An early morning news show yesterday morning had me huffing and “tsk”ing at the screen the same way I’ve seen men scream and shout at football games. The story I was watching wasn’t particularly controversial. It wasn’t about politics or religion. It didn’t attack me, and it didn’t threaten my way of life. It did, though, send a message. It sent a message that very much did attack what I believe in, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
The story was about a woman who, under a lot of personal stress from life changes, felt the need to go on a month-long “mirror fast.” She committed to a month without mirrors…without reflections…without her own eyes seeing herself in any way. She covered the mirrors in her home with fabric remnants. She relied on opinions of salespeople and close friends when she went shopping, rather than looking in dressing room mirrors. (Come to think of it, I think this move was particularly brilliant. Those fluorescent-lighted hall of shame mirrors are heinous.) She purposely averted her eyes in the gym, exercising without the constant awareness of her own reflection staring back at her.
As I watched the video clip leading into the segment, all I could think was how fantastic I thought this was. I’ve considered doing something like this myself, having heard of a similar discipline one of my friends undertook in college. The mirror can have far too much control over how I feel on any given day, so I can appreciate that aspect of what this woman did. Aside from that personal connection with the nature of her fast, though, I really admired how she had the courage to do something so difficult, all in the name of self care. She didn’t publicly go into the nature of her stress or why a mirror fast seemed to be the solution she needed. In my mind, she didn’t have to. All I needed to know was that this woman knew what she needed to do to care for herself, and she did it. She did it publicly, even, putting herself out there. I imagine she may have made her story public to inspire others, as she did me…
…but instead, she found criticism. The “health and beauty professionals” the network had called in to offer their thoughts gave the woman nothing but criticism.
The said her choice of fasting from mirrors was far too extreme. Too much. Too crazy. And she, this woman who was changed for the better by her month away from mirrors, sat quietly by as the other two women attacked both herself and her choices.
I wanted to reach out and hug her. I wanted to applaud her. I wanted to let her know that she had inspired me, and that because of her, I’m again considering doing the same thing she did. I felt so sad as I listened to the critique of the professionals. I felt sad not just for the woman sitting on the couch next to them, but for all of us. I felt sad for all women who need to do something to take care of ourselves but who, for one reason or another, feel that whatever we need is just too much to ask. Ultimately, my sadness had nothing to do with the mirrors (or lack of mirrors) themselves. It had to do with women. All of us.
We do so much…pour so much out into the lives of everyone around us…and we suffer because of it. We’re doing what we need to do, and yes, what we ought to do, but we do it to a fault. We wear ourselves out and drain ourselves dry, leaving nothing in the bottom of the barrel for ourselves. And then…then, when we reach the point of needing to fill back up…to take the barrel of our lives from empty to overflowing…to do something to replenish what has been drained…we are told that we are being irresponsible. We are told to get back to work…get back home to the kids…get back in the kitchen to make supper. Put the journal down…reshelve the novel…empty the bathtub and blow out the candles. Forget about going for a run. There’s no time for indulgence here. Work. Get back to it. Clean the bathroom and drive the carpool and pick up the dry-cleaning and take the kids to soccer practice and be the ultimate partner to your husband. That’s your job…and how dare you not enjoy every single minute of it? What’s wrong with you? How dare you be tired? Why do you need anything for yourself?
I long for a world – a society – where women (and men, too, I suppose) will take care of themselves the way they need to be cared for, all in order to serve the Lord in whatever positions they hold in life. As a mother…friend…daughter…sister…church member…employee… Not only that, but I long for a shift in our society where women will be supported and encouraged in their choice to care for themselves, rather than discouraged and scorned for being too extreme.
We are all made differently, and caring for ourselves will look different, too. What I need might be very different from what you need. I might require a break more often than you do, but when I do step away to refresh myself, it might not take as long for me as it does you.
And do you know what? I’m okay with that. I want a world where we all are.
Yes, we must be realistic. I don’t propose that women run away on a weekend road trip with the girls every single weekend. I certainly am not suggesting anything dangerous or sinful be done as a way of taking a break. What I am suggesting, though, is that we look closely at our own need for self-care and accept that we have limits. I am suggesting that we stop expecting more from other people than we can reasonably expect from ourselves. I am suggesting that we encourage each other to do what we need to do. We chime in and cheer for each other. We hold each other accountable to self-care, whatever that might look like for each of us. We develop a world where we are all filled to the brim, ready to pour out anything that the world needs from us.
The thing is…the thing is, y’all, that this is about more than ourselves, and even about more than our families and our bosses and our friends. It’s about God. He created us for a purpose, but He never intended for us to be drained of life in the process. He has a job for us to do. He has people and things and situations for us to steward, and we cannot do that if our own basic needs for rest and refreshment are not being met. Jesus Himself fled from the crowds to refresh Himself in the ways He needed. He fled to the quiet comfort of His Father’s presence (which I do believe is the best way for all of us to be refilled, no matter who we are). Are we so different?
There are probably a lot of deeper issues here. There are always a lot of variables at play when we discuss women’s psyches. The fact remains, though that we were created by a God who loves us…a God who instructed us to Sabbath…a God who desires full and abundant life for each of us. I want us to believe that of ourselves, and then commit to remembering it for each other.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Journeying with you,