Thursday, January 28, 2010

All That I Am

My younger sister Ali gave me a piece of artwork two years ago, with a drawing of a dragonfly, and a quote by e.e. cummings:

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

When I re-painted my home office shortly after, I used the small message as my centerpiece. I chose paint that matched the green, and pumped up the yellow to a brilliant lemon for the opposite walls. My entire room is filled with art, most of it by or from friends. But this little green and yellow missive now hangs directly in front of me when I sit down at my desk to write.

I think of it as a Purple Heart, a badge of honor. For many, many years I struggled and fought, questioned and doubted, stubbornly resisted. I said, over and over again, "I am not that!" I wasn't sure exactly who I was, or where I was headed, let alone how to get there. But I knew that someone else's answer wouldn't work. I was convinced that even my family's best wishes for me, though much appreciated for their intent, were off the mark.

Stumbling through many dark years, becoming a friend with despair, making mistakes again and again...still, I pushed on. Some small voice in my head said, "You are enough." But I felt so flawed, and so out of step, and so lost.

And then my Zen teachers told me: "The goal of practice is not to become a better person; it is to become more fully yourself." To become who you really are.

When I received that little painting from my sister, I knew I had finally been seen. And being seen by someone else helped me to see myself.


  1. Michelle,

    I know exactly what you are talking about. I think I have only learned to appreciate myself through the eyes of those I love and trust.

    Maybe there are some people so strong they don't need this. I know there are many who need it and never get it. I need it, and I get it, and I am deeply grateful for it. Not sure where I would be otherwise...

  2. Clare,
    You are right - I, too, feel grateful that I have people in my life who give me that affirmation that I so need. A good friend told me recently that having this need is not a weakness - instead, she pointed out that the fact I have drawn these supportive people into my life is a sign of real strength and health. I think the same is true for you...

  3. Michelle, WOW. Like Clare, I feel that I know exactly what you are talking about. Im at a crossroad in my life, trying to decide which road is MY road, My wonderful Mother who is quite elderly, knows exactly what she wants for me. Everybody seems to know just what i need, and just what I should do. Im PARALYZED by my fear of failure ...again.. and my fear of letting everyone down... their dissapointment etc.. so I decided to just do what the family wants. Id forget about finding MY road, and forget about that walk to become who I really am... BUT then a few nights ago, suddenly awake, in a moment of clarity, I can't explain it, but I KNEW absolutely which road to take, and what to do, I also thought immediately of one old friend who would understand this chapter of my life. -My search for this friend began with websites related to Tassajara, and Greengulch Garden. My friend always said that if I wanted to contact him, his extended family at Tassajara would always have his current information. In 1988 I moved out-of-state for 3-4 yrs. The last time I saw him was shortly before the move. Age 32 then - I'm 53 now..He is older than me. In my search for him I found your writing & somehow feel comforted by your name is Katy Jako, & my name is Sasha Jako. Michelle, your 5th & 6th paragraphs-hit home hard. Good luck to you & thank you for the insight.My friends' name is TOM NINCOVITCH. He was a good friend to my Mother and myself. Her name is KATY JAKO & my name is SASHA JAKO. thanks again michelle. adios, Sasha

  4. Sasha, Welcome to the blog. I'm glad my words resonated with you. There is another e.e. cummings quote that speaks directly to this:

    “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; and never stop fighting.”