Last weekend, I went to a mushroom show with a friend. He’s a good friend who is really into mushrooms, and had invited me to the show to share a bit of this interesting hobby with me. Right as we walked in the door, I ran into another friend, a woman who belongs to a club I’m a part of – we exchanged a brief hello, how are you, and went on our ways.
I enjoyed the show, both for the interesting mushrooms, and also for the people watching. It is quite an experience to watch other people be delighted by such curious things as mushrooms. There were glow in the dark mushrooms, mushroom snacks to sample, mushroom crafts, and some lectures by local mushroom academic researchers.
On our way out of the show, we paused in the sun-bathed courtyard, and noticed an interesting sculpture across the way. It was painted to match the concrete pavement and pillars that made up a majority of the visual landscape. But this sculpture was not geometric and severe, it was curved and demure, almost peeking out behind a massive column. These qualities must have been what drew our attention, after spending hours admiring mushrooms of a similar shape.
We made a beeline for the sculpture, our curiosity on high alert. We took our time, and really considered it. At first it appeared it might be a piece of found wood that had simply been mounted and painted. I knocked on it, and it made a hollow sounds – it was clearly constructed, though much more heavy duty than paper mâché. We pondered its story. It seemed to be a cross between a very feminine dragon and a bird. Maybe Loch Ness Monster inspired? It had a melancholy feeling, with lush eyelashes, and eyes looking in the distance. It had taken on some damage over what seemed like several years it had been out in the elements – nicks and dents, but no fatal blows yet.
My friend said it reminded him of the creatures on the covers of a children’s book series called Serendipity. I did not know the reference. My friend offered to take my picture with it, and I declined. Did he want his picture with it? No, he did not. He did take some photos of it, though. It has become a bit of a friendly competition between us, to capture the most interesting pictures of the day whenever we spend time together. He had seen the sculpture first, so the spoils clearly had to go to the victor.
That night, after our friendly hangout was done, I went to a potluck dinner for a group I belong to. The friend I had met in passing at the mushroom show was there, and I asked her how she enjoyed the show. She mentioned that it was a bit of nostalgia for her, as it had been at a community college she had gone to almost 8 years ago. There were a lot of memories tied up in the place – she had actually given birth to her daughter on the last day of class.
She also mentioned that she had some memories of shame tied to a piece of art she had made while there. I could tell she was uncomfortable as she explained it, that she had struggled with the idea of putting her art out for the world to see. She mentioned her surprise that the piece was still on display after all these years. She was not sure how she felt about it.
“Wait. What kind of art was it?”
“A sculpture . A kind of duck /dragon / bird. Let me see if I have a picture.”
“NOOOOOO!!!” I yelled out, a little too loudly, drawing attention. “No way!”
I asked her to hold while I texted my other friend to get a photo of the sculpture we had spent time pondering. The one that looked like Serendipity. While I waited for him to respond, I told her how much we had enjoyed her sculpture . I told her all the things we had pondered, how we really loved the eyelashes. And I marveled at the idea that her sculpture had been viewed by so many people. “Think of how many lives it has touched, how many people have spent time wondering about it.”
She squinted her eyes and stared in the distance, her head tilted to one side. “I’ve never thought of it in that way.” She had never had anything but bad feelings about that sculpture . It had been such a pain to build – she had messed up the construction so many times in her garage, she didn’t think she was going to finish. But she did – she limped it across the finish line to complete the requirement in her class.
We compared matching photos that had captured the same piece of art, but with completely different perspectives. It is absolutely amazing how the thoughts we have about the facts and circumstances of our lives have so much power to drive our emotions and behaviors. Perhaps if her thoughts about the sculpture had been different, she would have returned to that college campus a few years later to refresh it, to slap a new coat of paint on it and show it to her daughter with pride. Or at least not waited 8 years to come back and visit her college. I am curious to see how this shift in perspective might have a ripple effect in her re-framing other events in her life.
The good news is that there is always time to reconsider the painful thoughts that cause us to have resistance in our lives. What are you resisting? What memories cause shame? How do they keep you from experiencing the life you want to have? Let’s talk about them, and see if we can find a new perspective.