fashion consultant for the Oprah show, co-founder of Visual Therapy, www.visual-therapy.com and co-author of Nothing to Wear is a good friend of mine and a stunner. He’s an icon of visual beauty. The details of his personal appearance appear effortless and at the same time perfectly aligned. People who have seen his photo have asked if it was air-brushed, which it is not. His skin is that flawless. This is my mirror, which has made me very uncomfortable.
I would have kept all of that to myself and continued to mumble small apologies for my appearance forever, content to have it pointed out from time to time that I had permanently slipped off of the beauty ladder.
Except that Jesse took my words and handed them back to me with a small list of compliments about what I was doing right. He stepped into my game mid-play and changed the rules. It was so startling and sincere that it shook my assumptions. In the past my friends, my old mirrors, would have tried to help by pointing out what I could change to improve my appearance. The game is still in play and someone has just reinforced my negative feelings about myself. I can now feel justified pity and recognizing how overwhelming the entire project is, do nothing.
But this new mirror whose successful career is based on helping women create their personal best just told me that I’m actually getting it right and can trust my instincts. There was no wiggle room left to feel sorry for myself. I can choose not to take any action but that’s all it is, my choice. There’s no game left to play and the options become easier to spot. As an added bonus, apparently my reflection of myself has improved. This weekend, I’m heading out to buy a few pairs of pants. More adventures to follow.