She follows her nose and stands once more before the doors of a quintessential dilemma. Male or Female. Here is her paradox. A staccato voice seems to challenge her, berate her. Hombre or Mujer. Mann or Frau. Homme or Femme. Gentleman or Lady. Come on, decide. She knows them all. She is them all. Not fluid or all-encompassing, gathering the harvest of the reaping fields, but fractured and split and bleeding. Her inner core weeping out of itself. There is nothing for hermaphrodites. It’s too confusing. The words rattle around in her earbones, androgynous and humming. How can she choose? She cannot choose. To choose is to sunder.
― Mark O’Flynn, The Last Days of Ava Langdon
Our problem isn’t that we’re individualists. It’s that our individualism is static rather than dynamic. We value what we think rather than what we do. We forget that we haven’t done, or been, what we thought; that the first function of life is action, just as the first property of things is motion.
― Fernando Pessoa, The Education of the Stoic
Everything about the house was rich, and dense, and rooted. It was everything I wasn’t. Even the air, with its distinct smell of oak wood and sage, spoke to its identity and its history. I couldn’t help but feel small here. Overwhelmed. Incompatible.
“It’s the shape of the stories that matters, the way belief forms around it. The story has real weight,” He pointed at himself. “Patupaiarehe look like monsters in some stories, but they’re beautiful in a lot. I guess people believed more in the beautiful version. And the ideal of beauty changes. If I’d been born two hundred years ago, I bet I wouldn’t look like this. The stories shaped me. They shape everyone, inside and out, but me more than most, because I’m magic.”
In our world, that’s the way you live your grown-up life: you must constantly rebuild your identity as an adult, the way it’s been put together it is wobbly, ephemeral, and fragile, it cloaks despair and, when you’re alone in front of the mirror, it tells you the lies you need to believe. For Papa, the newspaper and the coffee are magic wands that transform him into an important man. Like a pumpkin into a coach.
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
Sweetness is the opposite of machismo, which is everywhere – and I really don’t get on with machismo. I’m interested in sensitivity and weakness and fear and anxiety because I think that, at the end of the day, behind our masks, that’s what we are.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
He knew that he had lost his place among the nine masked spirits who administered justice in the clan. He had lost the chance to lead his warlike clan against the new religion, which, he was told, had gained ground. He had lost the years in which he might have taken the highest titles in the land. But some of these losses were not irreparable. He was determined that his return should be marked by his people. He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years.