He appeared outside my window, a rather thin looking rabbit, nothing like the photos or drawings one might see in a children’s book. Nothing like Peter Rabbit, no blue coat, and although Peter seemed to be a hungry rabbit, he still seemed a bit more plump that my visitor.
He stopped abruptly at the sight of me inside the window, as he had done several times in the past, and I smiled at him, as I always did. But my friendly gesture didn’t seem to soothe his cautious nature. As if pretending to be a statue, he stood completely still and kept his left eye steadily focused on my face. I had the urge to speak to him, but feared he would run away. So I stood there staring at him, staying still, no quick movements that might scare him away.
As I watched him, and he watched me, I wondered why he had appeared there on this particular evening. It had been over a week since I’d watched the movie, Miss Potter, but it quickly came back to mind. Beatrix Potter had been a writer, like me, and she, too, had had to write, regardless of what the world seemed to say about her writing. She had been somewhat patronized by her father, like a child who had built an elaborate sandcastle that was not of any value and would soon be washed away by the tide. And her mother had discounted her work altogether, but Beatrix wrote and drew anyway. She created on paper a world that others did not see or believe in.
I realized that this little bunny had come to me to tell me to keep going. Keep writing; keep believing – not only in my writing, but moreover, in myself.
I think we all seek out the admiration and affirmation of others. It is obvious in everyday living and working, when we see others and the way they conform, mimic and mock co-workers, TV stars and fashion trends. We seek out the approval of others and many times forsake what is true to our hearts, that voice that speaks from within, but doesn’t seem to be saying what others want to hear.
When we receive the approval of others, the praise we all long for, for the things we do or say, it feels good, and we feel we are on the right path. Like a child who behaves well and is rewarded with ice cream or a new toy. But when we veer from the path, make our own way, the way that may not seem “like everybody else,” we may not get the approval or the affirmation. Yet, we have to keep going. Otherwise, we have become the pleaser, the copycat, so to speak, and our true selves become buried deep within. But like a caged animal, that part of us will pace and do circles inside causing an inner turmoil, and we are forced to follow others instead of making our own way. Anger and bitterness then become the guiding force.
I have gotten caught up in this cycle time and again. The child wishing for ice cream seems to take over and I find myself forsaking my own way for the way of others. It is such a gradual thing. Something that recently was triggered in me by taking a new job. Suddenly, I found myself dressing “for the job” when really I was dressing like everyone else. I didn’t want to stand out. That in itself was just an outer, tangible reflection of how I was forsaking my true self to conform to my surroundings.
Another trigger is the desire for love and purpose. I fall into being and doing what my husband and children seem to want me to do and be, just to receive the strokes I desire from them that make me feel loved and with purpose. Ultimately, I end up resenting that they take all that I give and do not return the sacrifice.
Beatrix Potter did not and could not care if others approved of what she did. She could not forsake her inner world for the outer world’s approval. She had to follow her heart. And in believing in herself, she found her place in the world much larger than she had ever imagined it could be.
The rabbit didn’t stay long at my window. Once I turned to pour a cup of coffee, he bolted in the other direction. But that moment was all I needed to make the connection. How apt that he came so soon after watching, Miss Potter. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I strongly recommend it. We all need a little Peter Rabbit in our lives to remind us of who we really are.