The Mirror by Minnette

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My heart pounded. I could hardly breathe when I walked into the studio the first time. This was a big step. After two decades living within myself, living in doubt, denial, and insecurity, I was ready to move myself and my life into who I really felt I should be.  It wasn’t easy confronting myself in that gigantic mirror on that first day. In fact, it took every bit of courage I could muster.

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Mirrors had not always been my enemy. I was an active child, healthy and loved, and ready to enjoy life to the fullest. Around the age of sixteen, I noticed pounds creeping in as my body matured. At first, this weight gain was not big worry. I could easily lose the pounds when I needed to fit into a special dress or be ready for the beach. When my high school Home Economics teacher assigned a weight challenge as an ongoing project and part of our final grade for the school year, I jumped at the opportunity. I not only ended the year at a healthy weight, I received an A for my effort.

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As I matured into my young adult self, my ability to easily shed pounds disappeared. Soon after starting to take birth control pills, I was shocked into the realization that “THE STRUGGLE WAS REAL!” I was working at Target in Culver City, California. During a break, I walked into the restroom to see, written on the mirror with bright red lipstick, “Minnette is fat and ugly!!!  I was crushed.  My feelings were hurt.  I was embarrassed. I began to hate all mirrors.

That incident shocked me into the realization I had gained about 40 pounds since my early high school. Although I tried, it was not as easy to lose the weight as it had been before. I slimmed down some after the shock of lipstick message in the mirror, and I settled on the idea I was going to go through life as a poised, beautiful, full-figured woman who could do anything she put her mind, hard work, and dedication to.

Fast forward to 1993. I met my future husband. He not only swept me off my feet, he moved me from my home, family, and life in the city of Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio, a place where I missed the warm, friendly sun, found driving in the deep winter snow treacherous, and longed for my family and friends on the West Coast. Still, I was wrapped up in my life with the man of my life, and so, when he proposed to me in Cancun, Mexico, I felt on top of the world. We were married in 2000, and, while honeymooning in Australia and New Zealand, I realized life was truly amazing.  We were living and loving for life.

I guess, somewhere along the way, my husband and I both got comfortable.  Truthfully, in the spirit of taking responsibility for my own actions, I began to get lazy in my marriage. This was not intentional, but it is the truth. I was a mother to three young children.  My husband traveled for his business.  My mother, living in Los Angeles, fell ill and passed from cancer. Shortly after, my mother’s sister, also in Los Angeles, passed away. I missed my family. I was angry my husband was “on the road”.  I felt I was alone in taking care of everything and everyone. When my husband was home between business trips, I found him controlling, disrespectful, belittling and degrading towards me. While he was on the road, rumors of his infidelity reached me through “helpful friends”.

I became depressed. I stopped any type of exercise and physical activity, other than what it took to raise three growing, active children. I began eating too much of the wrong things. Quickly, the extra pounds came on.  My life was miserable. I got to the point where I didn’t know who I was. One pivotal day, when I looked in my dresser mirror, I did not recognize the person I saw. 

For the next three years I avoided, at all costs, looking into any mirror. I was insecure, embarrassed, and ashamed of who I had become.  I had lost myself. I because a prisoner to my bedroom.  I hated the thought of having to pull myself together to go out and face the real world.  When my presence was absolutely required, and while dreading every moment, I reached deep into my soul to find the courage to put on a big smile, all the while dying inside.

I came to the studio because I knew I was at the end.  The end of exactly what was not clear to me, but I knew I was at a point that I had to salvage myself. I wasn’t determined, I wasn’t “all in”, but I somehow knew I was at a point of survival.  Wearing workout clothes made me feel too large.  Moving quickly made me look awkward. Having others watch me made me cringe.  But I walked through those studio doors knowing I had to do this to save myself from my path of self-destruction. I was greeted by a friendly smile and upbeat music, but, when I saw the wall of mirrors, dread came over me. I was guided to a spot, I felt the beat of the music, I heard the friendly, confident voice of the instructor. I found the courage to raise my eyes and look in the mirror. I watched myself move with the others in the class.  I saw myself smile.  I saw myself confident. For the first time, in many years, I looked straight ahead at the woman in the mirror and I loved what I saw.

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