Reflecting Reality

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

I have a faint memory of myself as a child, perhaps four years old.  I had been crying, and I stood in my parents' bedroom, looking at myself in the full length mirror on the inside of Mum's cupboard.  In the midst of my tears, I was intensely interested in what I looked like when I was crying.  At the snot running down my face.  As if it somehow made it more real to be able to see it.  Look, that is me.  And I am crying.

Flash forward circa 2009.  I am a 39 year old woman on Christmas holidays and I am feeling somewhat sad.  Life does not always script itself to fit into our holidays.  Sometimes I am as wise as the sea, as intuitive as a psychic, as knowing as a crone.  Embedded in the midst of that wisdom and surefootedness that four year old child still lives.  It was she who took me into the bathroom earlier, where the light is best, over against the darkness of the rest of the house where the blinds are all drawn against the stark sunness blaring outside, to photodocument the tears running down my face.

I did have the perspective just before to find the space to laugh at myself, looking at photographs of me crying.  I hope never, ever to lose that four year old.  She still has the ability to give me a laugh even while the 39er is belting out her worn tunes of angst.

I think I will treasure those couple of photographs when I look back in years to come.  There is such a harsh and sweet sadness about them. There is a place for such documentation.  Looking at them makes my sadness more real to myself.  And the more real it is to myself, the easier to let it go, to flow away on the breeze.

I was tempted to illustrate this post with one of the photos.  After all, why not?  I have just informed you that I have been crying today.  If I have told you I have been crying, why not show you at the same time?  But something shared publicly is something you lose privately.  I love to share elements of my life in my writing, my art, my blog.  I understand the fears some people have about that, but there is no fear in that for me (or at least not enough to stop me, though it sometimes makes my palms a little sweaty).  And although sometimes I get it wrong and realise I have violated a flimsy boundary, it is a calculated risk.  It pays off when people thank me for sharing deep darknesses.  But there is also something honouring and boundary-building about things not shared in a world where privacy has largely absconded.

There is a saying that a real writer will sell their own mother's secrets for a good story, but I think that is simply untrue.  There are 140 different amazing stories about asparagus if you are willing to sit and ponder a little.  And sure, ploughing the depths of myself as writing subject is a most healing way of making myself real.  It is sort of like that four year old watching herself cry in the mirror.  But both are after all reflections of real events.  But to think that my life is up for grabs as blog illustrations, as art, violates my own boundaries.  It is not up for grabs, it is my own right and my choice, but it is something that needs to be used with wisdom.  To be too open is to deny the deepness of myself as a human being, the sacredness of that dark space, the necessity of letting things ferment, of pondering things in my heart, of keeping them close to me, of sharing them once at a time between me and somebody whose eyes I can look into while I share them.

I finished a short story last night.  I will post it on my other blog when I have polished it up some more.  In that story the protagonist, thinly disguised as myself, finds herself untethered out in the world.  Her saving grace is place and people.  Real places and real people.  As are mine.

And you can see them all if you friend me on Facebook :)


  1. looking forward to reading it Sue. As I look forward to reading your musings here on your blog.

  2. Christmas has a way of magnifying things
    be they heavenly or hellish

    now about those 140 stories of asparagus . . . i bet that four year old could write a rip roaring tale of Arnie the Asparagus :)

  3. Kent - thank you my dear.

    Kel - it does magnify everything, doesn't it. This one has been awful, I have to say. How nice it feels to be out the other end of it :)

    Yeah, I think that four year old probably could too :)


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