The hardest battle, Part II

It happens this way …

Many moons ago I read an article by a psychologist who claimed that little girls begin to lose their True Selves about the age of 7. She didn’t mention when this happens for boys and, given the acceleration of all kinds of media, I bet this loss starts for everyone much earlier than the proverbial “age of reason.”

In any event, she said the messages girls receive from schools, parents, churches, and society-at-large, move them toward adopting identities that are not authentically theirs.

Her suggestion? Find a photograph of yourself before the age of seven and take a close look. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot the True Self you were born to be.

I followed her advice and found this photo taken in 1948 on the front porch of myScan 5 grandmother’s house in Carteret, N.J. What a revelation! Where had this feisty girl with the straight-on gaze gone? I hadn’t seen her in decades. Of course, a poem arrived to capture the photo and my response to it.

It’s your turn. Find your photo and see what it says about the person you arrived on the planet to be!

Portrait of a Cowboy as a Young Girl

 Mugging for the camera

in brand new cowboy boots,

she still insists she’s Roy not Dale,

riding down the Happy Trail with Trigger

and the Sons of Pioneers.

 

She smoothes her bronco-busting chaps,

pulls tight her white-fringed gloves,

adjusts a broad brim hat that tilts

above her bangs straight-cut

and ties beneath a stubborn chin.

 

The lens clicks up the front porch steps,

corrals her closed-mouth smile,

her arms akimbo, stance girl-proud.

It’s 1948. She’s three,

decked out in faux rawhide.

 

This day, You Are My Sunshine plays

inside her head, the words exact,

a bit off-key. You make me happy …

those straight-on eyes convey … please

don’t take my sunshine away.

 

I don’t recall who shot this frame,

or how it felt to roam the Jersey shore

as the King of Cowboys, Son of Pioneers.

I don’t recall the guns, the fringe,

the voice that sang when skies are gray.

 

I can’t recall when I was more

of me than on that sunless winter day.

The hardest battle

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.                                                                           – ee cummings


Last month, the editor of my next poetry collection sent me her first edits. Most were spot on; a few I pushed against. One stopped me in my tracks.

About half-way through the manuscript, I read:

Something I notice throughout this collection is ego – it’s not a bad thing, but I am not used to seeing a speaker so happy with themselves, proud and aware of it. 

After a few deep breaths, I realized what a compliment this is. Of course I’m happy with myself! In some poems where the speaker is obviously me – and there are many voices throughout the book –  I journey from a scared, stuttering kid filled with blue collar shame to a confident woman who says she doubts nothing and everything. If happily asserting who I am and what I believe is ego, so be it.

My response was simply: Why wouldn’t I want to write about the importance of becoming the person we were born to be?

I haven’t heard back yet. In the meantime, I find inspiration in the wise words of those who know that importance.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.      – Nietzsche

People who for some reason find it impossible to think about themselves, and so really be themselves, try to make up for not thinking with doing.   – Laura Riding

The true and durable path into and through experience involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.  – Seamus Heaney                                                                                

Here’s to each of us for who are happy with the True Selves we’ve become. May we continue to be proud and aware!