The Heaviness of our Misbeliefs

Installation Statement

Wearing a garment with the weight of 651 ceramic tiles would encumber one’s freedom of movement. One might feel constricted, entrapped or even overwhelmed by the heaviness. One would desire relief from such a physically cumbersome load and take measures to remove it. Yet, figuratively speaking, many of us mentally wear a heavy garment. Over the years, we accumulate misconceptions, false beliefs, narratives that imprison us, oppress us and interfere with all aspects of our lives.

I grew up with debilitating shame. I developed a painfully diminished sense of myself that weighted my life down. To express the emotional heaviness I experienced, I chose to make a robe covered in ceramic tiles. This particular type of garment references back to 18th century lamellar armor as I lived in defensive mode. The garment I hid under was perfection. I was trying to convince myself and the world that I was not a deficient human being. On the tiles are stamped 10 repeating words that I believed about myself: bad, defective, loser, freak, inadequate, inferior, unwanted, stupid, worthless, ugly. On the borders of the robe, I have repeatedly written the word love. Like the borders of the garment, love remained on the outside of my life. I was unable to connect at that level. I never had a sense that I was loved or was loveable. Each tile was individually hand crafted, glazed and knotted to the fabric.

Two writings accompany the robe. In fact, the writings came first. Afterwards, I decided to make an art piece from the first writing titled, “Freak”. It is written from the wounded child’s perspective. The second writing, “The Rebuttal” is written from the wise and loving adult to the wounded child.

The Freak

Chased down and laughed at; pointed out and stared at; called at home and made fun of. No covering to hide me; no barrier to keep them away; no protection; no safe haven; no refuge. Everywhere I go people remind me of what a freak I am.

At the school lunch break I stay clear of people. I read in a corner in the library; I sit behind trees on the school property; I linger behind buildings. One day I decide to visit my old science teacher during the lunch break. He feels safe. I open the door to his class room and there she is. The girl that chases me in the halls to stare at my eyes. She even brings others and they surround me, staring at me. In the classroom, she points my way, “There she is! There’s that girl I was telling you about. She doesn’t have any eyelashes.” I turn and leave. I never return. I don’t want him to ever see me again. Now he knows I’m a freak.

I’m walking home from school. Across the street a group of high school girls are walking the opposite way. I look at them and smile. Then a voice screams out, “Hey kid, what happened to your eyelashes?” Then exploding laughter – rounds and rounds of laughter. My heart aches. I’m such a weirdo that even strangers laugh at me.

I walk to the store through the field to avoid bumping into people on the sidewalk. I turn the corner and there is a girl from my school with her mother. She points her finger at me, “Mom, there’s the girl in the yearbook that you said looked so weird. She doesn’t have any eyelashes. ”They both laugh. They think it’s funny. I feel sick. I turn and walk back into the field

I’m at the beauty parlor with my grandmother. She points to a woman across from us and says, “Look how thick her eyelashes are. Why can’t you grow your eyelashes in and look like her?” I guess I can’t because something is wrong with me.

I’m at home playing in my room. My mother says I have a phone call. “Hello”. On the other end laughter and then,“Why don’t you have any eyelashes?” More laughter. “We want to know what happened to them. ”More laughter. I don’t know what to say. I just hang up and cry.

At home my mother treats me like a specimen. She faces me and tilts her head downward so she can see over her glasses. She stares at my eyelids to take inventory. Her expression is stern. She doesn’t see me; she sees a problem. I wish she would look straight in my eyes and smile. I wish she would tell me that she loves me just as I am. One day I find a school photo of me on her desk. She has penciled - in eyelashes on my eyelids. Why did she do that? Because I’m a freak and I embarrass her.

The remarks hurt; the pointing fingers hurt; the stares hurt; the penciled - in eyelashes hurt; the laughter hurts. I hate myself because I hurt so much; I hate myself because I’m not normal; I hate myself for pulling my eyelashes; I hate myself because I can’t stop pulling my eyelashes out; I hate myself.

There is no one I want to be around. There is no safe place for me. I wish I could disappear. I wish no one could see me. But, even then, I would still be stuck with me. Ugly, ugly me. The freak.

The Rebuttal

My dear sweet child, I see.
I see your puffy eyelids void of lashes and full of pain;
I see your little body fearing;
I see your soul weeping;
I see your insides, dense with confusion and self - hate;
I see the story you tell yourself;
I see your agony from believing the story;
I see your future, hand in hand, with suffering.
I see it all.

My dear sweet child, I weep.
I weep for your misperceptions that cast you into hell;
I weep for the false stories that obstructed you;
I weep for the veil of darkness you chose to hide behind;
I weep for every wound that barred you from love;
I weep for the ignorance that denied you truth;
I weep for the undeserved cruelty thrown at you; but mostly,
I weep for the cruelty you inflicted upon yourself.

I see and I weep.

My dear sweet child,
If we had been classmates, I would have been your friend and I would have hung out with you
during the lunch break; we would have shared much laughter together.
If I had seen you walking home from school, I would have screamed “Hey you, have a great day!”
If you had been at the store when I was there with my mother, I would have pointed my
finger and exclaimed, “Mom, there’s that amazing girl from school; I want to get to know her more.”
If I had been your grandmother at the beauty parlor, I would have said “You are the most beautiful
person here.
”If I had been your mother, I would have bought the largest school photo size and hung it, untouched, in my bathroom.

That way I would have seen you first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

My dear sweet child, I “joy”.
I “joy” when I think of you.
Pure innocence, pure goodness, pure radiance,
pure delight, pure love; pure pureness.
This is you.
I see and I “joy”.

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