Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Who do you think you are?

Before getting this post underway, I would like to extend my most sincere apologies to Evelyn and Liat, two loyal followers of this blog and, more importantly, two very good friends, who check up on me to make sure everything's OK if I miss a post. It's an awfully nice side effect of blogging! You may have noticed that last night I did not post to my blog. My day had been busy and I wasn't feeling great and, as a result, I fell asleep early and slept through the hours when I normally attend to my blog. Before falling asleep, though, I had the most interesting conversation with my almost 15 year old daughter. 

One prerequisite to being a teenager seems to be some degree of certainty that you are misunderstood and nobody knows the real you. With that as the implicit starting point, our teenager asked me to tell her who I think she is; to describe her in some way other than in a "you're so smart - you're so beautiful-you're such a fabulous package" typical mommy way; with a little more depth. What could I say? She really is very smart and she really is strikingly beautiful. Taking my cue, I shared what I thought were her strengths and I shared what I perceived as her insecurities. When I was done, she challenged me on a few of my perceptions but I think she was generally pleased that I got so much right. Then I told her it was her turn to describe me. I realized that, like my teenager, I didn't really expect her, or anybody for that matter, to truly see me as I see myself, the way I believe I genuinely am. She did amazingly well. I'm not sure if she's exceptionally perceptive or I'm more transparent than I thought or it's some combination of the two or maybe, just maybe, we know each other that well. What I do know for sure is that the young woman I described and the one who described me is the one I'll be thinking of lovingly next time she pulls that teenage werewolf trick and transforms into a person I don't recognize. I'm also fairly certain that feeling as though people do not know the real you is not unique to us. For some reason, it's important to many of us to believe that we are a little misunderstood or, perhaps, mysterious. And it's important to know that there's someone out there who really gets us. We are all complex creatures, though, and it can take a while to peel away enough layers to get to someone's core.

Literature is full of characters who are not what or whom they first seem. One of my favorite children's books growing up was Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, where we first encounter a most disagreeable Mary Lennox whose own complexity and layers are revealed as the story unfolds.  More recently, I thoroughly enjoyed Judy Blundell's new novel Strings Attached, where we meet Kit Corrigan who proves to be far more complex and ultimately braver than anyone would have expected of a 16-year old dancer. As a fan of Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games trilogy, I also enjoyed peeling away the layers of a secondary character, Katniss Everdeen's beloved sister Prim who came into her own in the third book, Mockinjay.

Perhaps we think people can't see us clearly because we recognize that we are ever-evolving. The person I am today is a little different from the person I used to be and likely a little different from the person I have yet to become.

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