detail of the Arnolfini Portrait, Jan van Eyck, 1434. as usual the cultural references on this blog are bang up to date.

I have one of these convex mirrors in my bathroom. it is one of the first things I bought for this house. it is a brass mirror – 1950’s maybe? – shaped like a porthole with little knobbles round the edge. it is pleasingly inaccurate in the image it reflects (unless I am actually Gerard Depardieu).

I know what I see in this mirror is a distorted image. what I am learning is that much of how I see myself is equally distorted through years of negative thought patterns. I am trying to unpick this and to see more clearly.

other perceptions also need to be re-examined in the light of my new self knowledge. in particular, my own perceptions of my role and my capabilities. one thought that I have read recently (on Zen Habits I think, sorry Leo, can’t find exact post) is about how we perceive what we can achieve. Leo says, and I paraphrase:

‘we consistently overestimate what we can achieve in a short period of time, and underestimate what we can achieve in a longer period of time’.

I don’t think he cited any references in his article. but it is definitely borne out by what I do. writing to do lists that can never be done in a day. then being downcast and disheartened when they never get done. and deciding I am a useless fuckup who could therefore never achieve any major goals. (and yes, Lucy, this is over-generalising AND catastrophising!)

such as, for example, running a half marathon. because, you know, when I can’t run for longer than two minutes how could I possibly run for over two hours? how? training. that is how. one day at a time. which is what I have done over the last three years.

and how much do you love reading the posts of people who have hit sober milestones? there was a corker from MTM yesterday if you haven’t already seen it. at 98 days, overflowing with the realisation of how far she has come. further than she ever thought possible. and reality in every line – and the truth is that we can achieve far more in a longer period of time than we thought we were capable of. and that truth has the ability to liberate us from despair, if we will allow it.

so the next time I think, “I can’t do this, I can’t climb this mountain, it is too hard”, I will try to remember the image misrepresented in the mirror. to believe that more is possible in the long run than I can envisage today.