Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Behind the caricature

I am reading this morning about innate value, and inherent goodness, and thinking about all the ways our self-images become caricatures of the true self we really are...

Which, of course, is ably aided by those around us -- I'm thinking of my husband (bless his dear sweet honest soul) who, when I made a face at him yesterday, was reminded of (and went and found and presented to me) a birthday card he had apparently purchased but never given me (my birthday is some 9 months behind us). 

The card features a seal's head, resting on an ever-widening neck made of many folds of fat, and the message inside is "I love every wrinkle." Oy.  SO not flattering!

Yet this is the same husband who tells me fairly often that he thinks I'm aging beautifully.  Sometimes the disconnect is a little challenging -- it helps me understand some of my daughter's ex-boyfriend's complaints about the strange (to him) combination of brutal honesty and praise that characterizes many of our family's interactions.  To him the praise felt fake (it wasn't) and the honesty WAY too brutal (yeah, sometimes it can be).  

So why was that a problem for him -- and why is it sometimes a problem for me, too?  I think it's because we have that internal caricature of ourselves, which is rather painfully 2-dimensional.  We tend, I think, to be both unaware of our innate goodness and reluctant to look at our shadows, so the picture we carry of ourselves is rather flat, and not particularly robust -- which means that when people try to round it out a bit we feel uncomfortably stretched...

For me this has been one of the blessings of establishing a regular meditation practice.  When you spend time everyday watching your mind and releasing its incessant activity, you get a much better, much more rounded, more three-dimensional, more accurate picture of your strengths and weaknesses.  Which doesn't mean you're totally conscious, but it does at least mean that the observations of others don't come as a total surprise.

That internal caricature we carry can be quite a work of art -- but it is, nonetheless, a caricature.  Even if we can't quite bear to peel it away, meditation at least reminds us that there is a rich, full-bodied being that lies beneath.

1 comment:

Louise Gallagher said...

And you gotta love a man who's willing to risk giving you a wrinkly seal photo! :)

I am both dark and light -- and I am always grounded in goodness, even when I sometimes walk in the dark trying to avoid the light. I always find my journey is less angst riddled when I shine my light on the darkness -- and that's not always the easiest thing to do!

Lovely post Diane. thanks.