The Man in the Mirror

Comments 43
Artwork by Suzanne Marie Leclair
Artwork by Suzanne Marie Leclair

I see him every morning when I step out of the shower.

We stare at one another again while I’m brushing my teeth before bed.

The guy in the mirror.

I used to wonder what he would look like in his mid-thirties. Back when he had his entire life ahead of him.

That kid was alright. Balanced. Unsure what he wanted to do with his life, but totally sure of himself.

That kid got pretty good grades in school. Got along pretty well socially. Loved by his parents. Confident with girls. Hopeful and optimistic about his future.

You could see it in his eyes. Good things were coming.

And he knew it.

What if You Couldn’t Wake From That Dream?

If you never woke from a very realistic, lucid dream, how would you ever know the dream world from the real world?

That makes me think about self-identity. How we view ourselves. And just how in tune with reality that image really is.

When you’re a confident kid growing up, and you start hearing about girls with eating disorders and whatnot in high school and college because they have an unhealthy and distorted self-image, or worse, the suicidal kids who feel completely unloved and useless, it’s not something you can understand.

At least it wasn’t for me.

I could never make sense of the beautiful people who didn’t know they were beautiful and would engage in self-destructive behavior chasing something that wasn’t real.

And I don’t just mean people with physical beauty. Because as we age and become less superficial, we discover beauty isn’t always packaged like cover girls and diamonds and sunsets.

We find it in a mother holding her newborn. In an elderly couple holding hands in the park. In a story about a college basketball player and his relationship with a gorgeous young cancer patient.

Somehow, as I aged, I lost confidence.

You watch your best friends go on to have beautiful marriages.

Highly successful careers.

Embark on ambitious adventure.

And you start reflecting on your life and comparing it to others or to what you thought it would look like when you were young and hopeful and optimistic.

But your life doesn’t look like that at all.

Your marriage doesn’t feel happy.

The bills pile up.

There are no vacations to exotic locations.

You don’t have fun with friends all the time like you used to because everyone’s busy.

You lose your job.

Family members die.

The downward spiral depresses you.

You’re not strong enough.

You’re a disappointment.

Everything falls apart.

You lose yourself.

Two Decades Later

Sometimes I’ll just stand there and stare. Letting the eye contact linger between me and the man in the mirror.

Who are you?

The hazel eyes have more green flecks than I remember.

There are signs of aging around them. Every glance at a clock or calendar sounds just a little bit louder than it used to.

Tick, tick, tick.

The gray hair is really coming in. A daily reminder that the kid I remember is, in a lot of ways, gone forever.

I miss seeing the self-assured smile. The eye twinkle that only hope can provide. A face free from the rigors of life’s occasionally cruel twists.

One of the girls I met recently calls me “gorgeous.”

She says it all the time. About that same face I see in the mirror. About that same body that can and should be so much more than it is.

I don’t see gorgeous. I still see the guy my wife left.

But I’m working to look past that. I’m working every day.

This morning, one of my co-workers—a guy who’s been married a long time and has a somewhat warped sense of what my life is really like—said casually in conversation that I was “awesome at meeting women.”


Maybe I should let him read some old posts.

What is he seeing that I’m not?

He’s seeing something. My social life is inching its way back toward vibrancy. My dating life is light years ahead of where it was throughout every second of 2013.

Maybe there’s a lesson here. About perspective. About relativism. About what it means to be an adult.

We have two possible outcomes every day and most of the time, it’s a choice: Live or die.

If we’re going to be alive, we’re going to have mountains of shit pile up on us. And I choose life.

I think being an adult is a little like being a muscle.

I think once we’ve matured and stopped growing, we need to be broken down and put back together bigger and stronger.

To grow. To be tough enough. To be tall enough to ride.

I’m not gorgeous. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I’m not awesome at meeting women. But I met some. And they like me.

And maybe I waste too much time worrying about what I’m not, or what I used to be.

And maybe you do, too.

And maybe the people we see in the mirror aren’t who we think they are.

Maybe they’re something more.

Maybe they’re tough enough.

Maybe they’re tall enough.

43 thoughts on “The Man in the Mirror”

  1. Stand tall, Matt. Following the failing of any marriage — regardless of “fault” or just plain incompatibility — there is a rediscovery process that eventually leads to seeing that reflection in a different way. There’s no set timeline for this process, but reading this I can see you are moving forward at your own pace; that is important. Too fast or slow, and you either miss realizations because you didn’t take enough time, or because you’re lingering too long. Recognizing — and more importantly, accepting — the things that others appreciate about you is the first step to understanding and appreciating those things about yourself. Oftentimes, those things were simply forgotten over time and compromise.

    I’m glad to hear you are finding those things about yourself again, and letting others do the same.

    Cheers to you, Matt.

    1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment, Ned.

      I’m am very, very blessed that my life is what it is today versus 12 months ago.

      I try to say “thank you” every day.

      Appreciate the encouragement. Cheers to you, as well.

    1. It certainly seems that way.

      But I don’t want to believe it has to be like that. I’m going to try hard to prove that theory wrong.

      Thank you so much for taking time to read and saying kind things about this.

  2. You are tall enough, believe me, we all see it. Although, as a whole one never views oneself though other peoples eyes-maybe we should? Or at least, try too? xx

    1. That’s what I’m thinking. At least during those times when people are encouraging us and lifting us up.

      Because the opposite is true when people are trying to tear us down. We should not listen to them.

      Kind of a catch-22 there.

