Marnie can irritate me. At times just looking at her can set my nerves on edge, especially if she begins launching into her tales of woe and very explicit repetition of her victim-hood, not to mention martyrdom. I can always tell when she’s going to do this. There’s a downturn to her mouth and her eyes begin blinking furiously. She sighs, and then begins the latest chapter in her soap-operatic life.

Just looking at her can set my nerves on edgeThere are times when I tell myself that Marnie loves being a victim, maybe even suffers from some kind of martyr complex. It’s as if she’s trying to reinvent a famous heroine burnt by the stake or even upstage that character by igniting the flames herself. I don’t like it when I come to this conclusion. I should be a better person. But what’s a woman to do? It happens so often that it becomes tedious.

There are days though, when my yetzer tov, my good inclination, struggles for ascendancy and succeeds in pushing me a rung up my rickety spiritual ladder. It is on these days that I cut Marnie some slack. It is then that I try to understand where she’s coming from.

Marnie needs attention. It’s as simple as that. She needs to be accepted and she needs to be loved and she needs constant reassurance. When I repeat these facts silently, over and over like some kind of mantra, I feel better about her and then I try to listen to her, I mean, really listen. And by listening I can sense the vulnerability within her, the pain, inability to cope, and her fear of making a decision and sticking to it. And I am also thankful that her problems aren’t mine, because problems she does have, problems that would cut off the blood supply to any mother’s heart, problems that never seem to go away. Yes, I'm certainly glad that Marnie’s problems aren’t mine. I’m also glad that her inside stuff doesn’t mirror mine. Or does it?

One day, after an emotional tug-a-war with my friend, I picked up a book that contained the sayings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson – The Lubavitcher Rebbe - whose memory and teachings become more of a blessing for me each day. I read excerpts from this book each morning and it speaks to my soul often times, making it soar. Though, I must be honest here. I tend to do my soaring if I can apply all the good stuff to me and the way I live my life. On this day, though, my yetzer tov was having a bit of a hissy fit, trying to get my attention. I wasn’t inclined to listen because I had come to a section in the book that wouldn’t be particularly flattering if I admitted that it applied to me. “People are mirrors for each other,” the Rebbe quoted from the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chassidic movement), “If you see the faults of another person and they don’t leave you alone, it is truly your own faults that you see.”

I had to admit that I harbored some of Marnie’s quirksThen I thought of Marnie and our recent conversation. “Was she my mirror?” I wondered. Yes, in some ways she was. I had to admit that I harbored some of Marnie’s quirks. Not that I ever voiced my problems to whoever would listen. But there have been times when I’ve wanted to. There have been times when my hypersensitivity got the best of me, times when I nursed my perceived hurts and slights, even expanding on them until they almost took on a life of their own. During these times I wanted to spill it all to anyone who crossed my path.

Also, like Marnie, I often lack the courage to say what needs to be said. And yes, I too, have been needy. Like Marnie, I need to be reassured that the time I've spent has been for good and I also need acceptance. Most people have these same needs, I think. We just express them differently, some in a healthy, balanced way, and others, like Marnie, in a way that teeters dangerously towards self-absorption, a wobble that could lead to isolation from family and friends. No one wants this, neither Marnie nor I.

The Baal Shem Tov said that it was a blessing to be shown our faults within this divinely created mirror. Because, without the looking glass device, we might never detect our own character flaws, flaws that I, at least, tend to bury deeply and deny. And if they’re buried, how could I possibly correct them? How could I become the woman that I want to be? More importantly, how could I possibly become the woman that G‑d wants me to be?

Understanding the mirror effect helps me to truly empathize with Marnie, realizing that we share common fears and needs. Understanding this teaches me true compassion and gives me the opportunity to listen to what she is really saying. “I’m in this world too. I matter. And I’m in pain or afraid.” And understanding this helps me to build on my own strengths and weed out tendencies that hold me back from the path that G‑d has placed me on. If I was unable to find the courage to look deeply into that looking glass, then personal insights would be lost and the spiritual progress I might make would be hindered.

When all is well in Marnie’s world, she is a delight to be around. She reflects the light and her mirror sends light into my own world, hopefully, reflecting the positive qualities within both of us. May Marnie make great strides in reflecting the light and may I find the courage to look deeply into any looking glass that may come my way.