Can you tell if the image above is the right way up … or not? In fact I think the grasses in the top right hand corner are a giveaway, but I left them there intentionally to illustrate my point.
When I reflect on events over my lifetime, does the face I present to the world mirror my experiences?
I like to photograph the reflections in the canal when I am out running. Sometimes the water is so still as to produce a symmetrical mirrored effect which is quite beautiful. At other times, the raindrops cause little pools of reflection that break the surface of the water and remind me of the effect of loss, as its circles ripple out ever wider across family and friends.
The mirrored surface of the water may be broken by leaves and other debris and yet the whole remains complete. To me, this accords with the elements that contribute towards the life we live.
We are complete despite that which could have broken us.
At the hairdressers recently I looked up and fleetingly glimpsed my mother’s reflection in my face in the mirror. That’s a happening that many of us will recognise! – I welcome these glimpses as they feed my belief that I have gained the matriarchal knowledge that is the privilege of the mother as she ages, it becomes something not to fear or to dread. Rather, I embrace it, even though it appears along with the lines of the ageing process.
It feels to me as though the wisdom of mothers is something ancient and innate that women pass down generation on generation.
If someone holds a mirror up to me, do I see my true self or do I see the reflection that I am putting out to the world, perhaps the face that I want others to see, which express little of what is going on behind the façade?
It is very difficult to see ourselves as others see us.
Some people choose never to see themselves in the mirror; and that is fine too.
But if I do choose to see myself in the mirror that is held up to me, I see a woman who lives her experience.
I see a woman who wears some of her life on her countenance.
I see a woman who has known much joy and some sorrow.
The joys of my life outweigh the sorrows, even the greatest sorrow with which I live; the loss of my son.
The loss of my dear parents in 2001 and 2003 was significant.
The loss of my ex-husband in 2002 was significant.
But these losses do not compare with the loss of a life that ended at the ridiculously young age of 19, when James died in 2005.
Can I ever resume reflecting the face that I wore before? No, I cannot. I am not that woman any more, yet I retain my privileged roles as a mother, sister, daughter, wife. These are disparate elements which nonetheless meld together to produce the person I am.
The best reflection that I can share today is that of someone who manages her grief, who succeeds in presenting and projecting a face to the world which does not write the entire story in its expression. This is the face I wish everyone to see.
This is not the face of grief and loss, this is the face of a survivor of grief and loss. There is an important difference.