I have a broken mirror in my room. It is a full length body mirror, about 4 feet high, with thin plastic framing standing in the corner. This mirror had a history as a hand-me-down before coming to me, and to that history I imposed upon it my literal reflection every day as I woke up to get ready for school. The mirror in its previous unshattered state saw me crying at my most vulnerable and laughing with my most esteemed. It saw moments of intimacy, despair, fruition, exhaustion, loneliness and joy. I came to identify strongly with this mirror and the reflection I thought I saw projecting back at me.
One night, as I drunkenly stammered back into my room, I heard a loud crash follow my footsteps and my blood trailing closely behind. As I picked up the mirror in a daze, I find in front of me, standing in the dark, a complex and beautiful array of shards standing upright in a cheap plastic frame. I tell nobody about the incident and continue to dress and undress in front of this shattered reflection of myself daily. My friends, like most who see this reflection of me, note their concern for the broken glass and my well-being however, I make the conscious decision to keep this mirror intact. I suppose looking back it was in part due to my priorities and as the mirror has come to now represent a symbol of my current emotional state, I convince myself that what I see is not a broken me, but a me still standing, barely peeking through, moving forward.
This is the me I put out into the world, and the me I continued to toil with for the next few months. My depression didn’t get any better even after I cleaned up the mirror and threw it away in the trash. Instead, I became fixated on a search for my state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
I’ve spent a lot of energy, time and opportunity chasing serenity. Believing, that if my intentions were good, efforts greater and – what has come to feel like the stars aligning – serenity would wrap me in its shroud and carry me home. But, I’ve learned that it’s never going to happen without me pulling that mirror out of the trash and examining each individual piece one by one gluing it back together. And that task seems daunting, like it rightfully should. But the alternative is the darkness that remains if I don’t use that mirror to shine some light back onto me to find my reflection. And that’s exactly what happened when I threw away that reflection of me. As broken and unfixable as I came to believe it was, the alternative was darkness and no hope – the perception of true loneliness.
But as I stood alone in the dark I heard others out in the distance, and I listened to their stories. I came to groups, I sought out literature to help me understand why the things I had tried no longer worked. And as I looked further I began to see more lights. People who stood up at four in the morning to rescue me, or who went out of their way to get me a glass of water or to even say hi in the morning and lend me an ear. These people, I came to realize, were no better than I was or had made myself out to be, and while each light emitted from the soul of each person, each of them too had a broken mirror they were working to fix. What I notice now is the labor they put in daily and the work they are also doing to illuminate their soul from within. From a mother working to get up in the morning, or put together a meal for her kids or a community to someone taking their dog on a walk and yet another focusing on three jobs. It’s these daily accomplishments that in turn allow them to illuminate the ways for others, often unnoticed.
I want to thank everyone in this room who can hear it and to the many who have gone on their journey perhaps unknowing of how much they have done for me. To those who were willing to stand together in the dark when all seems to fail. When we have to stare at an abyss of darkness and realize that there is no end goal, no reward to be attained or even guarantee that there is a tomorrow. There is only hope. Rather than continue to chase an imagined being, a reflection of me, I now hope to toil and look inside of me for that light. In going forward to I hope to continue finding the light in me and to say, ‘you know what, today Imma do me. Sincere me. Authentic me. I’m going to wake up day by day and remember that I make serenity for me, in my mind, in the moment to shine a light on myself from within. Because when I come to find myself being close to feeling alone again, in the dark, hopeless, I may be surrounded by as many lights as I have come to find, to help me back up, to hold onto another shard and hold that child looking back at me, because that is the whole and beautiful me.