I found this tucked between the pages of my writing notebook:
The note arrived as I was preparing to write my first piece for Stella Sunday Afternoons and I was shaken. My whole reason for entering the blog world was to step out of my comfortable invisibility and allow others to know my thoughts. Whoever sent that note knew my vulnerability well.
We all have closets full of both treasures and terrors. I give mine no more importance than that. And each of us, as we endeavor to move, whether literally or metaphorically, must take to opening the closet doors and examining each item for its usefulness. Or its beauty.
I have kept the shield for its usefulness. Not standing out in a crowd can be useful if that crowd is angry or mean spirited. And as an introvert, I can attest to the merits of remaining invisible. But as a newly emerging artist, I can also report its shortcomings. People I meet often don’t remember my name or who I am. Nor does invisibility support self promotion. Sooner or later, I have to stand out.
So, as a matter of housekeeping, wanting my writing to be read, my art to be seen, I determined that the shield needed to go. Well, some parts of me did.
The ransom note was a reminder that, like simple living, the solution is not always simple. There are steps and stages and preparations. I love my solitude. How would visibility impact that? And what about that angry mob?? I set out to negotiate a deal with my many selves.
The issue at hand was not how I came to posess such a shield, but how I might transform it. Upcycle it, as it were. Being a practical person, I don’t always enjoy tossing things. Nor can a habit or a safety mechanism be easily discarded. What might honor both the many years of service and these new seeds of creativity?
The answer, it turns out, is in the blogging.
I get to say or show as much and I want and when I want to. No deadlines. No bothersome agents and editors. Just learning to transition between inner and outer. Metaphorically speaking then, the transformation of the shield could be training for a life long process. Witness the snake.
According to Wikipedia, “moulting occurs throughout a snake’s life. Before a moult, the snake stops eating and often hides or moves to a safe place.”
The ransom note found my hiding place.
I was tempted to turn back… to abandon all thoughts of publishing… to choose safety instead of transformation. But as I reread the note, another voice,( the snake charmer???), whispered into my ear. “Yesterday,” she said, ” you wore one outfit only… the cloak of invisibility… now, try on something new… something with color, sparkle… loudness. Send that old coat to the thrift store and buy a new one with the money you will save by ignoring this ransom note… then begin your long stride down the runway, lights on… you look so good… so yourself… so full of passion, splendor, aliveness…”
I could feel my head rising up, swaying from side to side, wanting more of that music.
Then Whop! Another note.
I thought about my love of beauty. About the stories I wanted to share. About that old coat…and moulting…
“Just before shedding, the skin becomes dull and dry looking and the eyes become cloudy or blue colored. The inner surface of the old skin liquifies. This causes the old skin to separate from the new skin beneath it. After a few days, the eyes become clear and the snake “crawls” out of its old skin. A new, larger, brighter layer of skin has formed beneath it.”
Too late to go back.
A few days later, I wrote and published my first blog entry. After pushing the button, I wandered my little cottage feeling a mixture of anxiety and euphoria. I looked for more notes to arrive in my writing notebook. None appeared. Instead, there were pages and pages of blog beginnings…
Then, last week, I made this painting.
I didn’t know what it was about. There were images clamoring to be visible and so I got out my drafting tools and my watercolors. Before I was finished, I stopped… stumped about what to do next. The painting has been hanging that way ever since. Then, this morning, as I was lounging in bed, the title came to me: “Lay down the Shield”. Of course. The “one picture” before the burning begins…
So now, I save the shield, well at least the image of the shield, as an item of beauty. One which I can pull out on occasion and remember fondly all the ways in which it protected me. Perhaps the upcycling also includes some ways in which I have altered the shield to fit my new self.
We cannot expect that, in the middle of battle, a soldier would give up his or her armor. But we can hope for some respite like the song “Christmas in the Trenches“. Blogging has been my resting place. I’ve had nothing but good experiences and the positive comments reinforce my decision to ignore the ransom note.
So let the burning begin. I will not remain small nor will I remain totally unprotected. Instead, I will be strengthened by my community of readers… by my commitment to examine my life… by my willingness to exercise the movement back and forth between inner and outer. And I will continue to shed my old skins.
This, then shall be my new vision.
And the snake charmer again… chanting… “flame of transformation… fly up you Phoenix, and revel in RED!”