One Christmas, about the time that I was ready to get a pair of reading glasses (oh the joy of turning 40), I asked for a magnifying makeup mirror. I was tired of plunging my mascara wand into my eye. I know, I know – tough it out. I should have, because the first time I flipped that mirror over from normal to magnified I nearly vaporized.
Holy arachnid, who the hell is that?
If you don’t have one of these mirrors, DO NOT GET ONE. Risk blindness instead. You will be less scarred. No matter how gorgeous you are – and I consider each and every one of you to be complete hotness, doubled – you will be shocked. And then you will spend the next twenty minutes examining every little pore and wrinkle and flaw. Poking, prodding, analyzing. There is nothing easy about the first experience with a magnifying mirror.
Kind of like my encounter with Mr. Jackpot. Beginning with our first meeting in late December to our conversation last night, I feel like I have been looking into one massively magnified, ginger-hued mirror. One that seems to amplify the flaws, making them difficult to ignore. One that is forcing me to take a good hard look at the bad emotional habits and insecurities I have developed over the life of my marriage.
Mr. Jackpot was sent to assist me in a time of great need. But he isn’t here to tell me everything’s going to be alright. He’s here to say, If you don’t come close and look at these flaws, these areas here and over here that need your attention, they will stage a mutiny. They will keep you from finding peace within yourself and freely experiencing all the love and beauty around you. They will keep you from loving yourself.
We have both been recently birthed out of relationships by deceit and betrayal. We were with partners that didn’t view us as partners. We fulfilled a role for them that wasn’t fully understood by us. We allowed ourselves to be strung along, our needs going unmet, our voices going unheard. Every time a promise was broken, a boundary crossed, we became quieter and quieter, hoping that it would be the last time. That things would get better. We stayed because we made a commitment. And because we didn’t love ourselves enough to demand a change. To demand what we were promised by our partners. Worst of all, we lost ourselves. When it came time to leave, we were emotionally shredded, mentally parched and physically drained.
And now we are sorting through the pieces of ourselves that have been gathered up over these last several months (longer for him), determined to take great care in the rebuilding process. The pressure is on to do it right. We have so much to lose if we don’t take the time to examine each piece, discarding the ones that don’t serve us (insecurity, fear, anger) and reinforcing the ones that we need in order to create a solid foundation upon which our hearts can safely rest.
Our stories may be different, but we are going through the exact same process, stripping ourselves bare so we can heal, at the exact same time. As such, there’s not much either of us can hide from each other. We see right through any attempt to do so. So we do the opposite. We barf up every detail of our failed relationships, taking turns venting about the disappointment, anger and sadness that took up residence where there was once joy, optimism and love. As we become more comfortable with each other we allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable.
“Why did you stay with him? Why did you accept being treated that way?”
“Because I didn’t know any better. Because I wasn’t confident enough to stand up for myself. Because I was afraid of the answers to the questions I needed to be asking. Because I no longer felt. I thought, this is as good as it’s going to get. Oh, well. I had big dreams for more, but I’ll just have to be satisfied with where I’m at. I guess this is all I deserve.”
As the weeks slowly crept by, my world a mad frenzy of emotional upheaval, the hikes and talks over wine with Mr. Jackpot were like my extended therapy sessions with all of you. Exploration via excavation. We went deep. It was on my birthday, with a big slab of grass-fed cow sitting between us, that I looked at Mr. Jackpot and I saw myself, flaws and all. He was my human magnifying mirror. Consciously, he was a compassionate friend. On an unconscious level he was helping to put me in situations where I could observe my emotions, create boundaries and put into practice some of the new (untested, often poorly executed) skills I was picking up.
We do more than talk about our failed relationships. We spent an hour talking about the evolution of species living on islands and how their isolated existence has led to unique characteristics not seen anywhere else but upon their spot of land. (Let’s be real…mainly he talked about it and I listened, slack-jawed. That’s probably not even an accurate description of what he explained to me.) We watched this video, shot with a Vision Research Phantom Flex camera, a dozen times, transfixed. (Trust me, watch it.) Seeing something new each time. We talk about creation, the vast world of insects, and birds. We talk about our upbringing and how it affects our choices and about how our choices in life have led us to this exact point in time. We talk about the stars, climbing mountains and the deep sea. We talk about our feelings, our fears, our frustrations, our dreams, and the goals we must attain. We laugh, we cry. He baked me a gluten-free, spiced apple pie, from scratch.
And last night we talked about loving someone again. What it would take for us to be able to freely love and commit to another person. What it would take to be intimately connected again to another being.
It’s going to take a lot. An excavation of a once beautiful site that has been left to decompose, ignored by its owner and those who once appreciated its beauty. Mr. Jackpot and I have to reconnect with what we once truly loved about ourselves. Rediscover what makes us special, what fuels us, what grounds us. We have to create new ways of being as individuals. We have to take ourselves out into the world and experience life, on our own. Devote time to our passions. Regain our confidence. We have to feel secure enough with ourselves to be vulnerable again, if not for the first time.
We have to do all of that if we’re ever going to be able to truly act on the feelings we have for each other.
Yes. We have feelings for each other.
After hanging up the phone with Mr. Jackpot I logged in to HGM. On the top of the list of comments was one from K. I sucked in a breath as I read for the 5th time this little morsel:
“…an experience like this does offer an amazing opportunity for growth. I’m forced to take stock of life–who I am and who I want to be, especially as a dad–in a way that oddly didn’t seem possible before. We let relationships become a big distraction from the personal work we should be doing, and we let them disguise our underlying discontent.”
K, I’m forever grateful. To you, to everyone who shares their wisdom at HGM, and to Mr. Jackpot. You are all my mirror. Again and again, with uncanny timing, you hold up the looking glass and dare me to see that I’m a work in progress with a bright and beautiful future.