It is always easiest to look outward.
Our eyes direct our focus at the world around us; we are trained to see the colors, shapes, and people as they exist in front of our faces. We react to what we see, and when we can’t see everything, we fill in the blanks ourselves. We make assumptions, we create stories. Labels are crafted this way; black ink is stamped onto theoretical white strips of fabric, sewn onto skin with the tightest of sutures.
We don’t like to admit that our perceptions of the world aren’t perceptions at all; rather, they’re reflections of ourselves. Our eyes are not telescopes; we want to believe that we can see every last detail, every blade of grass, every breath – but, in fact, we do not. We cannot grasp the fact that our eyes are actually mirrors, and every last object that we visualize is merely another version of ourselves that has deceptively shifted its shape.
Our surroundings are colored by our own experiences; this is why the sky is bluer for some more than others, why the clouds can be rabbits or skulls, why cold air can feel refreshing or paralyzing. There are a host of adjectives to give life to every aspect of the day.
The words we choose are also symbols. They tell stories of who we are.
Most people don’t realize this – you and I included. Most people drift through space, attaching emotions and connotations to various people and places they encounter. Most people believe they are in control of these associations. That they are the ones who define their world – but in reality, it is the other way around.
Just because we give a name to something doesn’t mean that’s what it is. The truth is that there are multiple perspectives for every view – we exist in a universe where dozens of realities can exist simultaneously. We are living, breathing, walking science fiction novels, and we don’t even know it. We are stuck inside the pages of our own “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel; we are living through a story with dozens of different endings, with chapters that remain locked until we find a certain key to set them loose.
But we won’t know this until we look for it. And that involves looking at ourselves first.
At some point, we must embrace who we are – in our entirety, not just the parts that make us feel beautiful and loved. We cannot hide nor run from the pieces of us that are weaker than we’d like to admit, or the ugly thoughts that creep into our brains as much as we try to push them out. We must recognize that our scowl at another human is really a scowl at ourselves; the disdain that creeps in over the most mundane situations is actually directed right at our own hearts, annoyance oozing through arteries, disgust spreading through our veins. We cannot push hate outward without it boomeranging back to its source in some way.
There’s an undeniable strength in turning the mirrors inward. It feels foreign at first – strangely ugly – the sense of not knowing what we are looking at. It’s like a song you heard more than a decade ago, one that you used to know all the words to but have since forgotten. You’d rather not listen to it because it makes you sad.
You’d rather not look because it makes you sad.
But tell me this – when we are left alone with only ourselves, when there is no one else to judge, and there are no more clouds to name, and the sky is colorless – what else is there? Ultimately, we are in control of the stories that we live. We have the power to skip ahead or remain stuck on a page for years. We are simultaneously the protagonists and the antagonists of these strange sci-fi / reality / fiction / horror / romance novels that play out over the course of our lives.
And yet, we are also the authors. No one else is holding the pen. We blindly create what we assume comes next. What would happen if we chose to create without assumption? Decide who you want to be, decide how you want your story to unfold. Decide what comes next.