So I thought this time apart that we agreed to try out over Lent was going to bring us closer together. I know that you felt forced into it but I genuinely believed it would be good for us. I thought I would appreciate you more and we would be reunited again at the end of 40 days with our relationship refreshed.
I am sorry to say that so far our separation has had the opposite effect as it has given me space to reassess my priorities and do some soul searching.
On the surface we have so much in common but lately it's hit me that it's only superficial things. We don't have anything to talk about except for what I'm wearing or what my hair is doing. Occasionally you ask me how I'm feeling but that's pretty rare. More often than not you point out my insecurities and kind of put me down. I never really noticed it before but now that I've been able to get some air the difference in my confidence has been remarkable.
You want me to focus on image and how others see me. But the thing is that you are a far harsher critic than most people I encounter. The extent to which you prompt me to scrutinise myself is unnecessary and damaging. I've realised that actually it is not my image that matters because I myself am a reflection. I am God's reflection.
I was given gifts to use to glorify God. I am blessed with Christ's bounty. Physical attributes can be a blessing but they don't do much for other people. I have been thinking about the kind of life that really makes an impression and is worth striving for and I don't think that looking good comes into it much at all.
Beauty is subjective. I look at you and see something different each time depending on my mood. It's kind of a drag. Becoming aware of how many times a day I feel like I have to check in with you is definitely bordering on obsessive. Refocusing these thoughts on God is already having an extremely positive effect on my day. You are not the centre of the universe, which is freeing rather than dis-empowering. It's a relief to remember that every move, every action, every blemish, every outfit does not necessarily make it on to anyone else's radar.
It's true that there are certain things you can tell about a person from looking at them. When I look at you I can guess my age, what time of year it is, what my activity might be for the day or even how much sleep I've had but anything beyond that would be an assumption. You can't tell what my passions are, what I've been through, what I'm good at or what I struggle with. You may explain some things about me but you do not define me.
My time away from you has made me more aware of the snap judgements I make about other people and how pointless they are. God loves them regardless of whether I appreciate their outfit or feel envious of their looks. And God loves me whether I'm having a bad hair day or whether my thighs look large to me. What it comes down to is whether I want to let you constantly remind me of it and let it affect my day, taking away from trying to be a positive influence in my surroundings. I don't think having a thigh gap is necessary for reflecting God's image and in the end it all comes down to priorities.
For now I think I need to continue with this separation. Maybe I will be able to let you back into my life in a measured way because I won't deny that you have your uses. I do appreciate the view of my eyebrows that you provide me with for example. I just can't risk you taking back the hold on me that you had. I hope you're okay.
With fond memories,
In case it was unclear, for Lent this year I have embarked on a mirror fast along with my flatmate. If you're interested in our reflections on ignoring our reflection then check out whatmightbewritten.wordpress.com
Helen McIntosh is a 21 year old trying to create more than she consumes. She completed a degree in English and Theatre in 2013 and for her writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new. With a childhood that consisted of moving around, home is where her family is which for now is Blenheim but where she is in Wellington at the moment is pretty great too.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html