In genre fiction circles, many authors and writing coaches ascribe to the idea that in the middle of the book the protagonist will come to what is called at “mirror moment.” Sometimes this is a scene where the character catches sight of themselves in an actual mirror, a store window, or somebody’s photo album–it’s a physical image held before the character’s eyes.
Other times, it’s the ghost of Mufasa reminding a disaffected adolescent Simba, “Remember who you are…” (after Simba sees his reflection on a moonlit pond.) The question posed is: Do I try to go back to the person I was 150 pages ago, coping, not exactly happy, but not taking on impossible quests, or do I grab my courage in one hand and my dreams in the other, and make a run toward the better person I have a once in a lifetime chance to become?
In romance, the mirror moment often comes after all hope is lost. There’s Tremaine St. Michael, riding into the sunset, when he hears somebody bad-mouthing the woman he loves. He and Lady Nita couldn’t find common marital ground, but Tremaine now knows that the almighty pound sterling has been allowed to define his life for too long. If he loves Nita, he’ll stick up for her and for the truth. He calls out the ne’er-do-well criticizing Nita’s healing gift, and starts on the path to the happily ever after that a more mercantile guy didn’t deserve.
The mirror moment for Tremaine was hearing a pair of shallow, insecure men casually talking smack about a decent woman whose medical expertise and courage saved lives. How shallow was Tremaine, to expect Nita to set aside her gift, for the privilege of giving him babies? He fretted that her medical activity would put his children at risk for contagion without acknowledging that simply bearing those children would put Nita at risk of death.
We have sympathy for Tremaine’s desire for safety–for him and for his children–but we respect him when he calls BS on Nita’s detractor, and later puts aside his pride to apologize for his narrow thinking. A smug, misogynistic jerk held up a mirror that started Tremaine rethinking his own values. (And then I gave him a nudge too!)
Last week, I asked how you protected the quiet, strong, loving place in your heart, and got some great answers. My question this week is, have you ever had a mirror moment, when you had to decide who you were? I’ve had several–choosing to become a single mom, leaving the corporate world for private practice, giving up on the lawyer job, firing agents, changing publishers… In each situation, I had to look at who I was and what I stood for. It’s a scary exercise, but I like that life has occasionally handed me a chance to take stock and reorganize my priorities accordingly.
The great day having arrived (A Lady’s Dream Come True hit the shelves on Tuesday), I will send signed copies to three commenters, anywhere in the world. So, have any mirror moments come your way? Who or what guided you through them?
There have been several in my life. One of the silliest was to stop fighting what I look like–NOT the long-haired, blue-eyed blonds my sisters were–and get comfortable in my own skin. My sisters and I have a *similar* face but our coloring is different. I have the auburn hair and dark eyes of the French side and they have the light hair and blue or hazel eyes of the German side and I was teased by my own sisters throughout my childhood for being different. My Mom often told me how striking my hair and eyes were but my sisters made sure I knew that that wasn’t the case–I was just ugly! I am not beautiful BUT I have always been cute. I realized in my early 20s beauty doesn’t always age well but *cute* does. As we all head to our 50s and 60s, I am aging well and my beautiful sisters? Not so much.
My biggest Mirror Moment or maybe, the most serious, I’ve mentioned once or twice here in comments to your blogs, Grace. I resigned from a church job which was sucking my soul right out of me. The defining moment happened as we were redoing the choir-room and the Clergy (whose spouse was also a professional church musician who believed that made her know EVERYTHING about music)decided to give me a lecture on…..wait for it….NUMBERING THE NEW CUBBIES! I listened to her thinking–how soon can I resign? That was in January and I waited until just after Easter and continued through Trinity Sunday and THAT was torture. Since I live in the community, I didn’t want there to be any bad blood and tried to do everything after I handed in my resignation with kindness and class. Am I happy I did it? For the most part, yes, but I did miss my choir. That Pastor left for greener pastures a couple years ago when she had done more damage than I can say here. Several of my former choir members have kept me abreast of what was happening and its a blessing she’s gone, it just took the congregation a few more years after I left to figure it out themselves.
Hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring in your part of the woods, Grace!
can’t think of any
My mirror moment came when a member of my immediate family was killed by a black man in a robbery when I was still in high school. Oddly enough, through the trials and appeals, and from meeting his grieving mother and sister, I began seeing race differently. The image of my mother hugging her while both cried is something I’ll never forget. Mothers are mothers and grief is grief.
The deep south is a funny place. Years later, his brother would help my uncle move into his new apartment, and help him with his groceries.
I had another mirror moment when I really realized that the old adage ‘the past is gone but not forgotten’ is true. Talking about race issues with people I’ve worked with for decades, and hearing their stories, I realized that black people have as much prejudice against white people as white people do against them, and for better reason. Yikes.
Please give your signed copy of the book to someone else, as I have trouble holding print books now. 🙁
Ah, Grace you are so much braver than I am! I have those moments as well but way too often I let myself down.
My one success was many years ago. I was in a classroom when a teacher lost it and ripped into a student (2nd grade, I work in special ed). He was standing right beside me and we both stood there open mouthed while she spewed bile. When it was over I beat myself up for not stopping her, I didn’t even gather him protectively into my arms. I was a wreck for at least 24 hours when I came back to school and told the school psych. I promised myself that I would never again stand by when a child is being abused, and I haven’t. Of course the problem is deciding were the line is. That can be really tough sometimes, so I have spent quite a bit of time “in front of the mirror.”
