By Alexa Johns
I just finished up my mirror work. It’s a daily ritual where I get a mirror, look myself straight in the eyes, and affirm kind things about myself. It’s a habit I’ve now been doing since college. In many ways, it’s helped me grow self-confidence, learn to trust myself, and really be there for myself along the way. The science behind it is pretty cool, too. Basically, when we say something to ourselves while looking into our own eyes, it’s like a direct message to our subconscious. And our subconscious, often referred to as the “soul,’ is known as “power-without-direction.” But we, being the conscious aspect of ourselves, give it direction through our thoughts and words. The super-conscious self, otherwise known as the “God, or higher-self” illuminates our pathway. In Freudian theory, it’s also called the “id,” “ego,” and “super- ego.”
Since many beliefs, behaviors, and habits are made subconsciously, I like to deliberately re-program positive messages about myself – to myself. Looking back at the affirmations I’ve used through the years, it’s incredible how a simple positive affirmation, spoken aloud, that once felt like a lie is now not only my truth, but in a lot of ways, a part of my everyday reality. It makes a lot of sense to me that the eyes would be such a powerful portal to deeper communication with the self. In fact, in most of our lives, we were given messages, negative or positive, by someone looking us straight in the eyes. For instance, I got in trouble a lot as a kid, often scolded and told some bullshit that I believed from teachers, coaches, religious leaders, and even my parents by looking me in the eyes. On the other hand, my nana sure did an excellent job of giving me messages of love and self-confidence by looking into my eyes, telling me how wonderful I was. It’s funny how I allowed both to become true for me, both the positive and negative messages. Why? Because I assimilated, believed, and then created a reality that confirmed my beliefs. Long story short, my mirror work practice helps me undo the unhealthy bullshit I’ve believed, while planting positive seeds of change, love, and beautiful things I’d love to experience in their place. It’s incredible how something as simple as saying “I love you,” while looking in the mirror, can evoke such deep emotions. In fact, it took me quite a while to have the ability to say those words. I had to start with, “Alexa, I am willing to learn to like you.” That was the start, soon followed by, “Alexa, I forgive you for not being who and how I wanted you to be.” Fuck! It was some deep work, but it did just that, and it worked. Now, I look at myself every day in the mirror and say, “I love you, Alexa, exactly as you are.” Love heals and harmonizes every area of life, so “I love myself” is definitely a good affirmation that I’ll keep using.
Anyways, tonight I wanted to write about something that’s been on my heart for a while now. I found myself at another cliff in life, attempting to jump off in the faith that I’ll have wings to get me to a place – that I don’t know for sure exists yet. What I mean is that there is an ideal, a dream for myself that I have in mind, and the only evidence of its possibility of existing is deep within my heart. I’m finding that it’s taking great courage to wake up and take action on things, that to others, may seem impossible to achieve. When I find myself at these “Divine Decisions,” as I call them, I always seem to turn back to my mirror work and my music. In this instance, my song “The Other Side,” has been resonating with me a lot. I was in a dire place in my life when, suddenly, it came to me out of nowhere. I often call it the answer to my prayer that I was habitually praying every day back in 2013 when I originally wrote it. I was in the throes of turmoil, and giving up didn’t feel like a choice, but somedays I felt it was the only, inevitable option. Then, one night after hearing my favorite author, Louise Hay, talk about the healing benefits of mirror work, I decided to do it. Sobbing into the mirror, I said, “Alexa, I’m willing to love you and accept you, even if you never get better than this. I’m willing to be your friend. I’m willing to be here with you, to support you while you are going through this. I’m willing to love you anyway.” Boom!!! The song “The Other Side” came through me like a lightning bolt from the heart. It was as if it was a message from a higher, more healed version of me or something, speaking to who I was in that time/space reality. It was close to two in the morning. My sister and cousin, who I was living with at the time, were still sleeping. I snuck downstairs with my guitar and started to strum lightly. I began singing. “Hey, pretty girl, what ya doing on the floor? Think you gave it your all, and you can’t give anymore. Cause you tried to be perfect, tried to please, and all this pressure has got you on your knees. It’s hard having faith when the answers are unknown, when the path isn’t paved, and you don’t know where to go. But if you only knew what lies ahead, oh sweet baby, you wouldn’t hurt this bad! So, hold on one more night, cause everything is working out just right. Sometimes you just can’t see the bigger picture from a broken road. Right now, you feel lost, but you’re almost home. Hang on to that hope, don’t let it die. Soon, you’ll be standing on the other side.”
