I have a mirror in my house that I pass by all the time, every day. I don’t even really recall the last time I used it for its actual purpose – to look at myself.
But today, for a thousand different reasons, when I walked by, I stopped and actually stared at myself. Really stared. Not in a “look at those dark circles” or “wow my roots need touch up” or “really, a chin hair?!” kind of a way. Not anything like that.
It was more of a staring in the mirror, who have you become and where is the person I used to know kind of way. Sad. Scary. Needed. Overdue.
For a solid 5 minutes. Staring. At myself.
It got me thinking about how this mirror even came to be. In 2006, I was 4 years into widowhood and had met the man who is now my husband. We had moved in together, but had no plans to marry. And this how I wanted it. My life was amazing.
(As a funny aside, when I made the decision to move in with this man, I knew I had to take my deeply religious father out to breakfast and give him the news that his baby (at 32 years old) would be living in sin with a man she’d only known for 3 months and didn’t really know if she would ever marry. I was SO nervous to tell him this news. I mean, sure I was 32 and adulting pretty well, but he is my FATHER. There were strict boy rules in our house. So over omelettes at our favorite hometown breakfast joint, when he looked at me and said “You’ve been married. You’ve been widowed. You’ve gone to hell and back. Shacking up is the least of my concerns. I’m more worried about you living in Venice,” I knew it was going to be ok.)
Back to the mirror. We had a long hallway in our apartment, and it lacked the “something” that I felt it needed. My sister had invited me to my niece’s annual Charity League Fashion Show and Silent Auction. As a debutante alum myself, I thought it would be a great way to spend an afternoon in a beautiful location with my sister and nieces.
When I started touring the auction tables, a mirror, THE mirror, caught my eye. It was the perfect size for our place, and it was a great bamboo design and fit our beachy, seaside decor perfectly. It was valued at $200.
Since my late husband’s death in 2002, I had been working and hustling and hustling and working to pay off debt he left behind and to get back on my feet. To save for my own place. To be able to pay my student loans. To go out with friends. Take vacations.
At this auction, I was doing pretty well. $200 was doable. So I set my eyes on the mirror. I placed a first bid. $50. Increments of $50 from there.
Again, just to set the stage, we are at a Charity League event in Newport Beach, California. Held at the Balboa Bay Club. That’s just to say, if we are being REALLY honest, the snoot factor can be palpable. It was present that day. It was very present. And, it didn’t bother me. Until it did.
As I was standing near the mirror, checking out some other items, I heard another woman say that she was interested in the mirror. Then, her friend asked if anyone else was bidding on it, and she said this:
“Yes. There’s a young woman bidding on it, but I’m not worried because I don’t really think she can afford it. She’s here as a guest, not a member.”
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
I don’t know how she came to this conclusion. Maybe because I didn’t wear a wedding ring? I wasn’t carrying a Gucci bag? I don’t really know. What I DO know is that with that statement, the starting gun went off. That lady had no idea who she was dealing with.
GAME ON. That mirror? It’s MINE.
I placed a bid. And just to really show her, I upped it by $100, instead of $50.
She came back. I countered. It went on like this for what seemed like forever.
Let’s recall the mirror was valued at $200.
I wasn’t thinking clearly (I rarely do when I am so mad), and we just kept bidding instead of running the clock, which would have kept the price low, especially because we were the only two people bidding on this mirror. (That tidbit has been filed in my brain for future auctions.)
Suddenly the alarm that signaled only a minute left for bidding was sounded. At this point, a few of my sister’s friends had seen this all go down and they were rooting for me. With 10 seconds left, I nabbed the pen and took my time writing my final, winning bid.
One thousand, one hundred dollars. $1,100.00. Eleven hundred dollars. For a mirror valued at $200. But it was mine. And for once in my life, I was able to write a check. I could afford it. I’d been to hell and back to afford it. And, it was for charity. 😂
Since that day there has been a running joke about the $1000 mirror. I couldn’t even tell my then shacking up with boyfriend, now husband, that I paid that much in a pissing contest over my pride. For a solid year he thought I paid $500 and he thought that was crazy. Then I accidentally spilled the beans re-telling the story. I’ll never forget the look on his face.
The good news? The mirror looked perfect in the hallway. And in the home we moved to when I was pregnant. It looks fantastic in the new home we just moved to a few months ago. But it will always be the “Don’t Mess with Katie, $1100 Mirror.”
So when I stopped to stare at myself in it today, I was struck by the reflection. I didn’t see that girl who wouldn’t let anyone assume anything about her. I didn’t see the girl who could and would tell anybody exactly what she thought of them or any other subject on this great green Earth. I didn’t see a woman who was hustling and truly happy. A woman who was excited about what she was creating in her life. I saw a woman who was doing her very damn best to put a smile on her face for everyone else – especially her kids – but was quietly dying inside and losing her spark. Not an easy thing to write. Not an easy thing to face.
I’ve joked a lot with friends the last couple weeks about feeling like I am having a midlife crisis. Professionally speaking, I’ve never been so discontent. So out of place. Feeling like the bus left me at the station because our destinations didn’t match. I’m taking steps to change it up, but it’s scary. It’s terrifying, really. Because it’s not just me now, when I get to these places of discontent. I have a husband and two kids to think about. They are the dependable and on time source of joy for me, and my discontent with other aspects of life affects them. Sometimes, way too much.
What I know is I want that girl back. The one who didn’t back down. The one who made things happen. The one who had the self confidence TO make things happen. I don’t know where she went the last few years. Life has a way of stealing time without you even really realizing it. Five minutes of reflection opened up a Pandora’s Box of I’ve got to get it together.
What I know is that mirrors don’t lie. Especially the eleven hundred dollar ones.