Words written many years ago can often feel as if that distant author is watching us today. That’s how I felt when I finally caught up with The Mill on the Floss, the 19th century novel by George Eliot.
Describing how depressed the heroine is after a cruel lecture from her brother, Eliot asserts that there must have been “some tenderness” mingled with the harshness in her brother’s rebuke. “But Maggie held it as dross, overlooking the grains of gold.”
Those words have been resonating in me. How many of us react tike Maggie, focusing on whatever was hurtful in a conversation or written communication. I’m hardly alone in this tendency to shine an emotional spotlight on angry or rejecting words, while ignoring more benign sentences.
It makes me think of the California gold rush, when the ‘forty-niners” prospected for gold by shaking pans filled with useless gravel in an effort to separate the bits of gold. That must have required faith that the gold was there, even buried under the dirt or imbedded in rocks.
Like modern prospectors we can be aware of the love imbedded in sharp words flung at us. On the other hand, how often we, ourselves, do the rejecting when a friend we’ve put on a pedestal falls off. We make disillusionment the entire picture, throwing away the valuable aspects of the friendship.
If a supervisor criticizes the way we handled a project, we easily fall into the “I’m a failure” syndrome, expecting to be fired and deaf to ”I know you can do better.” It’s as if we don’t believe we deserve any plaudits. As authors, how quickly we’re devastated by an editor’s rejection of our book, but blind to any fragmentary hope in such comments as “some strong writing…we’d like to see more.” True, those words are usually routine. But they just might be worth following up, rather than magnifying words that lead to a dead-end.
Maybe we need to learn how to tune out to whatever makes us feel worthless and accept any “grains of gold.”
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com; WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com;TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.