Chapter 7 Mirrors

Mirrors have figured prominently in a couple of dreams that really stood out in my life over the years when I was trying to work through all the baggage from my 20’s decade.

When the narcolepsy was diagnosed, it would eventually explain a whole lot of things that have happened that I couldn’t make sense of before.  So when I talk about these dreams, don’t think that it is something prophetic. (It was just my subconscious working through stuff).

Think about this: Does a mirror become less or more beautiful according to the face which stands in front of it?  The mirror doesn’t change.  The best a mirror can be, is smudge-free on the front side.  But the real magic of a mirror is the silver coating that covers the underside of the glass.  That is what actually reflects the image.  It works kind of like that with us and God.  If we wear our armor at all times, that is like the silver plating on the back.  It keeps there from being any blind spots in the image (Helps us see ourselves as God would have us see ourselves).  I am a mirror.  Whatever the mirror is turned toward, that is what it will reflect.  I want to be turned toward God all the time, but a fail to be, lots of times.

The slideshow at the bottom of the page contains some of my “art therapy” work.

The first dream that I had about a mirror, was pretty fascinating to me.  I dreamed that I was in the basement portion of the home of my uncle.  I was there because our youth group was meeting there.  We were all sitting around in a circle, most of us on the floor.  It was almost time to start, but we were all still talking, so I got up to run to the rest room beforehand.  As I walked back toward the area of the house where we were meeting, and as I turned the corner, I encountered one of those long, full-length free-standing mirrors used for getting dressed.  I stopped in front of it, and then something transpired wherein I walked through (into the mirror), and a different ‘me’ switched places and walked out.  I (my consciousness) remained with the ‘me’ who came out of the mirror, and continued back to join the rest of the group.  As I entered the circle of people to return to my empty spot where I had been sitting to the right of one of my friends.  The leader was saying, “wait, where’s Sandy?  We can’t get started until she comes back”.  My friend said “Oh, she just went to the bathroom, she’ll be back in just a minute”, and I realized that I was now invisible and no one in the room could see me!

I can see clearly, in hindsight, what all of it meant.  The youth group represents my “place” and “identity” before what took place in the decade of my 20’s, and the invisibility of me represents the way that the person that I had been before, just completely disappeared for a very long time.  The mirror, of course, indicates this is my own perception, and it also indicates the demonic nature of the damage because  mirrors are used in the occult for scrying.  The Bible forbids scrying because it is consulting and contacting what the Bible calls familiar spirits.  It is also done with crystal ball or looking into water. Satan is more than happy to provide the “word from beyond”, but it’s always lies.  I think that Satan took full advantage of my state of mind during my tumultuous times.

The picture in the slideshow that says “There You Are!” is also a depiction of an actual dream.  Drawn in 2007 when my narcolepsy had finally been diagnosed, I was getting treatment and staring to feel better.  Inside the dream, I was the middle-aged ‘me’ that I am now, but I dreamed that I got up from bed to go to the bathroom, and when I stepped in front of the mirror, I saw my former young, fresh face (from back in healthier days), looking back at me from the mirror and I expressed with a sort of startled surprise “OH! There you are!”, as one would do when something long-lost and long-searched-for turns up.  That dream made me smile when I woke up.  I figured it was a good sign!

I think that we all grieve some, too, over the aging process, and for me, because of how bad my health has often been, well, there were times in my thirties when I knew 80-somethings who were better off than I was, functionally.  Fatigue is very aging.  When I was younger, I paid attention to elderly people.  I was aware of the difficulty that comes with aging, and I also liked elderly people.   I remember resolving that I was not going to be one of those petty people who worries about losing the beauty and blush of youth.  I was going to be the lady who wears purple and eats sausages, and I intended to embrace the liberty of not having to dance to that tune anymore.  But there is another element to that other than vanity.  Beauty has its purposes like everything else God made, and so, yeah, I started mourning early for the loss of youth, and even a little about my looks but mostly about feeling way older than my age, long before I should have been feeling aged at all.  Age isn’t about numbers, except maybe the number of your infirmities.  There are still eighty-year-olds who can run circles around me.  I never had much natural strength even as a child.  But I did have stamina once upon a time, and I sure do miss it.

The sketch of the girl in a dark-looking room, alone, crying, crouching and  looking at her beautiful clothes all taken away from her, was a do-it-yourself art therapy session.  It was just a visual depiction of what I felt.  It wasn’t cryptic. My outward adornment was stripped.  I could no longer feel good about looking nice, getting dressed up, doing my hair, it all represented what I lost in that one terrible moment.  I think God would have us enjoy our femininity.  But I could no longer feel good about looking my best.  I started wearing dark, shapeless clothes, just mostly trying to disappear.  I didn’t want anyone looking at me “that way”.   I have never felt “good” about myself when I got dressed up since then  because it has represented something in me that I felt had been ruined.  I was really self-conscious.  Now I don’t think I would feel that way, but I still don’t get dressed up much because it is just plain exhausting.  Stiff fabrics, raised heels, constricting materials, all seem minor but all of those things take a toll on my energy now.

The title “Stripped”  was of a dual significance.  I was stripped in an instant at 19 of something I could never get back and it has effected my entire life ever since.  I was stripped in an emotional sense, and spiritual sense, by several years of  very eviscerating continuing pain.  Stripped implies the outside, evisceration is a gutting of what is inside.  It was both!  I did feel gutted which is why in that sketch I (the girl) was crouched over, sort of shielding the vital organs but also trying to cover up.  Notice that the sun is still shining out in the rest of the world, as evidenced by the rays falling through the window.  I felt like that a lot. Life seemed to continue on in the world, while for me it had stopped.