When I get an inspired thought or song idea, I immediately reach for my phone, and start recording in my “Dictaphone” app. A few days later, when I listened to it back, I tried to make out what I was singing so I could write it down. I could barely understand myself because I was crying so hard in the recording. Luckily, I remembered most of it, and felt it was time for the second verse to be written. At that time, my little brother Luke, was also in a really tough place in his life. I won’t go into the details, because his isn’t my story to share, but basically, after a family scandal, Luke lost his ability to play football his senior year. Florida State had revoked their offer. It was a tumultuous experience that was very public, and I still wish he never had to go through it. He later committed to play at Cornell, but ultimately passed on that offer because he felt he had to take a chance playing in the Pac 12. When I was writing this song, Luke was a walk-on quarterback at Washington State University. He was last in a line of quarterbacks, and every day he had to fight for a starting position, continually having to prove himself. I wrote the second verse to him as a loving message that I could only send through song (although it never really felt like it was coming from me personally, it felt bigger than that). He had to take a catering job just to get by, and it was an embarrassing moment the night that he had to serve dinner to the very football team and coaches he longed to be a starter for. He battled with believing in himself and overcame so much. I’m genuinely so proud of him. I think my brother is absolutely amazing and has a heart of gold. Luke worked his ass off, and somehow, he ended up doing it! He beat out the other quarterbacks, secured the starting QB role, and went on to break many Pac-12 records. After college, he was drafted, and played in the NFL. His journey has been a struggle, yet he’s still such a fighter. He inspires me every day, and I feel so grateful to be his sister. This is the verse I wrote for him: “Hey lonely boy, hurting bad, but you won’t cry, cause you’re supposed to be strong, we’re supposed to think you’re fine, but it’s heavy. That world you’re carrying on your shoulders, and you’re afraid you’re losing grip. So, hold on one more night, cause everything is working out just right. Sometimes you just can’t see the bigger picture from a broken road. Right now, you feel lost, but you’re almost home. Hang on to that hope, don’t let it die. Soon, you’ll be standing on the other side!”
I took my nearly finished song to a co-writer I was working with at the time named Patricia Summers. She helped me finish the bridge of the song. Technically, it was already done, but something about it still didn’t feel complete. Then, that night when doing my mirror work, it hit me. The very words that I was saying in the mirror at that time, I realized needed to be in the song. The affirmation was I was saying was, “I’m enough, worthy of, being loved for who I am.” Those words became the chorus outro and completed the song. Once it was finished, I knew I had to record it, and I had a brilliant idea. It was 2016, and my parents’ divorce had been going on for a year. It was a hellish time. There were restraining orders involved, family members being subpoenaed, a lot of money being fought over, and many painful realizations that arose during litigation. Our family was more fractured than ever.
Luckily, I had my husband Ty; otherwise, I don’t know how I would’ve coped. I had been praying for healing for my family, and then I got an idea. Later that day, I walked into the studio, sat down with my producer John Palmieri, and told him, “I want my family to sing the outro to the song.” He gave me a puzzled look, and then I explained. I said I would individually ask each member of my family to sing, send a clip of the song’s outro to John, so that he could add each person’s individual clip to the song. They wouldn’t know that the other family members would be doing the same thing. Surprisingly, John was game, so I immediately got to work on getting everyone to sing.
That December, Ty and I flew out to California to spend New Year’s with my dad and his fiancé at the time. I had packed my recording equipment with me. Before we went out for the night, I had my dad sit with me in the hotel room to practice the song together. He was a good sport about it, and I got samples of his recording and then sent it to John. I did the same thing with my mom when I flew out to Utah in February for her birthday that year. My sister lived in Nashville, so she just came into the studio to sing her part. I sent my brother some garage band recording instructions to record it from his laptop since he was in Washington. I also had Ty and his parents get into the studio to sing when they came to visit us. It was a cool “Nashville experience” for them. Lastly, I asked a few of my good friends to sing. They had shown up and been there for Ty and me through the family difficulties we experienced, and it was nice to have their support. My producer John did a beautiful job adding everyone’s voices to the song. When it all came together, the words “I’m enough, worthy of, being loved for who I am” sounded like a choir, personalized just for me!
I was driving home the first time I heard the whole song finished. I had to pull over on the side of the road because I was sobbing so hard and couldn’t stop. Since the divorce, it was the first time that my family had “come together.” We used to be so close, and listening to all their voices singing the most beautiful words gave me a sense of healing and hope. In some way, that song unites my family forever, and still brings tears to my eyes, even just writing about it now. I couldn’t have foreseen how beautiful that song would be to perform live. Every time I get to the end of it, I have the audience sing with me, and it recreates that choral type of upliftment every time. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to sing it with thousands of people across all of America, and It’s the most fantastic feeling to be united with strangers singing, “I’m enough, worthy of, being loved for who I am.”
One of my favorite show memories was when I got asked to sing inside the Nashville Parthenon, in front of the golden statue of Goddess Athena, the day of the eclipse. The voices resonated throughout the sacred building, and it was awe-inspiring. One day, after performing with my sister and Emma White at the Hilton Hotel, there was a man in the audience who stood out to me when everyone joined in for the song’s outro. About a month later, he sent me a message on Instagram, telling me that he was going through a nasty divorce when he heard me sing “The Other Side.” That night after singing with me, he wrote the affirmation “I’m enough, worthy of, being loved for who I am,” and he put it on his car’s dashboard as a reminder. I’m grateful the very song that got me through helped him get through something tough, too. Wow! The power of music. Before I finish writing, I just want to say thank you so much for reading my story, and I hope something in my experience resonates with something in yours.
For anyone in Nashville reading this, if you want to come sing this song with me, I’ll be performing it in a writers round at The Commodore on March 28th, 6:00pm. Hope to see you there!
(To download the song “The Other Side,” click the link below!) https://music.apple.com/us/album/the-other-side-single/1227900397
Sending you love, light, and some positive affirmations! -A
Very good, Miss Alexa. Wonderful story; wonderful song.
I always love seeing someone’s journey. Thanks for sharing. I could listen to you sing all day.
Appreciate your time, Sir!