What I saw in the mirror

The old man beckoned for me to sit down. I slowly approached unsure of what was going to happen.

“I really did expect you to get here a bit sooner. Nothing can be done about that now but we’ll have to use your time wisely. I hope that, having waited so long, you’ve already learned some things.”

“What are talking about?”

“Yes. I’m sure you don’t know. You see, I tend the stream of emotion for you. As your emotions flow through you, I help to keep things smooth so that you remain as calm as possible during events. That is why, during some things, you are able to react without becoming emotional. I have been able to have the waters flowing smoothly for you at that time.”

“And when I react less than calmly?”

“Well, then my brother, Mr. Happy, has been able to create rapids and whirlpools that cause you to react in ways you normally wouldn’t if the waters were smooth.”

“So that was the other old man I saw. Mr. Happy?”

“Actually, neither of us has names but I call him Mr. Happy because he looks so happy all the time. I mean, he really enjoys making you upset.”

“And the pebbles he was tossing in the river that caused them to bubble?”

“Those come from the plane you walked across to get here. Each of those spots that looked burnt provide him with pebbles that he then tosses in the river. Each of those spots is created by an interaction between someone that didn’t go well and caused you to feel pain, sorrow, anger or something bad. Some of them still bother you today and that is why they are still smoldering. Don’t worry, everyone has them. Some just more than others.”

“So why did you expect me?”

“Well, you’ve been walking towards discovery of who you are for quite some time and I just figured you’d reach this point sooner. You see, the only way you can get rid of the emotional roller-coaster ride you seem to take is if you can build up you awareness of who you are and what is truly important in your life. Until that time arrives, you will continue to strive but continue to run into disappointment and resentment that lead you to the times of conflict. Lately, it has become apparent that you have reached that but you still didn’t want to acknowledge it. That isn’t unusual. In fact, some people reach the stage but never take this trip. They don’t get to see how time has affected them and how their emotions have become muddied and unclear because of all the pebbles being tossed in. The more pebbles available, the more I have to work and the longer it takes me to smooth out a section of the river. Lately, you’ve been making it easier for me to smooth out the river which in turn has helped you be more positive and given you strength in your relationships.

“So exactly what are you saying?”

“Well, I guess you’ve come to accept who you are, what you are doing and know want to determine how to be positive and move forward in one direction.”

“So I like myself and am a really happy guy?”

“Ha. Well not exactly. You are more aware of your strengths and weaknesses and, instead of being overbearing with your strengths, you are looking for ways that your weaknesses allow you to connect with other people and you are using your strengths to build up what is around you, finding positives in what is happening. Why do you think the whole problems at school aren’t causing you trouble? You’ve learned to accept things and look for positive solutions while not being drawn into negative battles with others. If you hadn’t learned all this, there would be no way I’d be able to sit down and talk with you like this. We’d be standing on the riverbank and I’d be sifting out pebbles as fast as I could. Now, you’ve let me catch up and given my brother less and less with which to work.”

“So now what? What does all this mean?”

“Mean? I don’t know. I’m just telling you that you are moving forward. How you use this information is like all things, up to you.”

“So ….?”

“So ….. keep on learning. Keep on trying. Don’t give in to letting others affect how you see things. And if you fall do, learn to see it and seek out ways to counter these moments. I’ve heard yoga, meditation, exercise and, well, bonding with other humans are great ways to do this.

I looked into my hands. Had I really come this far? Looking up, I was going to ask another question but the old man had moved to the edge of the river. He turned back, waved and then wasn’t there. I sat, quiet, wondering what to do next. Slowly I got up and turned around, expecting to see the plain stretch in front of me. Instead, I saw this cabin. The fire was out and the candles burned low but I wasn’t cold or anything. I got up and wandered over to the window. Looking outside, it was dark with a few stars in the skies. I caught my reflection and saw that I had a smile on my face. I was content. It felt good and that’s why I invited you over. I hope that, someday, you’ll get to make the same journey I did. Life really is a series of choices and you’re the one making the decisions.

So what have I learned? Well, I’m not really sure. I use to be worried about the image I saw in the mirror. To me, the guy looking back was getting old and wasn’t where he wanted to be. During this summer, I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be. That there was a need for me to be in the community in which I live. There was a place for me in the school and the school division and I didn’t need to be pushing the edge all the time. Ultimately, it allowed me to leave school at school this summer. I didn’t stop learning. In fact, I learned a whole lot this summer but it wasn’t the usual learning I do. It helped me appreciate the abilities of others and the need for everyone to accept where they are and use their strengths in order for synergy to really take hold.

I also learned that, for most people, technology means something else and the internet and world-wide communication isn’t even on the radar. In fact, I am farther ahead than most people and I’ll have to really work with them to coax them along. The key will be to “work with them” and not tell them. I’ll have to be a teacher at a different level as I work with staff and parents to get them to understand the complexity of the world in which many of our youth live and the growing complexity that will be our future. I look forward to the challenge.

Through it all, I’ve learned that I am responsible for me. Something I’ve said many times but finally come to understand more fully.

Why this story?

Well, I’ve spent the summer making up stories for my boys about animals, numbers, the alphabet and such. I’m not very good but it keeps them quiet and allows them to help as they give me the ideas for the stories. I thought it might be a different way to say my peace and just might entertain someone. Finally, life is a story not a script. Nothings happens like it is portrayed on tv and the world isn’t even close to flat but is really a series of spikes with areas of planes all over. I’ve also learned that I have to be happy with who I am and what I do. And it is a choice.

So, my school year began on a great note despite several things that could have given me reason to be grumpy. Instead, I’m looking for positives and finding ways to get solutions for the problems instead of complaining about them.  To all who read this, have a great school year. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


  1. Reply

    I close all of my e-mails with a Zoroastrian quote:
    Think Good Thoughts,
    Say Good Words,
    Do Good Deeds.

    It starts with your own thoughts and move on to your actions – simple and beautiful!

    Thanks for the story Kelly, I strongly believe that storytelling is a lost art, and a wonderful way to enrich learning.
    Here are a few ‘teaching metaphors’, or ‘metaphors to learn by’, that I like to use:

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