My mirror moment came in 2001. Within a three month time period the NY towers came down, I hit a milestone birthday, my office closed in my city (with an option to either relocate 300 miles away or quit), and my mother passed away. My husband refused to move do to caring for his aging parents, so I looked in the mirror to see what could be done with my life.
What I saw led me to apply to the public school district as a teacher’s assistant. I ended up at an alternative high school with kids that were struggling just to survive. With my background I felt I might be able to relate to them & hopefully give them a sense that there was someone that did care about them. Little did I realize that they in turn would care for me.
Running into them after they’ve graduated, having them remember me and hearing their success stories is so profound. It’s wise to remember that one person can make a difference along with the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.
I had a big medical issue a couple of years ago that completely upended my life. It made me realize that I can’t always put off things until tomorrow, because there may not be tomorrow. And if those tomorrows happen, they may not be the tomorrows that I want or like. That has changed a lot of my behavior for the the better. Not a mirror, per se, but a big life-changing scare.
Also a huge natural disaster happened here that upended life again, and reinforced those ideas.
So yeah, I have taken stock and reorganized my priorities twice in the last couple of years. It’s not been pretty, but I hope I will be better for it in the long term.
I have a mirror in the hall and yesterday the door bell rang so when I passed it I looked into and saw myself still in my pyjamas and dressing gown.It was 10.30 .I was disgusted with myself,I said to myself —-you are becoming a slob,last night I had left the dinner things in the sink overnight something I never do.We are in lockdown but this is no excuse.I must buck up and not give in to laziness.This pattern of behaviour has been developing over the week’s but the mirror provided the evidence.I plan to rise at 8am tomorrow and do something worthwhile.
I have had several mirror moments!
Twelve years ago my husband was laid off. He had worked for the same company for 28 years. He wasn’t able to find anything full time. Our daughter was in middle school, we had a mortgage and a car payment etc.
A role reversal was the solution. I adjusted my schedule and worked two jobs. We tightened our expenses, went out to lunch, not dinner, watched tv instead of going to the movies.
Five years ago, I decided I needed to challenge myself career wise. I felt I was doing the work and not getting promoted. It was a hard look in the mirror, a tough truth to face. I was able to switch departments and accepted a full time position in a different department. I am happier at work and challenged.
In January I looked in the mirror and thought…I need to think about me, not everyone else. So, I joined Weight Watchers and make time to walk my dogs- which is something I enjoy. The walking gives me a sense of peace.
I was talking to a friend of mine in Jan earlier this year about the f4rustrations of being in a wheeelchair& how people assume automatically, a wheelchair physical disability equates to mental/learning disability;
We discussed how it insults us as we both epeak, read, write at least 2 languages, me 3 & have undergraduate degrees, me a graduate degree
I remember staring at my Christmas tree as I weighed options. “It’s just the holidays. All kids struggle at the holidays.” But before it had been, “It’s just a new school. All kids struggle at a new school.” And before that “It’s just the move. All kids struggle with a big move.” Or “He’s just a boy.” Or “They are young for their grades.” No one that I knew had ever taken their kiddos to be evaluated. We _had_ tried once before with no luck. But I refused in that moment to believe that parenting was supposed to be as hard as it was, and I refused to believe that I was just an untalented, hapless parent. And… I didn’t want to be sitting, staring at another Christmas tree next year with the same problems. I didn’t want to live the same family history of not doing anything and watching people struggle and have nothing to offer. I made an appointment to have my son evaluated by a child psychologist the following January. He is S.P.E.C.I.A.L. So is my daughter, we got her evaluated next. So is my husband ( I insisted we both get tested). And because we now know that people are _special_, I can advocate better for all of their needs, which are many. Parenting is not supposed to be as hard as my parenting experience has been, but at least I know that it isn’t me. At least I know that my kiddos will never be able to say “Mom, why didn’t you do something?!” I moved heaven and earth to do lots and lots of something. Blame me for trying too hard, but ha! you can’t blame me for not trying enough. Because faced with that mirror–another Christmas tree up and me who could have dug deeper but didn’t verses and me who dug deep even though it opened pandora’s box–at least there was hope at the bottom of the box, right?
Personally, I avoid mirrors when I can. However, my church encourages self-examination, especially before communion. There have been many, many little mirror moments and probably not as many as there might have been, if I hadn’t been mentally timing Sunday dinner.
There have been more major ones, too. My choice of career was determined by the amount of $$ I had to spend on my education. The young man who became my husband was well liked by my family, especially my dad. So, sometimes the mirror moment has come through introspection, through finances, with the support of others and sometimes serendipity.
I feel like I have Mirror moments all the time, I have a lot to learn and am constantly humbled by that fact. I suppose most end in shifts in perspective or paradigm, fewer are big behavior changers, but they are definitely there as well. I have been lucky that most of the big changes have been accompanied by certainty that I was making the right choice for myself, even if unpopular with others. Luckily, I can’t think of a decision I made after a Mirror moment that I regret.
I’m having one right now. In the midst of the uproar of this moment I am realizing that I only reach out to those inside my bubble. I need to reach farther and get out of my very comfortable zone.
My mirror moment came when, after all my efforts to keep my family together, I suddenly realized that the kids were playing us against each other as if we were already divorced. I was not doing them any favors by prolonging the discord.