      But we get to decide what we want to listen to and what we don’t.

      And it seems wise to pay more attention to the good stuff.

  3. You know Matt, my man is not gorgeous in the traditional sense of the word but in my eyes he is. When someone truly cares about you, it is not how you look that they will care about. It is how you make them feel. That is more beautiful than anything superficial.
    You are learning and growing and like a muscle – you require stretching before you grow stronger.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you were my son I would be so proud of you. However, I’ll just be proud of you anyway! 🙂

    1. Really, really love this comment and just had to say so. x So totally true.

      And we are all here for you Matt, each and every one of us pushing forward through our own trials and emerging differently and hopefully stronger on the other side. Hugs. Your posts always make me feel so reflective and inspired.

  4. I just turned 32 myself, and I identify with so much that you said here. It makes me think that maybe the thirties is one of the most sobering periods of life because it’s the time when you DO look in the mirror and realize that all those dreams you had for yourself when you were younger were never realized in the way you imagined they would be. That said, teens and twentysomethings are kind of idiots, and the life I imagined for my future self when I was that age was completely impractical and dumb. I mean, I thought I’d live in a three bedroom house with a two-car garage while working at Starbucks and having time (and money) to go to the Gap three times a week to buy toe socks.

    1. It’s a little scary how true this is.

      That said, it must also be true in reverse. We must also be able to wake up one day and have to pinch ourselves because of how good everything is,

  5. I really like this one 😉 . You tie it all together from who you were to who you are to the theme with which you began the blog. You are ok! 🙂 Really ok. 😀 Ok, Mr Awesome… 😀

    1. You’re the sweetest. I have issues. Many. I promise. But there is merit in the trying. Thank you for thinking so. 🙂

  6. Lately I’ve been trying to remind myself that our exteriors are just a “shell” that houses or carries our interiors — our heart and soul – – around on this earth. And so when I look in the mirror, I tell myself every “shell” cracks a bit when it ages, but the main thing is to make sure your “yolk” is really Pure and Good. Oh and don’t let it get too “scrambled” or “hard-boiled.” Alright, you know where I was trying to go with this….and it wasn’t breakfast!

      1. Thank you! I make it up as I go.
        And am constantly concerned people might think it’s stupid. Appreciate the smile!

  7. I had to wait until I stopped hearing Michael Jackson’s version of Man in the Mirror before I could read this. Mainly because that song takes me back to my high school days which were not pleasant and that is not who I see in the mirror anymore. I have been feeling aware of all my ‘smile lines’ lately realising that the face I know so well is changing. I had been feeling a bit sad about that until the other day in one of my tango classes an older woman joined us and as I met her and introduced myself she smile and I saw how beautiful she was, comfortable with herself. That’s how I want to be 🙂

    1. We can only be what we are in a given moment. Seems foolish to not try and enjoy it as much as possible. Smiling always helps.

      Hope you have a great weekend!

  8. I had a coworker complaining about a picture that someone posted on FB of her at a wedding. She was horrified at how her arms looked. I told her, people don’t see the same flaws we see in ourselves. The look at you to see how their flaws compare. For example, I bet she looks at ever woman who’s wearing a sleeveless shirt to see how their arms look…and they are looking to see if she had neck flab, or crows feet.

    Hm…I wonder if I’m making sense.

    I too am often amazed at what people find attractive about me, or find I have a strength in. I can give you at least 5 legitimate (in my own mind) reasons why I do NOT have a great smile…however, I get complimented on it all the time. Once even by a Polish woman who could barely speak english but told me I have a very “bright” smile. I give people my smile freely…but when I look in the mirror, or am posing for a picture, I get self conscious and look stupid. I don’t know what they see…but I’m glad someone see’s it.

    I tend to think, we should believe people when they tell us we are good at something we think we are a complete failure at. They don’t see us through our own fears…they see us through theirs. Maybe we could build on that a little…spread it around. Compliment people more…cause what they see as beauty in you, is more likely what they hate most about themselves.

    (if this sounds a little choppy or odd, I’m exhaused!!! Feel free to clean it up a bit, I have faith you’ll get what I’m saying!!)

    1. You often write things that really stick out as particularly insightful.

      “What they see as beauty in you is more likely what they hate most about themselves.”

      That’s amazing, I think.

      Have a beautiful weekend, Dawn. 🙂

  9. Great last line. I love this style of writing. I too have been in an ultra-reflective phase and my writing shows it. You sometimes strike me as the male version of me in the way your thoughts flow. We would make great pals I believe. And I can’t even see you or your reflection! Great piece. Best~ Julie

  10. We never know how strong we are until we’re tested. You’re coming through with flying colors Matt 🙂 And what’s more, you are helping others along the way. That’s an amazing thing to be doing. Through pain you are experiencing growth and helping others to grow with you.
    No wonder we are all becoming dedicated followers of MBTTTR.

    1. It means a lot that you think I’m actually helping people. A happy accident that I hope can continue. Thank you so much for your kindness.

  11. Maybe I should start looking at the mirror a little harder… I want to find who I used to be. Sheesh… I’m relatively certain I’m too young to be thinking this way…
    Anyway, I definitely think you can write a book. If you do, I would find, buy, and read it. Multiple times.

    1. Thank you for reading and saying this. I don’t know what way you’re thinking or how old you are. But you’re never too young to think. I didn’t start doing it until I was 30.

  12. Pingback: The Inconvenient Truth About Divorce One Year Later | Must Be This Tall To Ride

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Matt Fray

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