The cursor blinks at me questioningly. My fingers rest on the keys waiting for some fleeting thought of inspiration to flow through them and randomly press this indecipherable arrangement of letters into meaning. I once imagined that I could harness some kind of power in organizing my thoughts and translating them onto a page. Some kind of satisfaction, at least. Perhaps I even thought I might shed some light on the darkness within – in emptying it all out, spreading it thin, trudging through the mess and attempting to arrange it all in a way that might make more sense to me. But at the end of the page the mess remains, behind or in front, and the cursor still blinks. There are no answers, no explanations that satisfy it; it always wants more.
It’s how I’ve come to view life, I think: A giant, blinking cursor, waiting for me to do something profound and meaningful, waiting for me to make something of it. To fill in the blank, so to speak. Sort it all out. Weighty expectation, that may have either been instilled by the world or self perpetuated from youth.
Meaning. Where is the meaning in all of this - this one life, one page, I have to write on?
When someone puts it like that I start to panic, quite honestly. Because for some reason I have always been acutely aware of the brevity and constraint of my own humanity. And suddenly I become like Alice’s rabbit, with a clock in my hand and the mantra, “Late! There’s not enough time!” or
“I’m missing it!” Though if you pressed me I couldn’t quite articulate just what it is I’ve missed exactly. I am only scrambling through Wonderland convinced that I’m missing the party. It’s urgency and aimlessness, bound together as one. I know I have something to do but I haven’t figured out what it is just yet. Someone I am supposed to be. But I’m certain I’m not her.
A blinking cursor that might as well be a looming question mark.
In my younger years I would look in the mirror and wonder if the magazines and media were right. Was there meaning for a woman in her beauty? Could I find some assurance of my value in this? If I put all of my energy into appearing lovely on the outside, would that satisfy? What if I were beautiful enough to turn every head in a room, or simply attract the man I longed to be with? If he were to find me physically beautiful, more beautiful than any other woman in the world, would that fulfill?
Perhaps for a moment, or even a year. Perhaps for several. But I would inevitably find myself left clinging to something that is more like a Velveteen Rabbit. It would unavoidably become like a child’s silk blankie - worn thin, like lines across a once smooth face or silvery strings of grey hair through a once rich brunette. And if physical beauty was all that drew him, it will not keep him.
As Marmee warns Jo in the classic story, Little Women:
“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative,
I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are.
Time erodes all such beauty,
but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind:
Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage.
These are the things I cherish so in you.”
So in urgency we warn the younger woman not to fall into this ‘beauty trap’, not to set any hope on the standard that fails us every time. Do not be deceived, we warn them. It is what you do that defines you. Who you are on the inside. What you achieve with that inner person of yours.
What are you doing?
Well, would you think less of me if in my rabbit-y way I am still left scurrying with an anxiously thumping foot and a spinning clock in hand? It’s in this trap that I have lingered the longest, and often return to whenever I am unsure. This blinking cursor is the biggest: What have you done that’s worthwhile? Worthy of a legacy? Worthy of remembrance?
A very wise man recently told me that even a legacy is fleeting and I shouldn’t put my stock in that either. "For one day your great-grandchildren may wander through a cemetery," he said, "and see their last name on a stone and wonder for a brief moment if the dust beneath the ground they stand on used to be a man or woman that was somehow related to them. And then they’ll walk on."
It all becomes dust – not just the outer appearances but the deeds as well. And I will be forgotten, perhaps completely, within a few short generations of man, which are like a breath in the span of eternity. Here and gone and forgotten in one exhale.