I am thinking about metaphor today. I tend to think that way a lot; seeing a picture in my mind helps me connect in a deeper way with a thought or a process in play. Some days I absolutely need my metaphors — to ground me, help me get out of my worm’s eye view, change my perspective.
One of my earliest and still very relevant metaphors is a rock. I connected deeply to it when I first heard Simon and Garfunkel’s song “I Am a Rock” as a girl.
I was preteen (possibly 10, the year of my parents’ divorce), and I loved the idea of making myself a rock that feels no pain and an island that never cries. The song always made me cry because even then I knew that hopes for such transformations were pretty futile. Then in my 20’s, the metaphor of the rock became more ironic than anything, knowing that not only was there no way for me to truly wall off my feelings like that but that trying to do so actually harmed me. It literally made me sick (stomach pain, back spasms, etc) and grumpy.
In my late 30’s, the metaphor evolved into “Monica the Rock.” I always hear my former coach (now my mentor and friend) Margie Gordillo’s voice when I tap into this rock – the Rock of Gibraltar.This Rock is grounded, ancient, powerful, rooted deeply in nature.
The Rock of Gibraltar has evolved into a mountain, ancient and serene. Able to see expansive vistas and eons of time – there is a gentle, rounded womanliness to this mountain/rock and a connection to the flow of life as in a waterfall.Overcoat:
Last week in particular the metaphor of an overcoat loomed large, and I mean LOOMED! It is June now, and we are having a warm spell (not always true for June in the SF Bay Area). So imagine wearing a wool (it has to be wool) overcoat on a sunny, 80-degree day: hot, sticky, itchy, HEAVY, TOO HEAVY. Last week my wool overcoat also had lead weights sewn into the lining, so that my back felt bent down by the weight. This overcoat is my story, my fear of writing here and sharing what is inside me with you. Because even though I am hot, sticky, and weighted down by this coat, there is a kind of comfort in having it to hide inside, having it shield me.I know this coat, intimately. I have carried it around with me all my life. What is this coat made out of? It’s woven out of a childhood of keeping small and quiet so as not to come to the attention of a raging father; it’s woven from a Catholic school education that taught me that it’s not a woman’s place (let alone mine) to connect people to the Divine; it’s woven from habitually wearing masks proclaiming that I’m just FINE, actually perfect, thanks. The coat protects my tender heart, my vulnerability, my child within.
It also keeps me in fear. And herein lies both the incredible insight and the problem. The incredible insight is that seeing my story and fear as an overcoat means that I have some choices here: I can take it off or not – my choice. The problem is that in order to shine my light, to be able to take my business out into the world so I can help others shine their lights, I gotta take off the coat. Holy sh*%!
Then, as my friend and coach Becky Robbins was leading me in a guided meditation, another aspect of the coat metaphor came through so beautifully and joyfully that my heart leapt! I thought about the book “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” by Simms Taback.
Have you read this book? Read it!! I love everything about this picture book: the story, the moral, the folksy illustrations using a combination of painting and collage, the little cutouts as the coat undergoes metamorphosis. The main thrust of the story is that Joseph has an overcoat that wears out over time, and each time it gets too ratty to wear he repurposes it into something else. It changes from an overcoat to a jacket, to a vest, to a scarf, to a necktie, to a handkerchief, to a button. It is clear that Joseph is very poor so he has to keep using the cloth from his overcoat, and yet he wears his “new” piece of clothing to wonderful celebrations and is happy. Then one day he loses his button and has nothing. The last line of the story is: “So Joseph made a book about it. Which shows… you can always make something out of nothing.” I so love that, in every way.
Here’s a little taste of “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” with klezmer music:
So back to my overcoat. Maybe its metamorphosis can be gentler than ripping it off and exposing all my naked vulnerabilities right away. Maybe the coat can transform, piece-by-piece, bit-by-bit. (I’m gonna take those lead weights out first.) I get to choose what happens, how it happens, and how long it takes to happen. My first metaphor, the rock, changed from something to encase myself in and keep me away from my feelings into a deep and profound connection to nature, the Divine, and visionary perspective. I don’t know what my coat will become, or how long it will take. I do know it’s already transforming, simply by writing this to you and your reading it. Thank you.
(Here I am transforming my coat!!)Do you have an overcoat? What’s it made out of? What are your metaphors? Do they connect you? Isolate you? Or something else entirely? How do they play out in your life? How can you see them transforming? I’d love to know, please share!