There’s a popular saying in therapy sessions that life isn’t as much what happens, as our perception of what happens. The unspoken postscript is that those perceptions are as changeable as the weather.
I thought about this the other day when I was looking at a 3-inch high sandstone bear clutching a baby bear in her arms. It’s a souvenir I was given years ago.
My original perception was of an adorable mama bear holding her baby, who’s nestled within her arms. But when I recently unearthed the bears I had a completely different perception. Maybe it’s because I saw an actual bear (at a safe distance!) during my vacation, but my sandstone one suddenly looked menacing. Those downward lines indicating Mama’s mouth, certainly not a benign smile. Those two dark button -like eyes looked threatening.. And why is she clutching that baby so tightly? Is she one of those over-possessive mothers? What does the baby bear’s unreadable expression mean? Comfort being In Mama’s arms? Or, “Let me out of here”?
The other day I studied the bears more closely and had still another reaction. The mother bear’s expression isn’t menacing; it’s worried, on guard. She’s holding her baby close because the world has become so frightening. There are hunters (terrorists!) gunning for everyone, even helpless children. The baby senses this, is trying to hide within those protective arms.
Obviously my souvenir hasn’t altered, so it must be something within me. A reaction colored by the pervasive fear we all seem to have these days?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that vision is very personal. It’s also variable, reflecting our emotional temperature. How many times does a person you thought one way about seem to become a different character? I know a woman I always considered enviably self-assured, even intimidating. Meeting her after several years I saw a shy insecure woman. Has she changed – or has my view of her?
We may have favorite vacation sites. Then something shifts – it no longer seems like Arcadia. Instead of seeing just the beautiful scenery we may focus on too many tourists, too many motels. Or the other way around. Where we once saw only the unpleasant aspects we now see, as if for the first time, how beautiful the lake is, the beach, whatever. The same is true of looking at art and in the books we read.
A fixed point may be integral in mathematics, but it can be fatal in literature.. When it comes to the characters in books, change is fascinating. It’s also what makes or breaks the book for many of us. A static character doesn’t compel us to keep reading . The worst critique, for me, is “predictable.”
We have to find ways to surprise a reader. In many of my stories and books I tend to create women who are needy and weak, and then – through various steps and stumbles – develop into far stronger women.. If they didn’t go through unexpected phases along the way, readers would be bored — and so would I in writing them!
Of course, readers have their individual ways of interpreting our stories, often in surprising ways we never meant. As abstract artists say about their often indecipherable paintings, “The view is in the viewer.”
Comments welcome! Send to annehosansky.com
BOOKS: ROLE PLAY and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – available at CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle. WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com. TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com