The post below was one that I wrote over a year and a half ago. It's been sitting, unpublished, in my draft folder ever since. I couldn't bring myself to hit the publish button then, for whatever reason. I'm publishing it now, unedited, because it's time.
I may not like who I've been in the past, I may not like who I am capable of becoming, but I refuse to hide it anymore. Admitting it is hard, but necessary.
I write about mirrors here a lot. Even my guest posters have written about them. Sometimes they are the literal mirrors, the ones that show our physical beings to us accurately, whether we want them to or not.
It's rare that I'm literal around here, though most of you probably already know that by now.
Usually when I'm talking about mirrors, I'm talking about reflecting on more than our physical selves. More than just checking our makeup and hair, straightening those collars, eyeballing the lines sinking deeper and deeper into our skin. I'm talking about seeing who we are, who we really are, far beyond the physical.
I find it harder to lie to myself when I'm looking in a mirror. It forces me to be honest with what is going on, even if it hurts.
The past few years have been growth years for me. Growth, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, doesn't come without the requisite growing pains. It hurts, this process.
I've forced myself to admit things I don't want to admit. I've owned my responsibility for choices I have made, people I have hurt. I have replayed events in my head like a broken record time and time again, trying to tease out what really happened, then somehow trying to reconcile that with what I had allowed myself to believe.
It mostly started a few years ago, in, of all places, my childhood bedroom. I had retrieved a bag of belongings from the attic where I had hidden them away years before then. Things I thought I needed to keep, things I could not let go of, but things I didn't want with me until then.
In that bag was a box, and in that box were letters and notes that had been written on loose leaf paper in junior high decades earlier. Little pieces of who I was, who they were, folded up in different shapes, passed under desks and hidden in lockers. Secrets. Questions. Polls.
Some of them made me laugh. Some of them were pleasant memories of the friendships I had back then. Some of them, bitter reminders of the people who went one way while I went another.
Then there were the hard ones to read. The ones that told me that I was wrong about so much I had believed. That I was the one to blame. That I was the reason they all distanced themselves. That they tried, oh how they tried. Some of them tried far longer than they should have.
I sorted them. Put them in chronological order. Then I saw it.
The notes told me that they did the best they could until they couldn't do it anymore. That they walked away because I was toxic and damaged and I was damaging them and none of it was fair.
At the time, and for most of my life afterwards, I blamed them. I thought they abandoned me. I thought someone had spread a rumor or told a story or tossed me under a bus and that they all believed whoever this mythical enemy was. I was hurt because I truly believed it all.
Then, twenty years later, sitting on my bedroom floor, I re-read the letters and notes and I saw it.
It was me. It was always me.
I was in a bad place. A bad, bad place. Being in a bad, bad place is not an excuse for what I did. It's just the reason I was such a mess, coupled with who I am hardwired to be.
I was fourteen and I was lost. My parents were struggling with their marriage and I was too old to be insulated from any of it. I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. I managed to hide the drinking from them both for a very long time since they were preoccupied with what was happening between them.
I was teetering on the edge of the bottle already. At 14.
I had taken up smoking too, stealing the cigarettes from my parents.
I smoked my first cigarette at an Al-Anon meeting. Ironic, yes?
I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.
I did things, some terrible things, to people I loved, friends I cherished, all of whom deserved a better version of me than existed at the time.
I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.
I still struggle with guilt now for what happened then. Realizing that the monsters weren't out there, but right here inside of me was an unsettling to say the least.
It took me almost twenty years to see it.
Once they'd all distanced themselves from me, I wallowed a bit. Things got a lot worse before they got better. I was bitter and angry and blinded to my role in it all.
I stopped smoking because I could feel myself becoming addicted. I wanted to feel my lungs burn and then do it again. Over and over. I knew that if I didn't stop then that I would never be able to. I knew that it would kill me someday just as I feared it would kill my parents.
I stopped drinking because I had no one to go to parties with anymore. I didn't drink again with any regularity until I was in college, until I was older, until I had a better grasp on it all.
I stopped because I was slipping down into the rabbit hole.
I live in fear of that rabbit hole every day.
All those years later, I realized why I had kept that box and tucked it away. I needed to read it when I was finally ready. I needed to face who I was, I needed to see the truth. I needed to understand that I wasn't the victim, but that they were.
I needed to confront my past.
I needed to take a long hard look in the mirror.
I'm not that girl anymore, but now I embrace the truth that I can become her. I know that I have been her. I remember. I own it.
I still haven't forgiven her yet, but we're on the way.
I'm learning to make peace with her, one mirror at a time.
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