"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." Thomas Merton
I spent a lot of my life trying to turn myself into someone that other people would love. I am not sure when I began my life as chameleon but I think it was in those tender tween years. At some point, it was clear that I was a freak. My strange behavior was not winning me friends, and by the time I rolled into Jr. High, I was being outright mocked for my freaky self. At first, I just tried to lay low: bring a book to lunch, bury your face in it and hope the boys will satisfy themselves with calling you a pig instead of throwing food. I learned to walk with my head down, my hair falling like a mask, as the boys oinked at me while the girls snickered into their lockers.
And then for a brief moment, I decided to make myself stranger than I was already. I carefully spent an inordinate amount of time painting a rainbow on my eyelids with my mom's Mary Kay eyeshadow. One of my aunts laughed at me and that ended that experiment. Later I'd cut my hair super short except for a really long rat's tail that I dyed blue every morning with temporary hair dye. But those experiments were short lived at first. Instead I tried to mold myself to reflect someone that others would love.
What a dismal failure. I was always a step off, never quite what I was supposed to be. There was something about what I was doing that, never quite right, never polished, a detail off. I never managed to become what it was that others seemed to love. Instead I unintentionally parodied what made some people so popular.
You see through my journey to be loved, I learned that there is no essence to what we call ourselves. We are untethered in some ways but in other ways we are held to the localness of our bodies with slight strings. While we can break some, others still hold to those places we make home. And while I suffered a loneliness from not being able to slip those strings enough to become the most popular girl in high school, I also was given a gift in learning that by wearing many masks, I could somehow become myself. If people were going to stare, I would make them stare and thus entered a playful dangerous place of appearance. I shaved my head a few times. I pierced myself. I wore clothes that were strange and sometimes exotic. I played with being ugly and discovered that sometimes there is a fragile beauty to ugliness.
But I still didn't find the love that I craved. I still found people who wanted to change me, and being who I was it was easy for them to shape me. But of course I always misstepped and was pushed aside. At least until I meet H, and I suspect he too had played this game of becoming. He loved me for the fucked up beautiful mess I was when we met. H and I have traveled together nearly 14 years now, and we have learned that you love the person in front of you for their reflection of their becoming not because they reflect your own becoming.
And that is how I want to love my beasties, and it is how I want to love Jude. When I say Jude is perfect as is, I mean that she is also perfect in her becoming which is not my becoming. I learned this with Umberto who did not learn to read until later. He did not become a child prodigy. He was not the child I had imagined two academics would have. And I admit that for a time I struggled because he was not reflecting back to me my own desires and wishes. Through time, I learned to love better the person he becomes (he is like us all an "and" over and over). It is a stronger love because it is not a reflection in a distorted mirror.
I don't say that I don't want to change Jude. Change is something that happens.She is only 7 months old and there is no pinning down of who she will become. That is something that will change with each year, each encounter. But I do know that I don't want her to become a reflection of a world that does not value her. I do not wish to make her normal, or to impart upon her a wish to make herself comply. There is no desire in me to see her twist her psyche into cruel distortions so that she can parody the people who demand conformity.
The quote is my inspiration. My love is not perfect, and I suspect I'd have to become a saint in order for it to be that kind of love. But that is okay. I, in my imperfect way, strive for this. May my love be an open book upon which the beasties will write their own stories not a mere shadow of mine.