Wednesday 16 December 2009

Deceptive Appearances

It is nothing new: appearances can be deceptive.
Self-perception and how others perceive us is a topic I find fascinating - not so much the actual perception but how one differs from the other.

There is, of course, a lot going on in our lives other people don't know about, and mostly it is impossible for them to perceive much from just looking at us.

For example, when my husband died and I went to work again a few days later, I walked the same road to the station, I took the same train as usual, and saw a lot of the same people I see almost every day on my way there.

To them, most likely I appeared exactly the same as always, wearing the same coat, carrying the same old handbag. I looked at them and thought, they have no idea.

And just like they had no way of knowing what went on in my life, I had no idea about theirs. What did I know of their sorrows and pains, pleasures and joys? Nothing.

It is entirely possible that some of them were in a similar situation to mine; recently widowed but getting on with their lives as best as they could.

What made me want to write about this topic now, and another example of this difference in self-perception and how others might see us, was my visit to a painter's study tonight, where I was to sit for him.

So there I was, walking along the road in the cold and dark, and to anyone passing me on the way, I looked just like the average middle-aged woman, shapeless in her big padded winter coat, in a hurry to get out of the cold or to complete some errand.

They did not know that this woman was about to have pictures of herself drawn for the very first time in her life, and that she was looking forward to finding out more about the painter, his art, how he worked and what it was going to be like to sit for him.

And of course, I didn't know where those walking past me were coming from, and where they were headed. What adventures did life have in store for them tonight? Where they dreading the next few hours or looking forward to them? Had they had a good day or had it been one of those days that are best forgotten as soon as they end?

The artist, by the way, patiently answered all my questions, and I sat for him for about 2 hours. He made 4 drawings of me and wants to continue working with me soon. He even gave me one of the drawings, and I am looking forward to going back to the study in January.


  1. I've come your way via Nan's blog and wanted to say hello.

    I felt this exact way 4 1/2 years ago after losing my stepdaughter. I walked my bike trail, listening to my music, tears in my eyes, wondering why nobody knew or noticed the sorrow in my heart. How the world could continue turning and people living their lives without interruption while mine was crumbling. I know your pain. I didn't lose a husband, but my heart broke just as yours obviously has.

    Keep writing. I think it's incredibly important to put the words down. Joan Didion said (and I paraphrase here): "I didn't know what I felt until I wrote it down." This is my experience. I have a blog that I started after my loss and it helped tremendously. It's called Stop All the Clocks and you can find it in my profile. Feel free to write to me, if you need a shoulder.

    You're in my thoughts. And that's not a platitude. You truly are in my thoughts.

  2. Les, you are very kind, thank you. I am definitely going to stop by your blog. Writing has been a part of my life ever since I learnt it at the age of 5 from my sister, who is a year older than I and thus started school a year earlier.

  3. Thinking of you today. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I'll email you later this weekend. You're in my thoughts.

  4. Thank you, Les. I am looking forward to hearing (or, rather, reading) from you!

  5. I too know this sensation. The one of feeling removed, suddenly not a part of the human race at large, just broken off , like a piece of land from the continent. It takes time to find your way back to the mainland. There is a stillness in your writing I enjoy. I'll check back again.

  6. Julie, thank you - that quite says it in a nutshell, yes.
    I have just started reading in your blog; if it had not been for your comment here, I wouldn't have come across Mr. Fox, the President of the Pie Society!

  7. It is funny, how we often don't know much about the people we see all the time. We generally get so wrapped up in our lives that we fail to see the other lives around us. Most of the times it takes a loss for us to open our eyes and hopefully they will stay open.

  8. I read the post and as a result decided not to leave a cheeky remark about art and modelling. Until now I didn't know about your husband's death Arian. It may be late but I send you a big Yorkshire hug of condolence.

    1. Thank you, YP. It may be already more than 4 years ago, but I still get my "Steve" moments with bouts of sadness. Therefore, it is never too late for big hug of condolence.

  9. By the way, cheeky remarks are welcome, too. If life consisted of just serious comments, how sad and boring it would be!