Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Me, Myself, and I

Since August, I have been spending at least ten minutes each day in mirror-meditation, looking at my reflection. It has gone from the routine "checking the appearance on the way out the door" to something deeper and more powerful than I had anticipated. My recent attempts at self-portrait photography are just another aspect of this burgeoning self-awareness.

A few Saturdays back, the writing wasn't going well. I was starting sentences and immediately re-reading them (always a bad idea), switching from "creation" to "critique" much too quickly. I had a hot cup of tea to finish before I could abandon my cafe post--and rain to watch as it doused the streets. I was almost finished, berating myself for my inability to get moving when a woman approached me, shaking off her drenched coat and tossing her wild white hair behind her shoulders.
"Excuse me," she said, "Are you going to be here for a while?"
Thinking she wanted the window seat, I replied, "Just a little while..."
She smiled instead and offered her hand, "I'm Georgia...I was watching you work as I bought my coffee. Can I draw you?"

She explained that for her art class she had been assigned to complete as many renderings as possible before the next session. I opened my notebook again and agreed to let her go ahead. I wound up having to hold the same pose for the entire time she sketched me--which just happened to be with a pen in my left hand, writing. Not only did I finish the scene that had been plaguing me, I opened my second notebook and started laying the bones of an essay idea swirling through my head...when she still hadn't finished, I actually wrote a draft of it out.

In the Springtime, my sister and I attended a discussion session held for Joyce Carol Oates and Salman Rushdie...in addition to many random bursts of brilliance from these two esteemed writers--Oates offered a secret to her craft. When asked, "How are you so incredibly prolific? This many books a year?!?"
Oates smiled primly and said, "Well...I have a cat."
When the moderator looked confused, she continued, "When I sit down to write, that cat climbs into my lap and falls into the most delicious sleep. Every time I want to stop writing, I look down and just hate the idea of disturbing her. So I say, okay, just a few more pages. By the time she wakes, I've written whole chapters. So, every writer should own at least one sleepy cat." To which I'd add, or--at least one artist on-call to sketch you while you work. You are so loathe to interrupt her craft, that you patiently whittle away at your own...

I cannot help but to think about this odd coincidental timing of the artist asking to draw me while I am learning to look at myself. She handed the sketch right over, to my surprise--complimented me, and vanished back into the bookstore before I even realized it. I was left there, seeing my image on a piece of heavy paper--rendered in chalk and charcoal. This picture is of me with myself in the moment of creation. Though I feel strange at times, posting these self-portraits--it is fulfilling a fragmented promise to myself that I will not be invisible anymore. Like most people, I still have a way to go before I meet full acceptance. But I see the women in my family in pieces of my face...my mother, grandmothers, sister, cousins, aunts, daughters. I change expression and I see my father, my brothers, my son. My heritage is etched all over me and this feels a comfort somehow, a blessing. I am not yet to the point of self-love that my Rosie is in a mirror-meditation of her own:

But, I am finding moments of joy like hers. If you have never looked beyond the daily maintenance or the rare family picture--go take a self-portrait photo and then gaze at it for a long while. Or, if you're really brave, go and meet your reflection in the mirror. Go beyond the criticism, the old "flaws" you always notice...right there, do you see how your brow curves just like some woman you love? How the jawline is just like the man you remember? We carry our family tree in our bones, on our skin, in the curve of our bare foot and odd crooked finger. Spend just a few moments with that person you have likely been neglecting lately...yourself. Who knows what you'll see in the mirror today?


Blogger Amber said...

What a wonderful moment! How lucky you are to have this, to look at again and again. Look at it when you "forget" yourself, I say.

It sort of cracks me up that you have this doubt, because I read your words here, just on a blog, and I have no doubt of your talent. Really! And it makes me think about my own self-doubt... I wonder how justified or real it is? Not that our feelings are not "real", but you know what I mean, right?

Again, your journey blesses my own, sister-friend.

Also, do you think the antitheses of a sleepy cat, might be a hyper toddler? LOL!


12:34 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I just love the synchronicity of your cafe writing experience. Sometimes life just hands us a gift.

Last night while (finally) writing my SS post Miss B crawled up on my lap and laid her head on the desk, promptly falling asleep. I had to twine my arms and hands around her to type, but what a sweet moment it was. Yes, a cat is a good writing aid.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

I adore this post. I love that someone really saw you when you were writing, honoured your experience and left you with this gift.

