I was sitting on an airplane today while commuting home listening to a podcast and deeply focused on my cross-stitch project I was working on. A lady across the aisle leaned over and said something. I couldn’t hear her. I paused my podcast.
“I’m sorry? Say again?”
“Oh, thank you.”
I must admit; I do like the attention.
Lately though, when I want to work on my project, I stop and ask, “Phoenix, why do you want to do this right now?” If the answer I give myself is for attention, for someone to ogle over my work, I’ve learned not to pull it out. Making myself conscious about why I do things is very hard.
On an airplane, while listening to a podcast, book on tape, or watching a movie, it’s a completely different story. Eventually, I disappear into my own world and don’t notice anyone around me, even the flight attendant trying to get my attention to see what I’d like to drink. On those days, I get slightly annoyed when someone interrupts me.
It’s funny. When I want the attention, nobody says anything. But when I want to be alone in my own world, I meet people that want to talk. Must be Murphy’s Law.
“What do you plan to do with that? Make a pillow?” They always think I want to make a pillow out of my cross-stitch.
“Actually, I plan to frame this.”
“Oh. That’ll be pretty. What’s it supposed to be?”
I grab the picture of what the finished cross-stitch will look like.
“Wow,” she gasps. “Beauty and the Beast. Are you making that for someone?”
Who is This Piece of Art For?
I constantly get this question.
In the beginning, it was hard and painful to answer. I wanted to avoid the question. I felt passive aggressive anger surface. I felt sadness. I felt pain.
Today, I feel peace when asked.
“Originally, this cross-stitch was going to be a divorce present for my ex. Beauty and the Beast is one of her favorite Disney movies. I have always identified myself as the Beast because of things I did in the past. To me, the Beast symbolizes that part of us that focuses solely on our own wants at the expense of others, especially the ones we love. My belief used to be that if ‘Belle’ could love me, I could shed the Beast exterior and she would see the prince inside.
“My thoughts have changed. I’m keeping this cross-stitch for me. Why is it that society makes us believe that a woman needs a man or a man needs a woman to feel complete? Why is it that, in this story, if the Beast doesn’t find his ‘True Love’ before the last rose petal falls, he will remain a Beast forever? In many ways, society sets us up for failure with the idea that we need someone else to make us whole.
“Only we have the ability to make ourselves whole. I believe the Beast needs to learn to love himself. And only when he truly loves himself, including all his imperfections, will he transform into the prince that he has been all along. This cross-stitch is healing from my addiction. This cross-stitch is healing from my divorce. Every stitch I tell myself I need to learn to love me more.”
Rafiki and I talked at length about this. One night we spent two hours on the phone analyzing a 57-page essay titled, “Changing the Nature of the Beast.” It was about how Disney changed the original story, Madame De Beaumont’s La Belle Et La Bete, to match how our society views relationships.
Interesting side note: many of Disney’s movies have been changed from the original storyline. Stories that focus on interpersonal growth are changed into relational stories of connection and love.
Changing the Nature of the Beast
-Heather A. Stevens
Vulnerability Opens the Door
Most of the time, my response opens the door to conversation. I’ve had people tell me more about themselves and I start to ask questions to learn about them. They tell me stories about their divorce. I’ve had people tell me about their journey to learn to love themselves. I’ve heard about their struggles in their life or the struggles of their kids. Sometimes, we even talk about our addictions and childhood trauma.
I’m amazed at how comfortable people are with being vulnerable and sharing their life. They, like me, just want to be heard.
What I like the most about these conversations is listening to the resilience of how these individuals have taken the most difficult of struggles, turned their lives around, and have become stronger because of it. That encourages me on my personal journey of healing.
Rafiki tells me, “Fly Phoenix. F-L-Y. First Love Yourself. Others will come next.”
Through recovery I’m learning to love myself. Through recovery I’m learning how to connect with others on a level I never thought possible. Not a level where I think I need them to “give me something”. It’s a transformational shift to talk to someone because “I want to know them” vs. “I want you to know me.”
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
That’s the difference. In the Disney version, the Beast must prove his worth. In my new way of thinking…
OK, it’s not always there. I’m not going to admit I’ve totally got it, or that I’ve got it even most of the time. I’m still a little obsessed about wanting to heal my marriage. But I’m getting there.
In my new way of thinking the Beast is who he is, a Prince with some flaws.
The Beast is Human. And that humanity is us.
May you rise out of the ashes and love your inner Prince so you can soar with eagles!
Let’s F.L.Y. together!