A circle of women is a multifaceted mirror in which each sees herself reflected. What she sees of herself in the words and faces around her depends upon the capacity of each woman as mirror to be clear and compassionate. What we see in ourselves, we can work on changing. – Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Millionth Circle
Each week, we ask the members of our group up to reflect on their experience in prison. In discussion and on the page, writers have an opportunity to hold a mirror up to their experience both within themselves and inside their units and cells. Our dialogue centers on the prison’s impact on their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Within the circle of our writing, notions, challenges, fears, and growth are affirmed.
Below, you will find the experience of one woman as she looks into the mirror. This reflection serves as a prelude to the continued conversation she has with herself and with us about the impact of prison on her sense of self.
The Looking Glass
Sometimes I think one of the hardest questions to answer is, in fact, what I see, in me, when I look at myself. Do I see my soul for what it is, or do I impress upon myself the ideals and principles of those around me? When I am not judging my complexion or searching my eyes for more than the shade of brown they always seem to be. A mere piece of glass and bend of light has captured me. I am helpless to restrain it. Only with the dark can you combat a mirror. We think of dark as a foe. But in it is where we feel what we have seen. I’ve heard that if you have never seen, then there is nothing to see. I don’t need to look on my face to know the curve of my lip, or the shape of my eyes. The complexity of sight is unaccomplished. It will never be mastered.
I struggled in a mirror. In my reflection because what I see does not match what I feel. I stare back at what I have made of myself, what I continue to be and a lifetime develops behind my eyes while I stare through the looking glass. What have I left undiscovered? What secrets lie in wait in the breath of a whisper? This is why it’s hard for me to speak on such matter because I see so much. Truly when it comes to me in myself, I see everyone else. The complex brown illuminating my eyes belongs to my mother. The shape of my eyes and the cowlick in my hair belongs to my father. Genetically speaking. My sense of pride and my positive attitude also hail from them. I am a twin, and she is always there when I see myself. Love. I feel. Is always the key. I remains. It is dangerous. It is safe. It is most importantly all we need. Each beat of my heart wears a new face. It is my metronome. I will tell you what I see most when I look at myself. I see you!