I have been thinking about this art interpretation thing since our love and inspiration gathering last Sunday when I shared my copy of La Confidance with the group. At some level, I think I wanted them to be as taken away and moved by this painting as I was. Their not being moved did not affect my experience of this painting or the memory of the first time I saw it. Rather, it reminded me of a chapter in don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Mastery of Love where he talks about this man who did not believe in love, who then thought he found it, and then became disillusioned when the woman of his dreams did not share the same exuberance about something he did.
Zoe and I are like that as well. Zoe loves what she calls “stupid.” She could spend the whole day looking at things that have to do with animals or that make her laugh. She always wants to share them with me. She experiences so much joy in these pictures and videos and wants me to experience them with her. While I am sure, I do not experience the same joy and humor she does, where I do find joy is in watching her experience this happiness and exuberance. That is what I love most about the moments she shares with me. It is not so much what she shares, but the emotions she shares, which are so memorable.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of ours who was talking to me about Zoe and her experience of her. There were moments that I wanted to giggle because I wondered who she was talking about. I knew if Zoe were in the room, she would have died laughing. For example, Zoe describes herself as the queen of procrastination. If it can be put off until tomorrow, then it will be. The one thing Zoe has not procrastinated on this year is her battle with cancer. On this, she has been the just do it gurl. Our friend was telling me how much she admired Zoe because she saw her as the queen of organization, thoughtful reflection, and implementation. She said you are both these just do it kind of women. Zoe says that about me all the time and to some extent, I am. The running joke is that I am the just do it gurl and she is the just do it later gurl.
I have experienced this same kind of dissonance with my students. I can have two students talk about their experiences of me as a teacher and one will convince you that your life will not be complete if you have not taken a course with me. The other will tell you I should be forced to retire and never allowed in the classroom again.
They are both right because I am for them who they say I am. However, that is not who I am. Nor are they who I say they are. Zoë is who Zoë says she is and I am who I say I am. For our friend who sees Zoe as a just do it gurl she is, but that is about our friend.
In my online classes, I give them a picture of me from about 10 years ago and ask them to tell me what they think they know about me based on what they see. It is so much fun reading the stories they create about me. That is just it. I am nothing more to them then a character in their story. However, at the same time, all I know about anyone is what I create his or her character to be.
I am the character in my story I create myself to be. It may have some commonalities with how my character appears in someone else’s story about me, or it may not. In any case, that is about them. My story is about me. I am not who others say I am. I am who I am.