“The Mirror”

She had caught her reflection in the mirror, and once her eyes had found it they were not inclined to let it go. It was not vanity or a certain degree of self-obsession, but rather it was curiosity and the pursuit of study. She liked to see herself as others saw her, to see herself like a stranger she would pass on the street, to see herself as someone and something she does not and may not truly know. To see herself as all surface and no depth, a shell with no echo of the sea.

This task was not difficult in its undertaking. The body she saw in the mirror was already a stranger to her mind. It was simply a veil, a pretty garment that deceived the eye. This body was betraying her; it was a mask of flesh and strings of nerves holding her in place, waving suspicion of something ever being wrong. This body defined her, and yet she remained feeling decentred and trapped in the position of looking in, rather than from within. This body’s unscarred frame and composed nature hid the sea of turmoil and chaos within her which was continually crashing and breaking on her mind’s shore. The mind was not at home in this body, for all its heart there was only a small, overworked organ to speak for it.

For when one is grieved the body only elicits a tear, for when one is angered the body only shapes a fist, and for when one is hurt the body only bleeds. We may truly never know one another because our bodies get in the way.

Our eyes are foolish things, we never see the true struggle because when one says, “I’m fine” we cease all efforts and are satisfied. “Fine” – it is one of those words whose definition barricades our attempts to help one another. The word “fine” supports our body’s misrepresentational force. Our minds are not visible, we cannot open them up like a book or share them around, they are exclusively our own, but that never means we must be on our own.

Sometimes it isn’t the world around you which becomes the problem, but the overwhelming feeling of the world being without and within you – your presence lost but simultaneously being magnified by a loud world of dilemmas and despairs. Moments of joy are so fleeting, and moments of pain are luxurious in their longevity. Joys are easily overwritten by pain, and when we say “I’m fine” it dries the ink.

It’s complicated being young, it’s a living and constant negotiation between head and heart, it’s a mix of faces, flashing places and fast decisions. It’s a Jackson Pollock painting of sorts, violent bursts of colour and emotion which drip into insignificance until they are no longer on the canvas. Sometimes it is those who say they are “fine” who are dripping away.

She would try to reach out, maybe through an anonymous post, maybe a comment masked in sarcasm during conversation, or maybe through drunk tears which are soberly denied. When she looked at herself, she saw a performance she was ultimately too tired to resume.

Our minds are our own, all their woes and turbulence ours too. But if we finally discard the word “fine” and speak out loud, then the mind and our body can finally bridge an alliance. If tears are all we have, then cry. Let the tears drain the waves of turmoil.

It is okay not to be fine, it is even more okay to say you are not fine.

Emily Coleman

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