One of Picasso’s favorite assignments for a young artist was to have him or her try to draw a perfect circle. It can’t be done; everyone draws a circle with some particular distortion, and that distorted circle is “your” circle, an insight into “your” style. “Try to make the circle as best you can. And since nobody before you has made a perfect circle, you can be sure that your circle will be completely your own. Only then will you have a chance to be original.” The deviations from the idea give an insight into the style, and thus, Picasso says, from “errors” one gets to know the personality.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art
I don’t know where I got it into my head that if I didn’t perform superhuman feats that I were nothing.
But it’s in there, internalized, buried deep down where the root of it is largely inaccessible to me. Sure, I’ll see its effects, springing up to the surface, causing problems in my everyday emotional life. It’s just like weeds might repeatedly shoot up in a garden no matter how many times you yank them up. The root stays buried and produces more.
Getting at the root isn’t so straightforward, you see. It doesn’t look pretty. It’s not the self-care the magazines are selling. The self-care that has you taking bubble baths and drinking herbal teas.
No, getting at the root is the kind of self-care that’s DIY self-surgery. It’s ugly. Destructive. Most people upset other plants when they’re digging up the root of a troublesome weed.
And others might happen upon their ravaged gardens and conclude that something bad is happening. That whoever is tending this garden is doing something wrong.
I’ve seen it happen so many times. Someone I know is fixing part of their life that isn’t serving them. Sometimes this means setting boundaries, severing ties. Other times this means taking risks, having adventures.
Other people will notice the change, particularly anything destructive that happens as a result, and judge them.
And in the short term, that’s easy to do.
But I’ve seen many times when the next spring proves that judgment wrong. When next year’s garden grows up healthier than ever before. Flourishing, thriving. And astonishingly, weed free.
Because they pushed through the ugliness and got at that root.
So if that’s you right now… if you’re doing thankless work in a ravaged garden while passersby judge you, I want you to know that not everyone feels that way. Some of us know what you’re doing and have been there ourselves.
Fiction by Page Turner: