I got sidetracked looking at old scrapbooks and photos recently while I was in the middle of more spring cleaning. It was so heartwarming to look at the smiles and happy times in photographs from treasured moments with family and friends. My little foray, in fact, lasted a few hours.
There were pictures of me as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, wife, mother, and nurse. Each role I played, each hat I wore, each layer that made up me, was captured with a smile on my face (mostly).
But as I looked at the pictures, I felt like I was lost in them, hidden somewhere under protective armor, shielded behind a pair of safety goggles that distorted my vision and kept me where I thought I needed to be — playing the parts I thought I was supposed to play in perfect succession according to a timeline in my life.
Make no mistake, I cherish each role I play and wouldn’t change a thing. I know they all make me who I am, but sometimes I feel like I have gotten so caught up in what I am supposed to do in each role, how I am supposed to act, how I am supposed to feel, that the original person deep inside has disappeared.
And I really don’t know if she exists anymore.
Truthfully, I have morphed into a conglomeration of parts that on cue emerge and behave as they are supposed to, in order to fit an intended purpose. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but sometimes I wonder who is underneath it all.
I thought about those old photographs as I looked in the mirror this morning at my own blue eyes reflecting back at me. And I thought about what it would feel like to peel away all of my layers, to shed each role, leaving a virtual heap of my “skins” on the floor at my feet.
Would I recognize the person left standing there; a blank canvas, stripped of her colors down to her core, wearing nothing but her original birthday suit?
Would I even know her?
Stunned, I gazed at the foggy image staring back at me in the mirror. It was so out of focus, I could barely discern that it was me at all.
Who is that? I wondered.
Then I realized that through all those photographs, through all those captured moments that I looked back on, I had been emerging all along. A work in progress, growing and changing with depth and complexities, rich in color and texture, each layer an addition more beautiful than the last… only acquired through being someone another person needs.
At that moment my image became crystal clear. And I smiled at who I saw.