The painting with the two figures, each representing me in different mind frames, uses the colors for expressing feeling.  Blue is peace (maybe also sad and broken), Red is agitated and angry.  The mirror has 3 sections  in the way it is shattered.  The top one is completely gone, the middle one has several shards, the bottom one is essentially intact.  The red figure reaches toward the middle sections as if to do what?  Try and fix them? Take them out? Here is an interesting little interjection, and in fact, I imagine that this may have been the tiny seed that eventually resulted in this painting.  When I was in my last week of nursing school before graduation, my grandmother, who was in the nursing home, took a turn for the worse and we knew she would be leaving us soon.  I was visiting with her in her room, and she was sleeping a lot by then.  When she was awake and alert, we had a good “last conversation”. (It would be the last in which she could still really participate), and I was telling her how I was so glad nursing school was almost over so I could get on with my life.  She said, “honey, this is your life.  Today is all there is.”  I said, “I know, Grandma, but I mean, I’m tired of being broke, owing money, all of that”. She came back with “well, you may as well get used to that too, you can’t get through life without owing somebody some money, you get a loan to buy your house, a loan to buy your car”.  Well, her point was, I needed to have some patience, and there were things I’d have to accept as part of life.   When I came back a few days later, she was not waking up any more, but I still sat with her, and talked about my day.  This was before my second husband had left, and of course, before the “come to Jesus” pivot that would come later, but I was already conscious that he was becoming distant, and I was concerned over what the future might hold.  So I sat there by Grandma’s bed, holding her hand and just thinking about these things, and she suddenly opened her eyes and looked at me, and she said “when glass gets broken, it is awfully hard to put it back together”.  I am not sure what made her say that, other than the fact her bed was right beside a great big window, and maybe she was dreaming.  But something about her statement, melded with the thoughts in my mind about the marriages, and stuck with me.  It felt like a description of my life. So, I think maybe that impression sunk down into my subconscious mind and swirled together with all of it and that is what led up to this painting some years later.

There is a little round area that is black, within the intact lower portion of the mirror.  It is about the size of a fist, or a human heart.  It looks like maybe a hole.

To me, those 3 sections represent my three marriages, although this was painted before Garrett and I got married, and while we were engaged.  I think the hole represents the parts of me, and of my heart, that were wounded and maybe even missing in me at that time, because of the injury and pain that still held them captive.  The figure in blue  represents both my hope for this marriage, and the peace I feel now that I’ve turned back to the Lord, and also found Garrett.  Notice the positions of the figures.  When we are standing it is always either for, or in defiance of something.  When we are doing what in our human logic seems “fitting at the time”, well, the chaos and brokenness and emptiness depicted in the top two sections is what  comes out of that rebellion.  The blue figure is down, low, humbled, in a prayerful position with head bowed, and one arm reaching up toward God, and praying for that marriage.  I knew that was the only way this marriage would be successful.

The funny thing about all of that, is none of those thoughts were in my mind as I painted this.  That’s how art therapy is supposed to work.  By employing the artsy creative side of the brain, you bypass all of that analysis and you directly tap the feelings, concerns, grief, and you just……….express it!

The two photos of Garrett in the slideshow are my favorite shots of him from our early years.  I love his face.  I love the symmetry (which is funny because I generally prefer asymmetry in compositions and groupings of art, also I have a very non-symmetrical face, myself).  I love all those contours of his dimples and smile and chin and cheeks and the unruly eyebrows and wavy hair.  He has never been comfortable with me expressing my admiration of his physical features, while at the same time, he being hypo-expressive, and me being so wounded in that area, I starved to hear him express that kind of adoration, to know that I pleased him.  Men if you have always found comfort in the softness of her eyes, tell her so!  It will mean so much to her.  It is not always the man, though, who doesn’t express things, and not only the woman who needs to hear things.  Women need to express their appreciation for the things men do.  Yep, I have learned some things.  I hope that sharing here will be worth something in the way of helping someone else avoid some pain, or to begin healing, or to know God forgives.  If so, well, that’s redemption!

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The quality of the photos in the slide show are not great, because they are pictures of pictures.  But they come from my albums and scrapbooks over the years.  So, it’s kinda like you’re here looking through them with me, over my shoulder.  (Stop that! It’s creepy.)

The picture at the end is a shot I had done after I started feeling better and could begin to somewhat celebrate the fact I’d survived.  I was hopeful that maybe the diagnosis of the narcolepsy would mean a new lease on life.   It hasn’t turned out that way, exactly, but I am sure that I am better off now, going on 6 years later, than I would have been had it never been treated.  That picture is also about acceptance.  What I was going for, was to look like I was facing my mirror image and accepting it.  I wanted the photo as a momento and a reminder, of learning to accept “what is”, and I bought the mirror for the purpose of the photo. I would have preferred a big oval swivel mirror like what was in the dream, but that would have been a little difficult to lug to the studio.  There is so much more that I could say on the idea of the mirror, and womanhood, our complexities, and facets.

My poem entitled “Faith Resurrected” is sort of an “epic poem” in that it was written over the course of the years that I have been telling you about.  When it was first written, it was only about my disillusionment with my faith, and wondering how I could ever believe again.  I added onto it after I had cried out to Him, and He had taken me back with open arms, and added to it yet again, (the full-circle aspect) sometime during the course of the past decade or so.  I don’t consider it a great work of poetry, but rather, I value that it reflects the road that my own personal faith and relationship with the Lord, took.  When God says that He works all things together for good, for them that love Him, and are called according to His purposes, He means just that.  Just like God met me in my living room that day, and just like he prepared and sent Mrs. Delaney to press me into the next step in my healing, I can look back over my life and see so many, many times that God stepped in and moved in ways that just showed me His very personal love and concern for me, personally. I hope you will read on, and hear about the love of this wonderful Savior, how he took it all and turned it to good, and about some of the things that He has taught me along the way.

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