Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

~Lao Tzu

The face we present the world is very different from the face we see in the mirror. This is really a basic tenet, but I’ve noticed it more than usual lately. I’m talking about inner appearance, not outer. There are people whom I admire and look up to, yet when I hear them talk about themselves it’s always with a yearning for something better, a sort of emptiness in spite of everything they are. It’s as if they feel they are lacking in some way. Well, in some way we all are, but that doesn’t make us any less valuable. Granted, striving to be better people is something we should all be doing, but where is the dividing line? Where is the trip wire that catches us up and makes us say, upon looking in the mirror, “I’m not at all what they think they see.”

I often wonder, if we could look at ourselves through another’s eyes, would we be satisfied? Even a little?

This is one of those hellish imps that I’ve had to face down. I’ve done some real battle, and more often than not, I feel ill-equipped for such combat. People have said to me, “You’re so intelligent,” “You’re so artistic,” “You‘re so funny,” “You‘re such a wonderful person,” “You have such talent,” and worst of all, “I wish I could do things like you do, be like you.” And anytime I hear those things, I find it implausible that they’re being said about me. I’m not talking about humility or even a false sense of humility. It’s based more upon believability. I simply don’t see the person they see, and yet, it is that very person that I strive to present to the world. I want those things to be true even if I don’t see them. Crazy, isn‘t it? I know I‘m not alone, but the feeling has a way of keeping me feeling detached - even when I see solid evidence of it in others.

Even so, keeping all that in mind, I create art, I write, I play music, all in hopes that in the great silence surrounding it (of the me that remains unspoken), my voice might resound, screaming, “Please hear me!” I want my view of the world to be unique and accepted - it’s maddening. I want to be the special person that everyone seems to see. So, I keep pushing myself to do the things that they (the immense, ubiquitous “they”) seem to admire, all the while wondering if any of my vision is really getting across the invisible blurry line, much less being seen by understanding eyes. Because, at the end of the day, I still look in the mirror and say, “Who dat? What‘s she doing here?”

I am Gypsy. I am Artist. I am Lover. I am Writer. I am Wind. I am Musician. I am Water. I am Girl. I am Earth. I am Life. I am Death. I am Desire. I am Cook. I am Devourer.I am a God of a thousand names: why cannot one of them be Barb?

A friend gave me a copy of this poem almost fifteen years ago. It still gives me goosebumps every time I read it.

Woman Singing
by Catherine de Vinck

I am the woman dancing the world alive;
birds on my wrists
sun feathers in my hair
I leap through hoops of atoms:
under my steps
plants burst into bloom
birches tremble in their silver.

Can you not see the roundness of me:
curve of the earth
maternal arms of the sea
encircling you wetly as you swim?
I am the birthing woman
kneeling by the river
heaving, pushing forth a sacred body
not mud, not stone: flesh and blood.

Round, round the wind
spinning itself wild
drawing great circles of music
across the sky.
Round the gourd full of seeds
round the moon in its ripeness
round the door through which I come
stooping into your house.

I am a God of a thousand names:
why cannot one of them be
Woman Singing?

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