Navigating the Broken Glass of Life

This piece originally appeared in my blog. Since we are all feeling like we are on broken glass right now, we can all relate to this one.

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Walking on, walking on broken glass” Annie Lennox


A few years ago, I had an intriguing dream that I still remember. I was in my house looking around my bedroom. I decided to leave the house for some reason. I walked down my steps and saw my dresser mirror shattered. As I walked around the living room and into the dining room, I saw broken glass everywhere. I stepped around it. The dream ended before I made it out the door.

My dreams work very much like my thought process does, as a series of random ideas that connect in places that most humans don’t connect them. A few years ago, I dreamed that a deer was talking to me. Who besides your average 5-year-old dreams of talking animals? In any case, some of my dreams are memorable. Some are not. This one stayed with me because it made me think of all the symbolism inherent in glass, intact and broken.

Mirror, mirror

As an English major and all-around literature glutton, I love symbolism. Mirrors are fraught with symbolic meaning. Those closest to us hold up metaphorical mirrors when we need to see what’s important. Of course, the reflection that stares back isn’t exactly what other people are viewing. Sometimes, we see what’s actually there. Sometimes, we don’t. One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite Bollywood movies, Umrao Jaan, showed the main character, a courtesan, looking into a mirror. Her face is dispassionate as she wipes it down. She sees what’s in the mirror, and she knows she can’t wipe it away. During the film, she tries to change her circumstances and her life. However, in the end, she finds she can’t. Her simple act of wiping the mirror down with no emotion on her face at once shows her acceptance of her reality and makes her heroic as opposed to tragic.

Conversely, a broken mirror can mean a distorted self-image or an ending of old habits and ways. It can be a refusal to see things as they are. For some, broken glass or mirrors can mean an end to something negative, overcoming obstacles.

Knowing where to step

In my dream, I walked around the broken glass. I knew exactly where to step to avoid getting cuts on my feet. I don’t know if I made it out the door without a cut or a scratch. Given the navigation skills I have accrued in my life, I know I walked out unscathed.

In my life, I have learned where to step without injury. Once or twice, I have been bruised, scratched, and slashed, but I always recovered. I always made it out the door. I always will. Except now, I have to maneuver around less and less glass.

Like the courtesan in the movie, I wipe the mirror accepting my reality. The difference is: I smile at my reality now. There’s no reason not to. I continue to navigate through the broken glass and move on to better realities.

As we all navigate the broken glass, let’s find better realities.

Former teacher who retired early to pursue a passion for writing. Personal development content writer and fiction author. Dog mom.

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