• Whitney Olson

Mirror, Mirror

I find it amusing how our most significant Ah-ha moments come at the oddest times. As a houseguest at a friend’s home last weekend, I had one of those moments. It wasn't during a deep conversation over drinks or while we were walking on the beach. Nope. It was while using her really cool magnifying mirror. Like most people who have entered the 50s, I also have a magnifying mirror, but this mirror had a special add on, a super, duper reveal-all circle of magnification.

I recall a moment of hesitation before moving closer. It was one of those whispered warnings that we are prone to ignore. Perhaps I should have listened because after my first glance, there was no backing away. It was like being in a house of horror; each look revealed something terrifying, but I couldn’t stop myself from looking for more. Misapplied eye liner, mascara that had missed it’s mark, and eye brows in desperate need of maintenance were suddenly in plain sight for me to see, Even worse, I realized, they were in plain sight for everyone else as well.

My answer to the mirror: Makeup Glasses

It was those elements not easily erased with makeup remover, however, that horrified me the most. Like an archaeology dig, the lines on my face told the story of decades in the sun. Easily seen were the deep lines, but the fine lines visited under magnification revealed future of my face. Was it too late, I thought, to start paying attention? Could I reverse the aging revealed in the mirror if I started paying attention today?

I had to resist the pull of the mirror. I found it hard to walk away from what else I might find in that small circle of revelations. I had become a rubber necker at the crime scene in the mirror, craning to see all angles, hoping to catch another glimpse of the disturbing visage in front of me.

Here’s the thing. As I walked away, I quickly set aside the disturbing reflection of the wrinkles and the makeup. What stayed with me was the idea of paying more attention. If the mirror was reflecting my life, what would I see?

I imagined the mirror would show me that I, like most people, have been flying by the seat of my pants, rushing from one thing to another, hoping that by working hard and obeying the Golden Rule I would somehow leave a small positive ripple in the pond of humankind.

I worried that the reflection would show someone who chose to protect the borders of her own kingdom, spending more time keeping out intruders rather than paying attention to what was happening in the bigger picture. How many people are there like me who have quite happily chosen to rely on others to take up the hue and cry when liberties are threatened?

I've come to the conclusion that I’ve spent so much time plowing through life, I haven’t been paying attention.

No one has ever accused me of not having a point of view. A more accurate accusation would be that I haven’t cared to debate that point of view, choosing instead to rationalize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Sure, I talk about the importance of social justice, equity, and access, but it's time to consider what that walk might look like. My encounter with the mirror left me with the realization that my isolationist approach has resulted in a false sense of security. As I peer over the edges of my world, I realize that my mainstream point of view isn’t so mainstream anymore.

It’s past time I pay attention. How would our society appear under magnification?

How deep are the cracks and crevasses that separate us? It’s time to acknowledge my privilege and use the power of that privilege to help secure the rights and opportunities that come with social justice.

(Let’s be real here. Everyone needs help. In that vein (or is it vain!), I’ve tasked my daughters with making sure their mother is presentable.)

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