step 5: to reflect
When I started writing an introduction to understanding discomfort, I was in the process of figuring things out. I was clawing deeper into every fleeting thought, looking for a weakness to familiarize myself with, and seeking out strengths that I hoped were buried under all that busy traffic — moments frantically fleeting within a self desperate to catch and nurture them all.
I was desperate for a new outlook on life, for an overwhelming sense of excitement to reach for things that I wouldn't usually reach, and for the energy to plant my feet solid on the ground as I let my head roam above the clouds.
It's not easy to peer through the looking glass of those fleeting moments.
The glass is hazy, cracking in all the wrong places as they hover through your consciousness, quietly but with a presence that consumes.
It's not hard because it's hard to understand. It's hard because it's scary.
The looking glass cracks under the pressure of what you want to see, what you wish was different, and what you never want to look at again. The control you have over this fragility is what makes reflections so powerful.
It took a lot of reflections to narrow the scope of my anxiousness into 5 areas that I could try to work on. The first was to change my mindset on failure, success, joy, and loneliness. The second was dissecting my goals so I could focus on what was most important to me. The third was learning to love what I see in the mirror, which meant channeling just as much care and caution into the way I treated my health and body. The fourth was to think consciously, to pause, and remember my intentions and my sense of purpose in everything I do.
I realized that everything would have to come back full circle for my fifth and final step — to reflect. I was to reflect on my journey through each of those steps, documenting my tracks as I navigate through the unchartered and forgotten territory, turning my biggest doubts into new opportunities. I would reflect on my success, failures, epiphanies, and looming questions.
However, the most crucial point of this fifth and final step was to give me a reason to question myself if I was ever close to giving up.
I was to write about everything that went wrong, no holding back. I was to be completely honest with myself and be my biggest critic, but this time, I was to light a path for what I could do next. It wasn't just a recap of my day, it was a careful operation. One that could unravel everything I've worked so hard for if I lost my footing and fell heart first into the truth.
It's not that simple
I would say my reflections are quiet confrontations. They're sporadic, fragmented archives of high highs and low lows. I keep them in an app called Reflectly, pulling my iPad out right when I start to feel ready to head to sleep. My episodes of anxiety have historically kicked in around this point of the day, when all activity has lulled, bringing with it a different kind of quiet. So I wait until the very last moment when the air had always weighed heavier with a dense touch of loneliness.
I first started journaling the week I turned 23. Life had changed so drastically, and things were falling into place. It threw me off guard, and I was sitting on most nights out of breath, fearing all the 'what if's that I believed were inevitably around the corner.
My reflections were darker and heavier. I was painting a picture of the things that scared me, letter by letter, line by line. I didn't think, I didn't pause to read what I had just written. I let myself go uninterrupted because I wanted to peer through that looking glass, taking in all its cracks and feeling them shatter under the weight of contemplation. I always knew when it was time to stop, and my reflections would come to an end with some sort of a half-written conclusion.
July 5, 2020 |
"The next time I feel these waves creeping up, I need to find an activity. I shouldn't let myself stare off into nothing as my way to sort things out. Clearly, I'm not very good at that."
That's the last line of my journal entry, three days into this new habit. I was anxious, angry, and yet somehow in the middle of all that, I was pointing out an escape. Something I always knew I needed to do but never did. To see it written out in front of me left a different kind of impact. I listened to it like it was a voice I hadn't heard in a while. She was hopeful and determined. Most importantly, she was honest about things that were doing wrong.
Reflections are the truth, and that's not something simple to face.
Their vulnerable to your most genuine perception and emotion, never predictable yet ever so consistent with the person you are at your core. It's a Rolodex of all your locked up prized jewels, and all your demons buried deep underground.
Reflections are a period of healing. It's airing out the dirty laundry and finding a nasty stain smeared across everything that once made you feel at your most confident. Some obvious and some only noticeable if you take an extra minute to hold the fabric in your hand and stretch it out against the glaring rays of the sun.
I end up noticing actions often overlooked, words that slip past my lips too easily and recurring thoughts that I never realized had such a hold on me.
A day of many faces
It's impossible to keep track of the person you're showing up to be every second of the day. You're not always the same person in front of different people or when facing different circumstances. Sometimes you forget to consolidate those different faces when you grab some time alone for yourself at the end of the day. The more you let those faces craft out their journeys, the wider the gap between the person you are at your core, the person you want to be, and the person you are to the people who know you.
It gets confusing. It pulls you in different directions. If you're like me, you may end up feeling a little lost on where to listen. Which face do you turn to? How many faces must you keep to function properly?
For me, the answer wasn't as simple as finding that one single representation of myself and sticking by its side without question. For me, it was having as many faces as I needed — as long as I knew these faces were my truth, my most genuine and compassionate reactions to the moment I was in and the people I was with. It was unnatural for me to wear the same canvas at every moment. I was just as expressive as I was reserved. I was just as assertive as I was quiet. I was just as whimsical as I was serious. All of these faces were mine and I'm learning to be at peace with each and every one of them, without comparing them against each other and assuming one was better than the other.
The most important thing for me was making sure these faces were ones my loved ones could depend on, that they were safe for me to sit in when I was in my own quiet presence, that they could still give me clarity when the air weighed heavier in the middle of the night.
To reflect is to look for these faces, and to hear truth seeping out between lines of text or strokes of art — however you choose to express yourself, whatever gives you the most freedom to let yourself go.
It's often overlooked how important it is to create a space for yourself outside the life you show the world. A calm center that sits within you, an extension of you that sees yourself from a third-person point of view.