As I write this, it’s been almost two years since I have been able to see my image clearly in the mirror. I have counted the mirrors in our house. There are six.
Years ago, I read somewhere that the image we see in the mirror is not what others see when they look at us, and that there are ways one could get a better idea of what others see by using mirrors differently. I wasn’t interested enough to pursue it. But I have always wondered if photographs are closer to what others see.
I reflected on all of this in the days before I was scheduled for a photoshoot that would include a professional headshot for my job. I was avoiding another professional photo until I could approve of my image when my sight returns. The photographer asked me to turn to my “good side.” It used to be my left, but now, who knows?
Even before the shoot and the changes in my vision, I’d become very selective about photos. Whenever I looked at pictures of myself, rarely was I satisfied. Flaws seemed magnified. Passports and driver’s license photos were always disappointing no matter how much I’d prepared. You can’t photoshop those.
Not being able to see what I look like before leaving the house makes me realize how strongly the ritual of getting ready is related to what others will see and what I want them to think of what they see. Before Low Vision entered my life, I thought that I was only looking in the mirror for my own approval. Now, I find myself in a place where not only do I not know, but I never really knew what others were seeing. The fact that I am sans the hair color and some pounds adds to the mystery and my curiosity.
They say it’s human nature to want to be seen. Before we leave our homes to face the world, we decide what message we want to send with our appearance, how we want to be perceived. Should we care so much? Should we care at all? I don’t know what the right amount of attention is. It used to be that compliments on my appearance were welcome, mostly as confirmation of what I already knew. Now compliments mean more to me than they ever have. I pay attention to them because the person commenting can see something that I can’t.
Their voice is my mirror.
I’ve been told that I look calm. Peaceful, even Zen. Peace is one of my core values. I sign my emails pronouncing it. It means a lot to me that it’s still being reflected in my demeanor. Maybe that fact is more important than what I look like.
Still, I’m excited by the idea of seeing myself in the mirror again one day, even though I know I look different than when I last saw myself. The thought of gazing into the faces of people I love again makes me smile. In my dreams, I still see them clearly.
The list of things I will do when my eyesight returns to normal is long. It grows daily. Looking at myself in the mirror is high up there. Some days, I imagine the moment will be a lot like scenes from The Lion King and Lord of the Rings movies where, upon looking at their reflection, the protagonists are invited to look deeper. Frodo sees a previously unseen reality and Simba sees his father, Mufasa. Both Simba and Frodo are reminded of who they are, and it is always bigger than what they knew.
A familiar passage of the Bible excites me, too:
For now, in this time of imperfection we see in a mirror dimly a bird's blurred reflection a riddle, an enigma but then when the time of profession comes, we will see reality face to face now I know in part just in fragments but then I will know fully just as I have been fully known by God. (I Corinthians 13:12 Amplified)
Those words and this experience have become a part of me in a way that invites me to a deeper way of seeing, even now, as I wait for my sight to return. Whenever I pass one of the six mirrors in my house, I glance in its direction with genuine curiosity and anticipation. I know soon I’ll see more than I’ve ever seen before.