Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Mirrors, Ski Trips, and Soul Patches

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? When it’s just you and the mirror, and no one else, whose gaze do you meet coming from the mirror? Each one of us travels the highway of life cloaked in various masks and disguises, ever more complex shields between  what others see of us, and what we see when we stand alone, bared, in front of the mirror. Do you ever do this? Stand in front of the mirror stripped bare of all artifice, neither masked nor cloaked? What do you see? Who looks back?

It’s funny; whenever it’s me doing the looking the guy who looks back always has a soul patch!

So much of our lives are spent creating the image seen by others. What does Mommy want me to do? What would Daddy think of this? It starts very early, you know. We don’t even know we’re doing it. We get better and better at it once we leave the house, perhaps to a friend’s house to play, but certainly when we first enter school. We learned that a certain pose, a certain way of speaking, indeed the very way we stand elicits a response from the person standing opposite us. In a way, that person is another kind of mirror, except that this mirror shows us the effect of our “makeup”, our masks, our armor.

Who among us hasn’t experienced the intense, deep, boring pain that comes from sharing some deep confidence with a friend only to have that friend break our trust and share whatever that confidence was with someone else. We see a part of our true selves reflected in that circulating confidence; it’s always a painful experience, isn’t it? The lesson here is that baring the reflection of our true self can be painful. And so, we don’t.

Moving on we project for a purpose. Meeting our college roommate for the first time, that first job interview, lunch with the boss’s boss. What’s in the “mirror” is really more of a projection of someone sitting next to you or standing in front of you, and less a projection of you, who you really are. There’s nothing wrong or bad here — we simply do what we need to do. But in doing so we often drive that pure reflection of who we really are deeper and deeper, further and further from whom we appear to be.

Many of us sneak a little bit of self into the public projection, almost like an inside joke which is hidden from almost everyone. Maybe it’s a tiny tattoo on the inside of your ankle or that third hole in your year which you only fill for “outside consumption” in the most comforting and welcome circumstances. Nobody can see your tattoo, and nobody knows what type of the earring fills that hole, but YOU do. For me it’s a soul patch.

Now my wife, the single most important person in my life bar none, HATES my soul patch. Hates every version that I might dream up. Hates it long and dark; hates it short, neat, and trimmed. I had a mustache and a goatee around the time of my 40th birthday (no issues turning 40, mind you) and frankly I thought I looked pretty darn cool! It worked for little while, until that is it started to get gray. My lovely daughter, Megan, asked me to shave it as a Sweet 16th birthday gift to her and POOF, away it went. But every now and then the soul patch reappeared, tolerated for progressively shorter periods of time and always wiped clean at the behest of my beautiful bride. Except when I looked in the mirror, when it was just me and who I really think “me” is. I always see the soul patch.

If you do spend some time in front of a mirror and if you do open your eyes enough to take in that true image of who you really are the next thing you realize is how very rare are the occasions when the person who shows up is that reflection in the mirror. They are almost “never” events. When they happen, and when you all of a sudden realize that THIS event is one of those times, it can be almost magical. Think about it. You’re in a place and you’re with people and it’s so comfortable that the person YOU see in the mirror, the person you think you really are, is the exact person who shows up. And that version of you stays! You’re in a place it with people who know you, the exact version of you that looks back from the mere when you allow yourself to see who you really are.

It almost never happens, and the few times that it does create memories that are like monuments. Your own “Mount Rushmore” event. You return to those memories, you return to those events as  if they were touchstones, little shortcuts to who you really are. I had one in my 40s that is so meaningful that I can remember all of the details as if I just came home. My friends Bruce and Kathy invited Beth and me and three other couples to be their guests for an “adults only” ski trip. We spent five days in Telluride; Beth was injured and she didn’t even ski. Every minute that I was there I was exactly the man who stares back at me from the mirror. It doesn’t always turn out this way, but for me it was an extremely positive experience. I really liked the guy walking around in my clothes, and everyone else seemed pretty good with him, too. For five days the guy who looks back at me from the mirror when I’m looking at the guy I really think I am and I were one and the same.

It hasn’t really happened like that since then. Oh sure, there are little snippets here and there. A date with Beth, an hour in the office, a morning session at a Crossfit certification was my son Randy. But nothing like five days. Yet, when I’m there in front of the mirror, just me and the Darrell I think I am, it’s still the guy who spent five days in Telluride with friends new and old, all of whom saw the same person I see in the mirror.

So who are YOU when you look in the mirror and the person you really think you are is standing right there in front of you? Do you do this? Shorn of all disguises, all masks, all forms of armor and defense, who looks back at you when you are looking… for you? What do you look like? Who do you see?

I always see a soul patch…

2 Responses to “Mirrors, Ski Trips, and Soul Patches”

  1. May 4th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    anne hurst says:

    interesting darrell….i am going to think about that for a bit.

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