Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Lesson from the Velveteen Rabbit

I don't know if you've ever read the children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I discovered there were some beautiful life lessons in the little story, for me. And maybe for anyone else who has had their heart broken. And for humans else out there. 💟

Spoilers below, if you plan to read the book yourself or to one of your children / grandchildren:

The velveteen rabbit is a plushie given to a boy for Christmas. At first, the boy doesn't connect with the soft toy, but soon he finds it's his favourite toy and he takes the plushie with him everywhere. It gets rough and worn, but according to the velveteen rabbit's friend the Skin Horse, he's becoming real. The more he's worn, the more real he becomes. One day, he meets flesh-and-bone rabbits, and a little seed is planted inside of him to be able to move like they do, but then his time with his boy grows, and he's so happy, he forgets about them.

Firstly, I love this message. As life wears us down, and things come our way to make us not so shiny and perfect on the outside, we become more real on the inside. And that begins to show out in the world. It's called vulnerability. And vulnerability is beautiful. In fact, vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown, states that those who believe that their vulnerability makes them beautiful are the most resilient human beings in the planet. As soon as we take off the mask that we always have to be okay and good and strong and positive, and break down the lie that when we're not tough all the time, we're weak and inferior, we can be human and oh so strong. Because when we hide our true emotions - the good ones and the bad, when we choose to gloss over those painful parts of ourselves, we put a band-aid over a bleeding sore. We ignore our emotions by numbing them with food, alcohol, social media, working constantly, fitness fanaticism, dieting, parties, etc. Numbing them makes us less able to experience the happy emotions - the genuine ones. If we can't face our grief, our sorrow, our rejection, our anger, then we will never fully feel our happiness, relief, peace, satisfaction, etc. And that's why we are a messed-up society. We idolise strength and stoicness. Vulnerability is seen as weakness.

Vulnerability is what makes us strong. We have to learn to love ourselves whether we are strong, capable and with it, or whether we feel like crap, or the breakfast the dog brought up on the carpet.

Breathe into those bad emotions. Let them sit in you for a while, and then find a way to grow out of them. They don't have to stay. But they need to wear out that velveteen inside your bunny ears, and rub the pink sheen off your plastic nose, and thin out the plush fur on your rump. They make you real. And we all really, truly, in the depths of our being, love a real person, because they teach us to connect with that deep part of ourselves - that part that longs for love, and that part that is compassionate and empathetic. Being real means loving the whole YOU.

But bad things happen to velveteen rabbit. His beautiful boy becomes sick. Rabbit lies by his side through the terrifying illness until the boy becomes better. Rabbit is there for him, whispering to him that he can make it. And he does make it. Problem is, the doctor decides that the boy needs to go to the coast for a while to heal some more. And all his dirty old toys need to be tossed out and burned to get rid of the scarlet fever germs. Rabbit gets thrown in a box and taken to the bottom of the yard to get burned.

Rabbit feels all alone. He thinks back to all those beautiful days when he was thoroughly loved by the boy, how his love made him real. He's tormented by the happy memories, especially as he knows it's over. He cries real, water-and-salt tears, and those tears sink into the ground. A flower springs up with a fairy inside. The fairy is beautiful and she plays her magic on the velveteen rabbit. She makes him truly real - rabbit made of fur, and bones, and cells. He discovers he can bounce around like the wild rabbits he'd seen before - the ones he'd secretly longed to be. And he joins their tribe.

This story hit me in the heart, in the gut. Because I fell in love with my husband. He showed me love like I'd never known before in my life. It was beautiful; the memories of happiness are there. He helped me with my low self-esteem. Then one day, the boy got sick and he grew up, and he didn't need me anymore. I got thrown out in a box to be burned at the bottom of the yard.

But I didn't die there. My tears made some magic with the earth. Earth and water alchemy. And I was made real, and I'm still being made real. I'm learning to love ME. I'm learning that I don't need the love of a boy to know true love, that true love lives in me, that loving myself for ME is true love.

It's hard to be vulnerable and real. When people are judgemental, it makes it extra hard. The other day, I was having a bit of a tough time. My kids wanted desperately to send their dad a birthday and Father's Day present. But they couldn't decide what. Eventually they did - at the last minute. And they wanted me to get a photo printed of them standing next to the woman my ex left me for. They wanted to put it in a frame and get it posted to him. It was a punch to my gut. I nearly didn't go through with it. But I chose to make them happy. They don't understand the true extent of the pain my ex has caused me, both through the divorce and subsequently through certain actions. They may never. (And I don't want them to if it means they must suffer the same pain.) But I love them and want to make them happy. So, I went to the photo shop to organize the photo and to organize a Father's Day present for him. I knew inside that he would never appreciate all that I went through to arrange this for him - it took out a whole day from my busy schedule. But I did it for them. So, I told the lady at the photo shop about my dilemma. At first, she looked a bit wary of me sprouting off my personal pain to a stranger. Before I would've berated myself inwardly for telling a stranger my woes, and I would've been angry with her for not offering a sympathetic ear. But then, I decided that she's young, and newly married (with a gorgeous shiny ring) and isn't used to vulnerability - many of us aren't. She's human and she's a product of our stoic society. I didn't hate her for it. And that made me friendly toward her. I ended up leaving the shop with a good feeling between the woman and I. She made me laugh and we shared some jokes and a pleasant report. I felt better about the whole thing after that.

Vulnerability isn't easy, but being real is beautiful. We each secretly long to bounce around with the true tribe of bunnies out there in the wild. Wild women and men we are - deep inside. Let fairy magic sparkle.

(Thanks to morguefile.com for the photos.)

You can buy The Velveteen Rabbit here: https://www.amazon.com/Velveteen-Rabbit-Illustrated-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B002UNN7SW

You can listen to Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

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