The other day, I began to create a picture of mountains with a green valley between them. Using my oil pastels, I hoped to create a beautiful depiction of nature. However, my sister Christine stood over my work for a few seconds and declared, “That looks like a peacock’s tail.” Surprised and a bit confused, I tilted my head and attempted to see it as she did. After gazing at the flowered meadow between the mountains, I realized that she was correct. Suddenly, I had an idea; why not make a mountain ridge and a peacock?
So, I finished my work of rather surreal art. Yes there are mountains around a valley but that green grass also serves as the tail to a giant peacock. Confusing, right? This made me begin to think about how things are not always as they first seem. For years, artists have used this playful technique to confuse and surprise us. Musicians, architects, writers, and actors have used it as well. Even professors employ this technique to stump their students. Thus, causing people to see only part of message or meaning at first is not a new idea.
Yet, I often forget to apply this in my own life. Our world holds more depth than can be seen at first glance. That flower that looks plain has the loveliest aroma. Brightly colored fragile frogs are deadly poisonous. A rotting tree serves as a home to many insects and little animals. Under trees and meadows, a stream flows that gives the roots strength. And one must not forget the peacock that looks lovely but has an awful cry. Surprises can be found all around us if we open our eyes and minds.
This is also true of people. Although everyone knows the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” many fail to live it out. That girl in black with all of the tattoos and piercings is a sweetheart who is mourning for her dead friends. The handsome boy with the quick smile and charming manners has a cruel streak toward those who are not cool enough. Miserable from a failed marriage, the aloof boss barley speaks to his workers. Beautiful and blonde, the popular head cheerleader trembles at home from fear of her father’s drunken rage. People have many layers that hide painful secrets.
Some of the layers of the world and others go unseen because of the viewer’s human nature. We are not perfect or all-knowing. To understand something, we need to look harder and deeper. This can be frightening and even painful. However, if we choose to search beyond the surface, we will see everything clearer which makes not only the negative but also the positive shine brighter.
We can also use this with ourselves because sometimes we even try to keep parts of us hidden from ourselves. For years, I stuffed down my fear of romance and men. Ignoring my PTSD, I thought everything thing would be fine. To make myself feel better, I harmed myself, overate, or restricted food. These physical sensations kept me away from the depression, anxiety, and shame deep inside. However, I have finally come to the point where I cannot not take lying to myself anymore. I realized that I was dying because of anorexia. Thus, I had to decide whether to give up on life or honestly look at the rawest parts of me and receive help for them. Although it was difficult, I chose the second option. Being real is terrifying but I know that one day, it will be worth the fight.
So here is my goal for myself and you if you choose to join me; look deeper at the world, other, and yourself. Things are not as they first appear. Yes, looking beyond the surface can be frightening, uncomfortable, and depressing. However, once you are honest with yourself and others, you will have taken a huge step toward healing. Pain and darkness linger under many things but light and love do as well. By opening yourself up underlying truths, you have begun to see the world with new hopeful eyes.