We have a little animated version of The Velveteen Rabbit that my kids like to watch. It's not too shabby; Christopher Plummer narrates it. There is a silly side-story about wind-up toy soldiers who make it their mission to get the rabbit out of the nursery, but develop some affection for the plush toy so that in the end they attempt to rescue him from the garbage heap.
Growing up I had an absolutely lovely copy of this book, with beautiful illustrations. I read it over and over, not really understanding its significance.
Now, grown up and living in a world of plastic and botox and all sorts of attempts to stay young and beautiful forever, I see how truly important the parable taught to us by a dumpy stuffed animal is. The sheen of the veneer and mechanical operations of wind-up toys may make us ooh and aah; the latest fashions, the always put-together house, the perfect hostess. But if you really want to become real, that must fall away.
And then even more, becoming real requires a surrender of your whole self. It means getting pushed clear under the covers where you can hardly breath, even though what you really wanted to do was to look out at the stars. And no one can doubt that looking at stars is a wonderful and uplifting thing to do.
There is, undeniably, joy in the process. Being hauled along to picnic in the woods is exciting and wonderful, because you get to see new things! Suddenly someone wants you like never before, and this knowledge is exhilarating. And should you get shoved behind the bed, you may be forgotten at times, but always you will be found, because you are needed. There will be a grand celebration, and you will be hauled off again on more adventures.
The rub is this: Being available for this kind of love and joy is demanding.
You must allow your self to be bruised and bumped around as you love unconditionally. Occasionally you will be torn. You must let go of the keeping up of appearances. You will spend time in the dirt. You will scavenge up the mountain, out of breath and exhausted, too tired at times to cry out your sorrow.
Despite all this, I am not speaking of becoming slovenly, lazy and without regard for how one keeps one's self and one's surroundings. Nor do I speak of masochistically letting every little part of you out to the world in some pretense of honesty. This is because becoming real inherently carries with it a sense of dignity, despite the dirt.
The pursuit of dreams and goals aren't negated, but sometimes they may have to be tweaked a little bit, and some do have to be let go; it's so easy to be sidetracked by them. Becoming real is serious business. And the motivation for it is utterly the opposite of that of the wind-up toy, that may easily break down with too much pressure.
Yes, becoming real is serious business, and it can get as ugly as lying in a heap a garbage, preparing to become just a cinder, after all you've given. But as you lie there on the ground, contemplating all the good and the bad that has brought you to where you are, you shed a tear, a real tear. And then a flower blooms before you, and a fairy kisses you on the nose, and you find yourself able to things you never even imagined. Because you are real.