Don’t let the mirror determine how you feel about yourself on any particular day. All mirrors are funhouse mirrors. They distort what you think is an objective image of yourself, and then feed on that day’s sense of self-worth. It can quickly devolve into a fiery crash if you’re not careful. For example:
You didn’t sleep well last night. Money stress is lurking around the mind’s back alleys. You had an argument with your spouse before work. Negativity is a magnet. The day’s first look in the mirror is going to send staples and knives in the direction of that magnet.
“Why are you so fat? You look ridiculous in these stupid clothes. Great, another gray hair. You look like Tales From The Crypt. Is that cancer?”
You are destined to carry that image of yourself into the rest of your day as it plays ping pong with the other stressors in your life. It will impact your interactions with co-workers and loved ones as the inner-dialogue negativity magnet continues to pick up needles and rusty nails.
“Glad to see Julie is wearing shorter skirts to work…the kind that whores wear.” “Oh, I see. The Keurig machine is out of water. Again. Thanks honey. It’s obvious you want out of this relationship.”
The day becomes unproductive as the negative distractions pile on. Another night of lost sleep. Another barbed remark toward your spouse. Another look in the mirror in the morning, and you’re in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the fattest, ugliest, most unlovable human being ever born.
The mirror is a reflection of everything that is going on inside. You cannot see yourself objectively. While a look in the mirror may seem like a clinical evaluation about whether or not your new diet is working, it can easily and destructively become derailed by a culmination of regret and worry.
For some tips on how to escape this cycle, see https://ificandoit.blog/2017/11/07/recovering-from-life-pt-3/
As I struggled for 5 minutes to remove my mud-caked compression socks after completing the Spartan Beast, I had to ask myself why I do this. Most of my body hurts today, and a 7 year old groin injury has become a fresh wound once again. I really had to spend time pondering what I’m getting out of it. Ultimately I’m glad I signed up, but why? I’ll never finish in first place. It’s expensive. Preparation takes a lot of time, which I don’t have. The skin gets cut and mud is ground into the cuts.
It must be some kind of visceral reaction to all of the things I was incapable of at one time in my life, either due to inability, or fear. I couldn’t run for 5 minutes without coughing up tar from the previous night’s cigarettes. I couldn’t complete big projects out of fear that it might create expectations in other people. I was always looking for the exit. From everything — relationships, jobs, responsibility, life. If I had any goal at all, it was to feel as empty as possible. Negative thoughts were unbearable, and positive thoughts were fleeting and undeserved.
There is something symbolic about crossing a finish line…a kind of reset. It is easy to get overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and doubt if a day isn’t going smoothly. Things that I don’t normally care about become more prominent. Not having a Lamborghini, for instance. I don’t care about cars at all. Never have. But if I’m having a bad day and stop next to a Lamborghini at an intersection, a whole series of voices start chirping in the background. “You would have one of those if you had made better choices.” “You know he’s driving to a giant house that has a resort inside of a bowling alley inside of a movie theater.” “The lady in the passenger seat thinks you are staring at her. You should roll your window down. ‘I’m not staring at you, I’m staring at a reflection of my own insecurity!'” HONK! from behind me. Really? Another Lamborghini?
A 14 mile hike through a western movie landscape isn’t conducive to that kind of wasteful self-flagellation. At times it requires precision focus on the next step in front of you. While we don’t always realize it, all of us are trying to get to a place in our minds that enables us to experience only what is happening right now. It is, after all, the only thing that exists. Meditation is the ultimate mind training to get to that place, but it isn’t always easy to get there. At least for me. These races achieve it by proxy. That’s really what it is I guess. Five hours of living in the “now.”
At 27 years of age, I was a broken-down mess of a human being. This is a picture of me when I was 53. Now that I am 42, things are quite different. Rewind 15 years ago to a typical day:
10am — Wake up. Coffee. Cigarettes.
10:30am — Vodka. Cigarettes.
11am — Take a look at my list of things to do.
11:30am — Nap.
1:30pm — Wake up. Coffee. Cigarettes.
2pm — Vodka. Cigarettes.
2:30pm — Edit my list of things to do. Do none of them.
3pm — Buy more vodka and cigarettes.
3:30pm — Fast Food.
4:30pm to 10:30pm — Wait Tables.
11pm — Vodka. Cigarettes.
Sometime — Pass out.
While I occasionally did some interesting things, this made up the bulk of my life for about 5 years. I was physically, intellectually, and emotionally ill. It is doubtful that I would have made it to 40 at that rate of deterioration. Sobriety was an insurmountable obstacle. I could feel my body decaying from the inside out. I tried to stop. Couldn’t stop. Tried to cut back. Couldn’t cut back.
In 2008, I got some help. I couldn’t do it on my own. If I live to see March 10, 2018, I will have been sober for 10 years. My life is very different now. I am starting this blog as an effort to help others who can’t see their way out of the dark room that I was also in.