“Oh, yeah, you blend.”
~ Mona Lisa Vito in the film My Cousin Vinny
One night last week, I hung over the side of the sofa upside-down just to snap this picture. This adorable little moth stayed absolutely still while I dangled inches from her, my hair enclosing us both in its dark curtain, dark enough to cause the flash to activate.
I especially love that you can see her face in the shot. Is it just me, or does she look a little bit like an Ewok?
Okay. Enough pop culture references. Let me get to the point.
This moth did not move at all, even when my camera was inches from her fragile little body, even when the blinding flash went off, even when I squirmed around to get just the right angle. She seemed to trust that I could not see her lovely brown and grey body against the bright red suede of my living room couch.
“Of course I can see you,” I told her a few moments later as I gently scooped her up and walked outside to release her into a night teeming with stars and cricket song. “Maybe you are really good at camouflage in your regular environment, but that doesn’t work here.”
And as I watched her flutter away into the darkness, it hit me:
Hey, I’m talking to myself.
In my regular environment, I blend in so well that I’m invisible. Or close enough to pass nearly unobserved. I like having that kind of camouflage, for a lot of reasons. To list just a few here:
- As a writer, I prefer to be the observer and not to be noticed.
- It’s easier to meet like-minded people and make friends when you’re a natural fit for the environment.
- You don’t need very much courage to be invisible.
I especially like that last one. My childhood conditioning encouraged me to keep my head down and keep quiet and be difficult to find. Hiding, whether literal or figurative, comes naturally to me — or it seems natural because I’ve done it for so long. In fact, that fear of being observed and noticed is an important component of the formula that kept me from submitting my writing for review or publication all these years, and the everyday, benign notice of blogging has begun to release and dissolve some of that fear, much of it irrational (as so many of our unexamined childhood fears are), in small doses.
So I like to blend, no question. But blending in here is not working. It’s a small, rural, traditional, evangelical, militantly conservative town, and I’m a well-educated, twenty-first-century, mystical, far-left-leaning ex-urbanite.*
I like modern art and social safety nets. I think acid-wash jeans and mullets and scrunchies went out in 1987 (saw all three again last night, so I’m wrong, apparently). I don’t want to discuss whether or not I have been saved. Hybrid cars are awesome, and global climate change is real. “Foreigners” cannot be discussed as an amorphous group in an intelligent conversation — especially not by a woman who married one. I’m not going to be able to muster a laugh for a sexist joke, and I won’t play deaf when a little racist innuendo pops up in the conversation.
For all my attempts at fitting in here over the last year and a half, I might as well be that little moth.
Now, you might think this realization would be depressing. But I honestly felt relief when I saw my situation clearly. I felt as though a burden had been lifted from my shoulders just in realizing, yes, okay, Meredith, it’s never going to happen.
There was a reason that even as a child visiting my grandfather’s farm, my cousins still mockingly called me “city girl.” I could love that farm all I wanted — but I didn’t live on it, day in and day out. Since then, I’ve lived not just in the suburbs of Atlanta, but abroad in some “socialist” countries and also in the far North. I knew when I came back that I had been changed by the experience and would never quite click in the South the way I did before — and that was true, living smack dab in Midtown in one of the South’s largest metropolises.**
How much more so, living in a small hamlet in South Carolina!
I’m not from around here, y’all. And I’ve realized that’s okay.
What’s not okay is beating myself over the head trying to make it happen. Repeatedly trying to fit in and mesh, doing all the things one is supposed to do to find a place in a community, only to be shown in a million different ways that I’m an outsider, and a strange one at that. We’ll be leaving in a few months, and I will have gotten a lot from my life here, and enjoyed some parts of this time so much, especially, as you know from reading this blog, my lovely garden and the local Botanical Garden and my everyday connection to nature, especially the wilder, undisturbed bits.
But I am probably going to stand out and be noticeable and different until the very last day of our tenure here. Maybe it’s time I began to deal with why I feel I need camouflage at all. Truth be told, I’m tired of hiding.
Focusing on that issue is probably going to take a little more time than just week 25. We’re talking a long-term pattern here. Still, I’m glad it was brought to my attention, and I can already see some effects of that new awareness in my everyday life. I unmasked myself a little bit here today at the blog, for instance.
Thank you, little moth.
*Although I generally abhor labels, I needed them to convey the disconnect.
** I should add, though, especially for those of you new to the blog, that I love the South and always will. Every place on Earth has its pluses and minuses, every culture on Earth is such a rich mishmash of good and bad. Living outside of this region has allowed me, in some ways, to love it even more deeply, to appreciate its unique beauty, flaws and all, from another angle. I can only hope that that love has shown up clearly and often here at The Enchanted Earth.