Being Patient…When Your Mind Changes Before Your Life Changes

The Color Purple

The Color Purple

The other day I was reading John Berger’s book How Does the Impulse To Draw Something Begin? He writes about trying to draw a particular set of plums hanging from a particular tree. He notes a snail sitting by these plums. Berger must leave his drawings for a bit and when he returns, he is worried he may not find the same plums in all the trees.

He looks and looks, and then notices the snail, marking his place. The snail had slightly changed positions, though. But, as Berger writes, he did not change his “whereabouts” or location. He was still near the plums of choice, although the snail had been moving along, at a snail’s pace.

And this made me think of my life and the process of change. When we come to certain realizations in our lives- i.e. that our partner is abusive, our parents are crazy, that everything is NOT our fault- we can feel a desperate need upon this awareness for everything to change. We want the relationship over- Now. We want our parents out of our lives- Now.

It’s as if, in my mind, I think, “Well, I have been blessed with this wonderful awareness, now everything should change due to my new-found understanding.”

As you know, life does not work like this. We, like the snail, first change position by changing our minds and awareness. Sometimes, though, the more outwardly changes, such a changing to a new whereabout (new relationships, better boundaries with parents,etc.) are much slower in ripening.

That is o.k. though. Like the snail, coming to a new awareness is a change in position, even if everything on the surface does not immediately change. I guess what I am saying is, don’t lose heart. Change will happen because you set it in motion. Believe that you are supported as you continue to push for the betterment of yourself and this world.


John Berger wrote of hand-fuls of plums
in a tree-ful garden

Colors captured him, although artists
Too frequently praised for the reciprocal

A snail became placeholder for Berger, as he penned
sketches of leaves, plums, and artistic visions

What page may contain the beauty of these sun-fruits?
Colors of such depth, we taste them.

A snail, working at a snail’s pace,
marked Berger’s work of perfection- the plums of choice

Until the snail moved. Oozing along,
as one imagines snails do.

The snail changed position, within
the same location, which Berger termed “whereabout”.

Berger would claim he was not lost, but rather found,
as the snail did not change whereabouts, only position.

You see, the snail clung to the prized
Fruits of an artist’s fruit-ful vision

But this is God’s way, isn’t it?
We think we are lost until we are found.

Grace comes in many forms, even white snail shells,
as God keeps our whereabouts, while we change position.

Slowly, slowly the snail seeks and we shall follow suit
trusting a change in position leads to ripened fruit.

Getting off the Altar Of Others and Setting Yourself Free

And there God is...

And there God is…

The Altar of Another

At certain times in our lives, we are likely to end up on the altar of another, as the symbolic sacrifice. This happens when another person is unable or unwilling to handle his or her own life, and looks for a scapegoat, or in this poem’s phrasing, the sacrificial lamb.

In my own world, the altar upon which I am most likely to be sacrificed upon is the altar of stepparenting. Only with time and experience am I realizing to do this to someone is not only wrong, but ineffective. I can not be the sacrificial offer of the failed marriage and the, at times, dysfunction of the children which resulted.

I am not meant to play such a role, nor are you. Whenever you find yourself in the situation of serving as scapegoat for another, climb down off that altar, and set yourself free. Your heart, spirit, and soul are too important to be relegated to such a role as sacrificial offer in the lives of others.

The altar I teeter,
Then totter upon,
Is one held dear
To almost all men.

To take my place
I held my beliefs,
cloaked my hopes, and
entered ceremony,

Upon these circumstances
Dressed in gold
I stood at the point
Of vision and vows

And allowed my self
To be relegated
To sacrificial offer
On the marriage with
Children altar

What God had made,
Man ended, and
Dues were to be paid.
Confused wanderings
In the desert commenced.

Delusional ravings
Along the parental spectrum
“They are not yours”
“Love them like your own”

What insanity,
What labyrinth
Lay in wait
For open hearts
And soaring souls

The parental axiom
“not our fault”
Tolling the bell of
The end, before it

They know not what
They do-
Innocent are they-
Awaiting the lamb
Upon the altar.

Art and the Orphan Archetype

The orphan archetype is one commonly found in artists. It’s because we don’t quite fit in that we are able to fulfill our role of witness, observer, and transformer. If we were truly one with the family or tribe, we would never be brave enough to say what we do. We stand back with the view of the partially disengaged in order to do what we do best – transform life into art..

One place I feel particularly separated from the center is in my role as stepparent. A division always exists within this dynamic. Below is a poem I wrote about this feeling. It arose from when my husband called me from the bedroom to show me some pictures he had hung. These many pictures of his children, year after year, were right outside our bedroom door. There on the wall was a shrine to his children (read as, “not mine”), with no other images. I was so struck by the solidity of all the images, and how I had given up the dream of having my own children.

You don’t have to be stepparent to relate to feeling “cut out” of life in some way. It happens to all of us.

“Pictures on the Wall”
Silly grins of youth immortalized
Alluding to what they may become

All the while serving as shrine and reminder
to what I would not become-mother.

The shrine, in my mind, pulses with life.
It frightens me-
Growing, growing each year as if it
has no desire to stop consuming.

The shrine sits along the wall of bedroom openings
“Mine” on one side
“Theirs”, of course, on the other.

Shrine to his productive capabilities
Where am I?

They speak to me.
Squinty-eyed, they watch me.
While I stand aside,
and I can’t answer “Why”

The rectangular borders disturb me.
I want to dis-configure them. Take them out
of alignment.
I wonder if this would help them understand my
pain at a life that did not fit within the borders.

Rectangles are so solid, firm, and un-forgiving.
Oval frames would have been a better choice, I think.
Rectangles provide too much mass, weight, and posterity
for things that truly only lasted but one moment.

The moment was etched into eternity long ago.
The umbilical cord marked the line in the sand.
They were on their side and I was on mine.

Every shrine shall have its say. On the plaque,
I will scribe, “Here lies this shrine, telling only
half the story.”

I hope this poem is not to depressing of a take on stepparenting. I love being a stepparent, but it can make one feel left alone on the outside looking in. This is what I felt as I looked at those images of my sweet stepkids. We can lie to others, we may be able to lie to ourselves at time, but art always allows the orphan to tell his or her half of the story.