Well, here’s the dish… When all the layers are gone?
So is the onion.
Which is why when someone refers to self-discovery as the “peeling of an onion” I automatically assume they have no inner substance.
I know, lame. Shallow. Judgmental.
I prefer to think of the steps of introspection as an unveiling an artichoke.
There is meat and substance in the leaves but you have to hold on to the good parts and throw away the bits that have no value except as a place holder delivering the good stuff.
After all that work has been done, in the middle of an artichoke?
Lies the heart.
A soft, delicious treasure which we endured the process to discover.
Except, sometimes, there really is no substance at the end of the process and we realize that we’ve held onto things that have no value. As the pile of shredded layers mount up with no “heart” to make it worth the effort.
In which case, we stink.
When I was 12 or 13, on a gloomy Valentine’s Day where I felt the weight of being the chubby girl, in weird clothes, wearing HUGE glasses and no romance in sight, my dad knocked on my door. He was carrying a box of chocolates from Walmart, I’m sure, and a card.
Like clockwork, every February 14th, he would always bring a small box of chocolates to me with a sweet, pink flower and painted glitter card while Mom got the HUGE red velvet box and the huge card. In his own small way he was sharing his affection for the “girls” in his life.
But that year he added, “My father never told me he loved me and it is my goal to tell you more that I love you.” And this declaration should have broken through the selfishness to reach the hungry girl inside.
Sadly, it didn’t.
I was a typically self-absorbed teenager struggling with identity and individuality. The world revolved around my pain. My success. My fear. My exhilaration.
I have never doubted my father’s care for me. I have worked my entire life under the light of his approving smile or the dark cloud of disapproval at my very long list of foibles and foolishnesses. But in that moment, as a father, he was making a deliberate, public choice to behave differently and to prevent, in his own children, the empty, broken place within himself.
And today, in the quiet of a hipster coffee shop, drinking a Skinny Dirty Hippie (non-fat Chai with a shot of espresso) out of a handled Mason Jar, I am finally free to throw away the guilt of my own ignorance and immaturity and hold onto the delicious truth that, indeed, my father loved me. And continues to do so.
In his own, broken, way. Just as we all express love.
Light shining through the cracks in our polished veneers while we hope that the object of our affection will see only the light and and the veneer while ignoring the cracks.
Can I be that brave? Can I speak out to my children and those who matter in my life about those things that have broken me? Instead of perpetuating the myth of identity being like source code that cannot be modified.
Or am I holding onto layers without meaning hiding a core without substance? Unwilling, unable, to hold onto the truth I spout and apply it to my own life.
Ah… Transparency is hard. Not because I want to hide or present a false image, but because the concrete nature of writing the harsh truth of the paper tigers I’ve held onto so tightly and feared with such ferocity exposes my vanity and irrational tenacity to a status quo.
But the heart isn’t in the layers; it is only concealed there.