As an infant I had an Alice in Wonderland pinafore dress complete with hand-embroidered flowers and butterflies on the bodice of the apron, my mother kept it for years in the cedar chest because it was so pretty. In my thirties, recognizing that fate was not going to bring a lover and new husband and subsequently children to my life, I gave it to someone who had just had a baby girl. I thought of this dress for the first time in years last night because of the words of two people – one known and one a virtual acquaintance met through OKCupid whose process of discovering ‘me’ took him to my Twitter, Linkedin and blog accounts (and the post you are now reading).
Alice, as we all know, found herself able to see the parallel and converse of her own ‘real world’ by walking through the looking glass above her fireplace mantel in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 sequel to Alice in Wonderland. It is the clarity of vision, the discovery of self of which Alice’s various adventures within the chaos offered by tea parties, card games and chess pieces, fantastical creatures, portmanteau words and jabberwocky that always so fascinated me – our own lives are not so different if you think about it! Why do we run so fast and stay in exactly the same place? Why is that we forget the basics of our identity as we grow older? Why is it so often the case that someone else can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves?
The first time my girlfriend Jennifer wrote that my parentage should be attributed to the (unlikely) coupling of these two great authors I balked, scoffed, dismissed and was more than a little humbled.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
― Anaïs Nin
Ah well, therein lies the truth – I can state unequivocally that my fictional mother was quite, literally, speaking all of our truths with those epic words. But Jennifer sees me with clarity and encourages (sometimes to the point of annoyance) for me to own my essential being and talents. The symphony of each of us is often of far greater quality than the critical filter we unjustly apply to ourselves. Your best friends are supposed to build you up and make you stronger (though I confess I have had friends who claimed that mantle trimmed in ermine who, upon reflection, used me meanly to raise themselves up), helping to tweak your failings to improve you with kindness, but what of strangers? To receive the following blessing to my labors and SUCH A MONIKER makes one breathless!
“Dear incredible, articulate, Teresa,
who am I to judge your motivations for doing anything? I just had a moment of whiplash from initially considering you a distant alien in Sweden who I could blithely say any fool thing to without any possibility of repercussion – and then finding that you were much closer to home. Possibly, potentially… maybe… conceivably… y’know *bashfully blushing* …someone I might be able to actually date. Maybe… possibly… That is the game here after all.
I have a weakness for writers. My ex is a published author and a brilliant scholar as well as an even more gifted novelist. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a horribly horribly bad thing. Probably both.
Anyway – I don’t know where you are – or what you’re about except that you’re more than a blogger or a writer of a memoir. You’re a philosopher of love. …and that makes me a little bit weak in the knees.”
A philosopher of love! Oh.
Which brings me to this image of a cake that I baked and sent to various friends last January… on receipt my friend Patrick texted back “tease” and I replied “if I put that on a business card do you think it will help my love life?” to which he replied – “your life is love”. A widower in France with two small children wrote over the weekend –
“Tu as insuffler en mon cœur l’envie, le désir, l’amour, l’amitié et la vie, mon âme ne saurait préserver plus longtemps sa quiétude tant sans toi le monde m’apparaît morne, vide. Vide de sens, de charme et de couleur, de passion, de sentiment et d’ardeur.”
My French is improving but allow me to rely upon SDL Translation with modification to actually not have this sound like a 19th century romance novel with the sweeping use of ‘thou hast’ and ‘thee’:
You have breathed into my heart envy, desire, love, friendship and life, my soul cannot continue to exist in quietude, without you the world is empty to me; empty of meaning, of charm and color, passion, feeling and vigor.
My girlfriend Farrah, and a mother of two, to whom I expressed my concern over being up to the responsibility of being a stepmom to someone’s young children wrote: “All you need is love Terr and you have that in abundance. […] But, believe me, you know more than you think.”
My point is this – it takes repetition over time for us to embrace how other people see us, sometimes you have to stand perfectly still to own your greatest self. You must give yourself what others give – encouragement, compassion and praise. Honour what is good (or great) about the filter with which other people view you and be smart enough to toss the ugly stuff aside as my fictional father John Steinbeck so perfectly offered:
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