Harsh Mirror 8/4/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

So much family drama these days. My readers are all too aware of what has been going on with me, not only with my father’s passing but with the drama with the remnants of my family as well, sparse as they might be. I’ve been writing these posts with a desire to be open and honest so if others are going through similar problems then they will know that they are not alone, but also as a form of personal therapy. I have discovered that once I get these words out, they haunt me less at night. My sister and her husband, apparently, but if I were to wager the reason, I would guess their purpose is rather different from mine. However, I will keep these thoughts to myself as to share them would be antithetical to my desire to present only facts and my own personal feelings about them. I hope I have been successful in this endeavor.

Today I woke to a series of messages from my brother-in-law, lambasting my openness on this admittedly public forum (but a forum in which their identities are not known). He accused me of telling lies and claims that my writing has made my sister cry, apparently, frequently. But the interesting thing is that, no, I have not lied. In fact, I have presented, in their entirety when possible, the comments and communications that I have received. I have been asked to no longer give quotes, which I take to be the equivalent to asking that comments be “off the record”, so I will not be presenting the texts I’ve received.

But something struck me with today’s barrage of criticism. The fact is that I’m fully aware of how the communications that I have received from my sister and her husband looks. Reading their own words in this forum must cast their comments in a harsh light. I wondered for a time how I would feel if my own words and actions were thrown back at me, but then I realized that they are, every night, as my demons run rampant with my actions of the past. Nearly every night my mind goes around and around replaying things from my past, things I’ve said, things I’ve should have said, and so on ad nauseam.

It’s a harsh mirror that shows events in unflattering light. I think that it’s human nature to want to believe ourselves far more suave and sophisticated than we truly are. Have you ever heard a reproduction of your own voice? I like my voice. As I hear myself speak in my own head, I mean, it’s not the most beautiful voice, but it’s very nice. Then I hear it in an audio recording, and it makes me want to wretch. It’s just, different, smaller, less bass, more treble, pathetic. My friends tell me it’s not all THAT bad, but neither do they tend to compliment me on it. The audio recording is a harsh mirror.

Some things that you see in this mirror are beyond repair. I can’t go back and say those things to the captain who bullied and dismissed me all those years ago no matter how pointed and eloquent they might sound in my head’s replays at three in the morning. But standing in unforgivable light reflecting on yourself, what can be done?

It seems to me as if there are a few choices in the pathway if you don’t particularly like what you see. You can choose to “stay the course”, refusing to acknowledge anything that strikes you as unappealing. This is the stubborn approach. Some people are gifted to be able to simply fail to see anything that does not fit their narrative of events. Unfortunately, I’ve never been one of those people. These events give birth to new demons that haunt me for the rest of my life.

Another pathway is one of anger, lashing out at the light that has illuminated that which we do not wish to see. Anger is something I know very well, but a pathway that I personally loathe. It’s all too easy to blame others when our actions reflect back into our own vision. I guess it’s a form of “staying the course”, the concept that it cannot be me so it must be you. Unfortunately, this is a reaction I’ve seen time and time again in a myriad of situations, such as with my wife who could never be wrong. This is a classic narcissistic solution to the problem of the harsh mirror that can easily transform into emotional abuse which I have written of in the past.

Personally, I try to learn from my mirrors. If I see something that needs correcting, and I can do so, I try to do that. I’ve been known to apologize or show gratitude where warranted. I’ve tried to change my behaviors to make myself a better person for it, and to learn from the image that I see reflected. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I will say that I strive for perfection. I make my mistakes, but I hope that my example serves the benefit of others. I always wish I could do better and strive to meet that goal knowing it will forever be out of my reach. One thing I will never fear is the harsh mirror to show me the error of my ways.

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