(This will conclude a month of stories)
“This is a magic mirror. It reveals what’s in your heart.” Those were the words that haunted Kelly all of her young life. It started years before when her mom came home with a new mirror and she told the family this line: “This is a magic mirror. It reveals what’s in your heart.” Kelly was skeptical at first, but seeing how people responded to it, she couldn’t help but believe it had power. People who were confident would look in the mirror and walk away satisfied. People who were sad would look in the mirror and walk away even sadder. Kelly only ended up looking into the mirror once and it was awful. It took her a long time to muster the courage to do it, and when she finally did, her reflection was that of a scared little girl. It was exactly what she was afraid of. If the mirror revealed that she was a scared little girl then it must be true. After that moment, Kelly vowed to never look at the mirror again because that truth scared her too much.
Kelly’s fear of the mirror continued her whole childhood. She was so scared of it she always went out of her way to not walk in front of it. She wouldn’t even run past the mirror with her eyes closed in case someone else happened to see her reflection and find out the truth about how broken she was. A couple times she was stuck having to go past it, so she crawled on her stomach to stay beneath it. No one knew her fear of the mirror; she kept it a secret… until one fateful day.
On the night of Kelly’s sixteenth birthday, before the family went out to dinner, Kelly’s mom went to see her in her bedroom. Her mom had bought Kelly a new dress for this special night out and she wanted to see how Kelly looked in it. When she got to the room, Kelly was in a great mood. She was almost ready; she was just deciding between two different pairs of earrings, which, as any girl knows, is very, very, very, very important; it is sooooooo important because it’ll make or break the night (sorry, my sarcastic guy side can’t help but sneak out sometimes). When her mom walked in the room, she greeted Kelly saying, “Aren’t you beautiful,” and Kelly spun around for her like a princess on the dance floor. Her mom then hugged her and while holding Kelly, she said slightly louder than a whisper, “I love you so much.” This was one of those special moments that left both women feeling warm from the love they felt in that embrace.
After the hug, Kelly’s mom said, “Come with me; I want to show you something.”
Kelly excitedly followed. She felt so good, and nothing could change that… or so she thought. She soon realized her mom was bringing her towards the magic mirror. “Mom, what are you doing?” she asked.
“I want to show you something,” her mom proudly replied.
“No, I don’t want to,” Kelly protested.
“What’s wrong?” asked her mom.
“I… I don’t want to go in front of your mirror.”
“What do you mean?” her mom asked surprised.
“The mirror… I hate that mirror!” Kelly snapped.
Kelly’s mom was really confused now. “But you look in your bedroom mirror all the time,” questioned her mom.
“Yeah, but mine isn’t magic.”
Kelly’s mom was really confused now, “Magic?”
“When you first brought it home you said it was a magic mirror; you said it would reveal what was in our hearts. Do you know how much that screwed me up?”
Kelly’s mom was suddenly very sad. “I’m sorry that hurt you so much.”
“My whole life I’ve avoided it. It’s the worst thing in the world!”
Kelly’s mom went to hug her daughter again in order to offer support, but this time Kelly brushed her off. Her mom then stood silent, which left Kelly feeling guilty on top of the panic she already felt. “Um,” her mom started, “There’s no such thing as a magic mirror.”
“So you lied to us?” Kelly snapped. She was never this disrespectful, but it was partly fueled by feeling so dumb for believing it was magic when she should’ve known better while at the same time believing it still has powers. “How could you do that?”
“I thought it was a fun idea to inspire you.”
“Well the only thing it inspired was pain!” Kelly was really starting to feel bad because she never spoke to her mom so abruptly, but her emotions were all over the place. Moments before she felt so incredible and now… it was just awful, absolutely awful.
Her mom paused for a moment; she was clearly trying to reset what she had planned to say in order to address what her daughter was going through. As any smart mom does, she didn’t defend herself or attack in fear; she simply asked a question, “So why was it so terrible for you?”
“Because you said the mirror would show what was in our heart. You said it wasn’t a magic mirror, but everyone seemed to get what they expected. Confident people walked away even more confident. Sad people walked away sadder. Fat and ugly people walked away feeling more fat and ugly. That mirror gave people exactly what they wanted to see. It seemed pretty magical in the worst way possible to me.” Kelly now took a moment to pause, but it was more of a hesitation. “You know, the only time I looked into that mirror all I saw was a scared little girl. I knew I was scared, but the last thing I wanted was to be reminded of how small and weak I felt.”
As much as Kelly’s mom wanted to hug her daughter, she refrained from reaching out to comfort her because it wasn’t the right time. Instead, she affirmed her, “That must have been really painful. No wonder you found the mirror so terrible.”
“It was terrible,” cried Kelly.
Kelly’s mom hesitated, but then added, “I’m sorry I said the mirror was magic and revealed what was in people’s hearts.” She paused again, “Can I tell you something important though?” Kelly remained silent, so after a moment of waiting, Kelly’s mom continued, “Showing people what they want to see is what all mirrors do.” Kelly looked at her mom with a frustrated confusion as she continued, “Mirrors don’t directly show what’s in someone’s heart, but they show us what we’re feeling in the moment.” Kelly was still confused, but her frustration started to decrease. “When someone confidently looked in the mirror, they would see what they wanted to see, a confident person looking back at them. When someone felt fat, they looked in the mirror and saw the proof that they looked fat. That means they’d stand with weaker posture, which added to them not looking their best. When someone felt ugly, they would look in the mirror and be so negative they couldn’t help but see something ugly. Mirrors are not a woman’s best friend. They’re more like the emotional friend who will one day say they love us and the next they’ll say they hate us. And as we get older, the more hate seems to come out.”
Kelly understood what her mom was saying and it made sense. She knew on a good day when she passed by a mirror, she was walking taller and happier, which meant she’d appear more confident and happy. She also knew on bad days mirrors just made her feel worse about herself.
Seeing her daughter less guarded, Kelly’s mom asked, “Can I show you something now?” Kelly’s mom took a chance and started pulling Kelly towards the mirror. “I’m bringing you towards the mirror, but I want you to close your eyes before you get in front of it.” Kelly was happy to follow this last instruction so she quickly closed her eyes. With Kelly in place, her mom continued, “I said this mirror reveals what is in your heart, so before you look up I want you to let these words sink in: I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring.” It was uncomfortable hearing her mom say this, but before she could protest or disagree her mom repeated, “I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring. I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring. I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring.” Each time her mom repeated this statement, Kelly felt a little better about herself. Her mom then added, “Now I want you to take a deep breath and repeat in your head what I just said.”
Kelly felt really lame, but for some reason she listened to her mom and repeated in her head: I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring.
“Now,” her mom said, “slowly lift your head and look in the mirror.”
Kelly took a deep breath… paused, and one eye at a time she hesitantly opened eyes and looked towards the mirror… and again she paused.
Her mom whispered, “I am a beautiful woman who is strong and caring.”
Kelly could feel her posture improving as her mom spoke. She stood a little straighter; held her head a little higher. As she looked at herself, she could see how her old self could be scared, but at the same time, she could see how she was no longer that scared little girl. And with that thought a smile crossed her face. That’s when she realized she now looked like a beautiful woman who is strong and caring. The mirror showed her what was in her heart, and she liked it. This time her mom didn’t refrain from reaching out. She hugged her daughter with all the love a mother can have, and in that moment Kelly accepted that no matter how she felt, what really mattered was seeing herself the way her mom saw her, as a beautiful woman who was strong and caring because that was the truth she wanted to believe.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people