I have been invisible for so long too and find these self-portraits an unusual experience but we are real, we are here, we do exist and we're beautiful.

Enjoy becoming solid. Hugs some trees. Art isn't something we do, it's something we are.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

That is such a terrific gift-motivation or obligation to sit still and a beautiful portrait.

I am so glad you got so much writing done during your sitting.

The picture of that little angel gazing into the mirror-blowing herself a kiss will stay with me a long while.


4:21 PM  
Blogger melba said...

I love how you are laying your head down...you look so quite and serene. What a wonderful gift that stranger has given you. I am enjoying reading about your journey each week; keep sharing.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Bedazzzled1 said...

Oh, how I love that sketch! And the circumstances under which it happened are amazing.

Your Rosie is precious!

5:05 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Gorgeous post! What an amazing thing for the woman to appear out of the rain and draw your picture - which forced you to write and be creative! Those photos are wonderful, of you and your daughter. Thanks for talking so openly about your journey, which helps us realise insights about our own.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Lunarmusings said...

This is such a great post! What a magical moment of serendipity for you.

Thank you for sharing this.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous BZ said...

Perfect. Perfect post and picture. I caught myself reading every word of your post. I really appreciate your dedication to the craft of writing and I look forward to reading more of your work. I offer you an invitation to do the same with mine.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

oh how i love this - that you are sharing self portraits with us, that your daily meditations are empowering you, that an angel popped out of nowhere and captured you on the page as you lost yourself on the page.... so fitting. i think little Rosie has the right idea - it's time we started flirting with ourselves in the mirror x

6:03 AM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

synchornicity...yes, yes, yes...it was working in your behalf...

your rosie is too much...heehee...

i've been keeping a tube of red lipstick by my mirror and kissing my reflection when i complete my mirror meditation...it works...

2:31 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

you are so beautiful. everything about you emulates beauty.

i love the story of the sketch artist inspiring you to sit still with your writings.

i love the story of the sleepy cat cuddled on the writers lap, forcing him to finish chapters.

i love the image of your daughter kissing herself all dressed up in her imaginary world, in front of the mirror.

and i love the idea of seeing our ancestors within our features.

you are inspiring, my friend.


2:47 AM  
Blogger abhay k said...

you write so well...I coild not take off my eyes once I started reading your post.
I have added you in my blogroll.
best wishes!

3:37 AM  
Blogger January said...

You are an inspiration. It's so hard to find time to write and to meditate with little ones around. But you've managed to do so, which opened you up to something unexpected.

That is a gift.

Thank you for letting us share your journey. (And Rosie is adorable!)

6:46 AM  
Blogger jillypoet said...

Yes! What everyone else said! Thank you for sharing this story. Synchronicity, for sure! How else coudl you have gotten your work done, if it weren't for that drawing angel? So cool! I'm sure I will think of this story often!

10:48 PM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

I love this post! I love that fortune gave you no alternative but to just ... write. I need more of that. A cat, perhaps, would be easier than an artist always drawing me. And as for Joyce Carol Oates, ever since I read how she wrote an entire huge novel every semester in college, I have been terrified of her and a little bitter, as if she is stealing more than her fair share of "completion juice" from the atmosphere! Also, I was just, this evening, thinking I need to do a weekly cafe writing, because I was going through my old cafe writing notebook, which I can always count on for finding fun, unexpected things I had forgotten I'd written, that might kick of new ideas. Something about cafes takes my writing in a different direction.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

what a wonderfully serendipitous moment. i love life's little offerings such as this; I take them as signs.
Nature was gently forcing your hand, encouraging you to continue, and what a result!!

I think that it is so interesting that so many of us women constantly challenge who we are and want to peel back the layers to really find out.
i really feel this is predominantly a female disposition, though, and wonder why most men do not feel a need to do this.
(or perhaps they do and just don't bang on about it like us!) who knows!

i love the photo of your daughter, it's a very bold, physical look at HER, and will be intereting to see how this develops into a more subtle view over the years.

have you bought a cat yet?
what a great story.love it

6:32 AM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

What an incredible gift of inspiration. I love that she gave you the finished picture so you have that to always remember the morning! And what an insight - sometimes it really is just the discipline of staying in the chair, keeping the pen in hand and willing yourself to climb over the wall of doubt or fear in front of you.

Thanks so much for this great post!

3:45 PM  

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