I have the lighting in my bathroom adjusted perfectly. I have one of those light fixtures that has eight bulbs arranged horizontally, spanning about five feet, right above the large mirror over the sink top. I think they are 40 watt bulbs – when I bought them my thinking was that since there were so many I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with light on those early mornings. Currently 3 of those bulbs are burned out. Perfect.
I say perfect because I have figured out how to see myself in that mirror every morning in a relatively gentle way. I have a relationship with my lighting and my mirror and my appearance and we have an agreement – I’m ok. Just don’t be too critical, because if you look with a critical eye, you will find things to be critical of, which doesn’t feel good.
Not all bathrooms are as user-friendly. I have no agreement with other bathrooms. They can be a bit rude.
At 55 years of age, my skin is not flawless. I like to think that I have developed character, and in truth I just don’t have the radiant skin of a 20 year old anymore. Which can freak me out a little sometimes.
One of the restaurants that I frequent has about eight thousand watts of lighting in their bathrooms. It’s like a surgical suite with a urinal. Though my intention is always just to go in, take care of business and beat a hasty retreat, keeping my eyes intentionally downcast as I wash my hands on the way out, the evil mirror in that bathroom has some kind of almost magnetic, hypnotic pull on my eyeballs, and I find myself staring with kind of a horrified fascination at what I see in that mirror. It’s like my inner critic demands face-time, literally, and I notice that I get really close to that mirror sometimes, leaning in, inspecting and categorizing and tsk-tsking.
I hope they don’t have a security camera in there.
At some point the self-vivisection ends, and I sigh, and go to find solace in a cheese enchilada.
The other bathroom in my home is likewise demon-possessed. It is equipped with one of those lighted magnifying mirrors, which I have become convinced is of the Devil Himself. Or, quite possibly, Herself. That mirror reflects back more, surely, than God ever intended for me to see. I avoid that bathroom completely.
My point here is this; I have essentially two choices, when I look at myself, or at you, or at my world. If my choice is to haul around that Satan-inspired lighted magnifying mirror that is designed for my critical eye, for fault-finding, that invites a critique of every non-virgin micrometer of my being, then that is what I am looking from, and I will find what I am looking for; something wrong. And once on that task, if I find no fault at first glance, I will lean in a little further, get a little more critical, judge a little bit more harshly, tool in hand ready to pluck out any unsightly intruder, and will surely find something to be harsh about.
If on the other hand I choose to look at things with softer eyes, looking for ok-ness, with an intention of acceptance and a peaceful, loving experience, then surely that is what I will find. We get to adjust our own lighting. I want to greet myself well every day, because I have important work to do in the world that is all based on leaving the day just a bit better, a bit kinder, a bit more loving than I found it. I need to be ok with who I m in order to be what I am here to be.
So it serves us to occasionally ask ourselves, just as a self-check; what am I looking from, and, what am I looking for?
Now I’m not suggesting that we just put on rose colored glasses, that we ignore aspects of ourselves that might be unhealthy and that, with a bit of love and attention, might contribute a greater degree of wellness to our life experience. I’m not suggesting that at all.
But what I am suggesting is that we just may have gotten into a habit of living our lives, of seeing our world through eyes that constantly cast about for something to critique. We can be really hard on ourselves. And on each other. It can become a habit, a way of seeing our world that creates a scenario of ongoing dissatisfaction. We don’t have to live that way.
If the way that I’m looking at things doesn’t contribute in a positive way to my experience of living on a day to day basis, I do have some choice in the matter. And I don’t think that I can be accused of denial or avoidance if I choose see my world with soft eyes, through the eyes of love, which then invites into my daily experience the kind of kindness and compassion and generosity that are my core values.
Anyone can walk around with a magnifying class and halogen lighting, pointing out flaws and wrinkles and age spots. It takes a soft eye, and an open heart, to be inclusive with our vision and to see ourselves and each other through the eyes of love. We’ve all got things that we can attend to, but while we’re going about those things, we’re ok. Just as we are, and just as we are not.
Maybe flawless is overrated. Maybe that’s not even the object of the game. Maybe it’s heart, and yes, character, that are a truer reflection of who we really are.