She picked up Rosa and walked over to Clara’s cottage. Letting herself in, she found Clara where she knew she’d be. Ruth sat on the sprung and lumpy sofa that smelled of banana peels and apple cores and watched Clara at the easel, staring at Peter’s portrait.“Who hurt you once, so far beyond repair?” said Ruth.“The line from your poem,” said Clara, turning on the stool to look at Ruth.“I was asking you, Clara. Who hurt you once?” Ruth gestured to the easel. “What are you waiting for?”
“Then why’re you stuck? Like the characters in that goddamned play. Are you waiting for someone, something to save you? Waiting for Peter to tell you it’s okay to get on without him? You’re looking for milk in the wrong place.”“I just want to paint,” said Clara. “I don’t want to be saved, I don’t want to be forgiven. I don’t even want milk. I just want to paint.”
Ruth struggled out of the sofa. “I did.”
“You did what?” asked Clara.“The answer to that question. All those years when I couldn’t write, I blamed John Fleming. But I was wrong.”
Clara watched Ruth and Rosa waddle away. She had no idea what the crazy old woman was talking about. But sitting in front of the canvas, it slowly sank in.Who could do such damage? Who knew where the weaknesses, the fault lines lay? Who could cause all that internal bleeding?
During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. They justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences.” (Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl)
When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.” (Gilead – Marilynne Robinson)
“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” (The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman)
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same. (Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl)
We are all frightened of the ugly, the dirty. We all want to turn away from anything that reveals the failure, pain, sickness, and death beneath the brightly painted surface of our ordered lives. Civilization is, at least in part, about pretending that things are better than they are. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
How difficult it is to accept our limits and our handicaps as well as our gifts and capacities. We feel that if others see us as we really are they might reject us. So we cover our weaknesses. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
But then I began to realize that in order to accept other people’s disabilities and to help them grow, it was fundamental for me to accept my own. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
IfIf you can keep your head when all about you// are losing theirs and blaming you, // If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, // But make allowance for their doubting too; // If you can wait and not be tired of waiting, // or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, // or being hated, don’t give way to hating…(Rudyard Kipling)
Clara picked up her brush and contemplated the empty canvas. She would do a portrait of the person who had hurt her once, beyond repair.With one bold stroke after another she painted. Capturing the rage, the sorrow, the doubt, the fear, the guilt, the joy, the love, and finally, the forgiveness.It would be her most intimate, most difficult painting yet.It would be a self-portrait.
All quotes - unless stated otherwise - are from The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny