Wednesday, August 10, 2011

leopard hats, mom jeans and other sad cliches

Personal Recipe by Harley Schreiber (Trust 30 Prompt 18)

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”
In 1999 I took the BBs to Disneyland for a Christmas holiday. As we sat in the departures area in Vancouver International Airport, I watched a wide array of clichés stroll, meander, saunter, strut and shamble past. For the majority of those people, I 'knew' within seconds of seeing them who they were, where they were going, and what their story was. Or, I arrogantly thought I knew. 

I remember most vividly a woman in her 50's or 60's. She was well put together in a classic leopard print coat and hat, smooth black oxfords with a heel, big dark sunglasses (Inside. In Vancouver. In winter), over-dyed black hair and more makeup than I average in a month. I don't know if I heard her speak, but if I had I'm CERTAIN it would have been with a thick New York accent and in loud, brassy tones. 

Looking at her, I thought "I never want to be that woman. I never want to be a cliché that borders on a charicature." Never mind that I was a single mom with two over-stimulated young sons still ooohing and aaaahing over their stockings (which they opened in the airport - it was Christmas morning after all). Never mind my hideous mom jeans and sneakers and Roots hoodie. Or my home hair colour and self-butchered bangs. Never mind my muted threats at anyone who misbehaved before we even got in the air, or the mix of excitement and fatigue straining my face. 

I meant every word of not wanting to become that cliché - any cliché - but it never occured to me that we are ALL a cliché of some type until people get to know us. Without specifics, we only can judge people on generalities. It's the only way we can make sense of each other in a world where the number of true connections is so far fewer than the number of strangers who will cross our paths. 

More importantly, now, I would never again want to be the woman I was then - superior, despite my fears. Judgemental. Ungenerous. Lacking in compassion. She was young, newly single, newly an adult in many ways, and still finding out who she really wanted to be in the world. She was doing her best and, for the most part, having a good time doing it. But she lacked a wisdom and gentleness that life has since tried to teach me. I'm still learning, and rather than thinking of who I DON'T want to be 5 years from now, I'd rather focus on what I do want to be  - humble, generous, gracious, creative and free. And with all the space in the world for people to be however and whoever they need to be. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...