This was the pastoral scene I glimpsed from my living room window this morning. This young buck has been hovering around the house for a couple of days now; I’ve even been able to get in a couple of nice head shots of him. But there’s something incredibly soothing about this picture, framed as it is by the graceful arc of branches, the strong verticals of the trees, and that patch of sunlight streaming across the bottom.
I thought it could be even better if I could get eye contact with him, so I went out and stood on my front porch, but though the setting was the same, this picture, though it isn’t as direct, is better; there’s something about his absorption in the food that makes it more appealing.
So why is that? Is it somehow more soothing to be a spectator than to engage? Or have I projected something into the gaze of the startled deer; something that says I don’t belong, go away? And if it is the latter, how much of that is projection and how much is real?
When I was growing up my family moved several times, so I often found myself in new situations. Can it be the look on the face of the deer is reminiscent of the faces of the other children when I entered those new classrooms? Who are you, and why are you in my space? Over the years I learned that it was best to keep a low profile in new situations; to watch and learn; to stay invisible as long as possible so as not to draw undue attention to myself.
But I wasn’t born to be invisible – no one is – and so eventually parts of my personality would begin to emerge, some likeable and appealing; some less so. And, of course, I was a better fit in some environments than in others. I also incorporated characteristics from each place I lived and worked, and inevitably some of those would transfer well and others would not.
I still remember when I first moved to Bainbridge, and began singing in a women’s compline choir. Several months in one of the women turned to me and asked where I’d grown up. “In the Midwest,” I replied; “Cincinnati and Chicago.”
“Oh,” she said, “that explains that dreadful accent of yours.”
It didn’t stop me from singing in the group, but I never volunteered to read the lessons again. What is it that makes some of us so vulnerable to criticism while others – like my husband -- seem to just ride through it; to change what needs to be changed and shrug off what doesn’t seem to fit or need fixing? I had hoped to raise my children to be a bit more like their dad in that respect, but instead they, too, tend to be sensitive and overly vulnerable to criticism.
I get now that it’s not the criticism that creates that vulnerability as much as it is the voice of the inner critic, who chimes in with echoes of the past. As Brown says in my readings from Soul Without Shame this morning, “When you are attacked, you are affected primarily by becoming identified with a particular self-image from your past.
“The provoked feelings themselves are not the problem; what limits you and creates self-rejection is the self-image those feelings are associated with. Every attack you experience provokes a particular self-image…which can be traced back to some early situation in your childhood that became crystallized as this internal image… though you may think and act outwardly as if you were an adult, unconsciously you are acting like the small child you once were. It is no wonder you feel unable to function effectively.”
And now I see that that’s one of the reasons I’m spending some time here in this place: I’ve come in hopes of befriending those old voices so I can remove some of their power. Now I just need to be brave enough to take the time to listen…