The Mirror Has Way Too Many Faces

This past New Year’s Eve marked the first one for my husband and me to […]

This past New Year’s Eve marked the first one for my husband and me to actually go out in Sydney — though, with two kids and middle age defining our lives, “going out” consists of joining friends at the North Sydney Olympic Pool for a family night of swimming and fireworks. And, it turned out, several deluges of persistent rain that ruined my phone.

When my head hit the pillow that night in a rosé-induced haze, my phone was sitting in a bowl of rice on the table beside me. Later the next day, the rice was revealed not to have done its job and I entered the new year phoneless.

This was not the clean slate one hopes for with the arrival of a new year. Then again, I’ve all but given up on the “new” aspect of new years. Sure, my journals circa 1990, when I was in junior high, are littered with lists of resolutions alongside analyses of crushes, all inordinately embarrassing. I used to love a chance to start over, until I realized that by March at the latest I was, disappointingly, still the same person I’d been the year before. Same habits, same flaws, same propensities toward the same behaviors I’d attempted to eradicate with a list and a temporarily strong will.

You’ll be relieved to know that my phone has been replaced. In the intervening three-day period, I was afraid to leave the house; I didn’t want to get lost or have to scream for help instead of calling 911 (000 here) in the event of one of the kids falling off a play structure. I checked Google Maps before I left home and didn’t listen to podcasts. I had to use my laptop for social media. It was cute — like living in the olden days (of dial-up internet).

Four hundred Australian dollars and one shiny new phone later, I opened my podcasts to see recommendations for those who wanted to achieve “A New You” in 2019. Rolling my eyes, I scrolled to my own tried-and-true list of true crime and pop-culture commentary/shade-throwing. No new me this year, thanks. I’m stuck with this one.

I mean, sort of, right? Sure, we all change incrementally over time, just not in huge leaps annually. So what if I’ve given up drinking Sunday through Wednesday — who knows how long that will last? (Spoiler alert: until February, when the kids go back to school and my husband goes on a business trip, AT THE LATEST.) For me there is freedom in admitting that some parts of me just suck and it may be awhile or never before that changes.

Not everyone is into that message, though. I have a dear friend who, luckily for me, is also a family member, and when I write posts that include descriptions of myself as an asshat, for example, she always calls me on it. “Stephanie, I want you to stop saying that about yourself,” she’ll tell me. “I see a wonderful person when I look at you. You are NOT an asshat.” And I will reply, “But Jane, it’s okay. I can be more than one thing. And there are definitely things that are asshat-y about me.” And she’ll roll her eyes as we agree to disagree, because she is wonderful herself and loves me more than I deserve.

Lately, though, I’ve been seeing her point.

No, not because I’m wonderful (though a couple glasses of wine in, I could be a treasure at your next party!), but because I’ve seen A Star is Born twice and binged, on my new phone, the Netflix series You. Stay with me here.

“Find you someone who looks at you like Jackson looks at Ally when she sings ‘Shallow,’” went the memes, and after a few days of shoving said memes into my husband’s face and saying “WELL?”, I realized I already have Someone who looks at me like that. Who loves me more than I deserve. Besides Jane, I mean. Who looks at me and sees perfection that I have not attained and resolutions that I have not met. And this should be part of my commentary on myself, don’t you think? Because without it — or if I’m focusing on my flaws at the expense of it — I am utterly missing the point of being loved.

Cut to a decidedly different piece of art, the twisted fairytale that just landed on Netflix called You. It’s a girl-meets-stalker story of obsession with a lead character who kills in the name of love while also helping out small children. He’s complicated, see, but generally an asshat. And though most of us haven’t piled up his body count ourselves, we are all, to some degree, walking contradictions. The difference between me and Joe Goldberg isn’t just the severity of our crimes but that I know the one who’s absolved them. Which doesn’t keep me from being an asshat, but it does make me a loved one. And that, my friends and fellow viewers, is a little something that may just be everything.

My younger son was playing hide and seek recently with his visiting uncle and cousins and, while they were off counting, turned to me in frustration and cried, “Why haven’t they FOUND ME yet?” He was desperate to be located, his desire to be recognized far surpassing any loyalty to the rules of the game. And isn’t this true of all of us — this desire to be known dueling with our fear of it, Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden while also desperately needing him?

I remember telling a counselor one of my darkest secrets a couple of decades ago and sitting stunned when his face didn’t register the slightest change. “Don’t you want to write this down?” I thought. “Or kick me out?” His lack of shock carried two messages that his later therapy drew out: (1) you’re not that special in your shittiness — it’s called being human; and (2) you’re loved in spite of and through it, which is actually way bigger than whatever you’ve done. Knowing this — and then believing it (#stillworkingonit) — is what changes me; not staring at my own record and yelling “ASSHAT AGAIN!”

Every sin, and all of my stories, end at the cross, where a face even more beautiful than Bradley Cooper’s stares at me with radiated love beyond what I can imagine. The cross is not a mirror, and I’m so thankful. Cheers to that.

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3 responses to “The Mirror Has Way Too Many Faces”

  1. Charlotte Getz says:


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