Vision — it’s always been with me.
I should view it as a gift,
I really should.
But I don’t always.
I see very ugly things happening around me.
Some people appear so pretty, so nice.
But their words and actions say otherwise.
Because of them,
Some days I’m at a crossroads of “numb it all out” and “feel it all”
Not everything is black and white, of course.
But this soil I try to stand tall upon always seems divided into right and wrong,
Good and evil.
I take a step back and remember I also see beautiful people,
Genuinely beautiful places and moments, too.
And I live it,
Through my own two eyes.
I see better now, but I always struggled to see myself.
Maybe it’s body image issues,
Maybe it’s trauma-related.
I don’t know the cause, I may never.
But I can tell you the effect.
One summer day, I was called inside from lounging on a floatie in the pool.
A family friend wanted to teach me how to put on eyeliner
I retreated from the pool and wrapped myself up in a fluffy towel.
The cool breeze and rays of sunlight comforted me as I made my way up the steps.
I felt happy.
Life seemed fairly calm back then.
Inside the bathroom I was face to face with a reflection of a 14 year old girl,
I saw youth.
I saw dark eyes and hair, and about a million freckled splotches,
But I also saw confusion
“I look like this?”
It wasn’t a question of judgment
It wasn’t disgust.
It was curiosity
After the makeup lesson, I was left alone with my thoughts,
And the mirror.
I stared on and on.
I didn’t recognize her.
Again at 16 years old,
Just another summer day.
The main difference now, besides the obvious changes in age and place, was that I learned how to hide my pain.
I was solemnly happy or at peace.
I kept my thoughts and feelings under lock and key because I thought expressing myself made everything worse,
And made me a bad person.
But this moment was different.
I was in a circle of friends at summer camp.
The same sun was shining down upon me.
I felt loved,
I felt togetherness.
Another camper brought her school yearbook outside to the pavement we were sitting on.
We were skimming through pages of faces we didn’t know and memories that weren’t ours.
She was telling us funny stories about classmates and school,
And we laughed along.
The pages flipped until I interrupted and pointed to a face I thought I knew.
I thought this student from another school, another state, another world,
Looked like me.
They took turns looking at the photo,
With each inspection resulting in another, “No, your face is way different”.
It wasn’t a monumental experience or anything,
But I didn’t understand because I thought I felt a sense of familiarly.
That night, after taking a shower and getting dressed,
I spent a some time studying myself in the mirror.
The clock ticked on,
But no amount of time that passed gave me clarity.
I didn’t recognize her.
I guess we all have ideas of what we look like —
Our “good angles”, the qualities we like, the things we wish we could alter.
I realized at 14 that I felt so disconnected from myself.
Two years later, I found myself still living in disconnect.
I saw reality in the mirror at 16,
But the disconnect between what I see in the world around me, and what I think I looked like
So many years of self doubt and self hatred persisted,
And continued on through struggles of eating too much, to not eating at all.
These days, I’ve started to find myself again.
I’ve started to live life without seeing or thinking in extremes.
Maybe I was always lost,
Never truly able to see myself for who I was.
All I know is that I see and feel and know reality now.
Maybe you’ll notice me looking in the mirror for a long time,
Or trying to catch glimpses of my face in reflections just about anywhere out in this strange, strange world,
Because I’m so damn scared I’d somehow lose what I know now —
I’d somehow forget.
Maybe you’ll see this behavior as conceited or obsessed.
What you may not know is that years of hospitalizations,
And numbing out,
And trusting just about everyone else except myself,
Made me blind to what I should know.
I’ll be the first to say that looks don’t matter,
Because they don’t.
We are more than our outer shells.
We have more to offer.
But something inside me persists somedays.
I want to know what I look like —
Every feature and curve,
Not because I want to change, hate, or compare myself.
This is different.
You may think, “What a shame it is for someone to possess the gift of sight, and wellness, and support, but lacks sight to their own self-connection.”
You may pity me — for what I went through,
And for what I’ve done to myself through the years of self destruction —
I can never get that time back.
But like human beings, there is always more than what’s on the surface.
Sometimes we have to live in the confusion to reach the understanding.
If we didn’t know dark, how could we ever begin to describe light?
Doubts and worries and past aside,
Finally, I recognize her.
And I understand her.
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