On September 28, 1983 a previously unknown tale by Wilhelm Grimm was discovered! The publishing house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux asked Maurice Sendak to illustrate this tale which would ultimately be published under the title, ”Dear Mili.” It was at this time that I got to know Maurice and we quickly became good friends. At that time I was breeding daylilies and as a gift of friendship to me Maurice put some lily blooms on the front cover and within one of the full-page illustrations within the book!
On one of his visits to the monastery at that time he asked me to come to the guesthouse wearing my riassa (a full, large-sleeved liturgical garment worn by monks in the church during services) to serve as a model for St. Joseph in the tale. I sat sideways on the bed gesturing as instructed and the one sketch that he did use of me shows St. Joseph holding his hand open with the sun rising above it. When Maurice finished his sketches he told me I could take a look. I was stunned by what I saw! It was clearly me except that I had been Sendak-ized… turned into a recognizably Sendak character! Staring at the drawings was for me like seeing another me whom I never knew existed!
We have all had experiences in which others show us ourselves and cause us to get a glimpse of how we appear to the world around us! What do we do with that? Does it cause us to examine ourselves and make changes or do we simply dismiss the world’s vision of us? Do we assume no one can know us as well as we do? Do we assume that the world has nothing to tell us about ourselves?
Soon after Maurice’s visit one of the Brothers came up to me and said, “Do you realize that your nose is slightly crooked?” I immediately countered that it wasn’t, that I had lived with it my whole life and I definitely would have noticed! But recalling my previous experience with Maurice’s drawings I went into the bathroom and looked… REALLY looked into the mirror… and discovered that my nose does have a slight twist to it! Now that I saw it I wondered, “How could I have never noticed that? How could I have been staring at my face my whole life and never noticed this?”
Both of these experiences have had a profound effect upon my inner life! I began to actively no longer dismiss information about myself coming to me from outside myself! Slowly I began to notice things about my behavior and my relationships to which I had been blind and the world had been right! Now when someone gives me input about myself, especially if my knee-jerk reaction is to think they are wrong, I use their input as the focus for my meditations for a number of weeks trying to see what they might have seen. I now assume that while their words might not have been correct, those words are pointing at something which I need to stare at in order to discover more about myself. Is this a tool which could bring the picture you hold of yourself into sharper focus?