This piece is a companion to “Or So I Thought.

I felt my way through this past fall like a bear preparing for winter—guided by instinct, not knowledge. Bears don’t know the names of seasons, they just wait and trust and so did I.

I recently realized that over the course of my life I had gotten to the point where I was just an idea of the person I was supposed to be. I was probably the idea of that idea, the concept of my identity refracted through so many selves that I could hardly move without breaking something. My brain was like a rats nest of careful scaffolding. It was like I was looking at a photograph of a photograph of a photograph of myself. So many lenses.

Instead of moving and growing, I was treating my mind like a home that needed maintenance. Constantly worrying about about the foundation, never quite happy with the colors of the window trim, and oscillating between hope that the neighbors won’t notice it and that they’ll think it’s the prettiest house on the block.

But then, out of nothing but blue sky and stretched out puffs of cloud, the sun hit the flag in my window. As the light poured in, the scaffolding of my mind collapsed into itself. The structure I had been building  around my soul fell away, and my soul, that I had never known was there, broke free. As my cat teetered along the sill, my mind smeared together—colors blurring and separating and exploding with brightness.

Suddenly, everything vibrated with indescribable beauty. Every shade brighter and more glorious, every line and angle in harmony.

For a while, I believed I was my possessions or my name. For another while, I thought I was my accomplishments or the things I did and said. For even a much longer while I was under the mistaken impression that I was the atoms and molecules that made up my body.

But I’m none of those things. I am not a thing at all; I am the life within things. I am the pattern of motion that animates the particles of my body and the objects I touch. I am a self-sustaining chain of events, nothing more, nothing less. The repetitions of my life—days, stories, conversations, sounds, meals, images, kisses, hugs, dreams—are like interlocking houndsteeth, but somehow unbound by form, unbridled by geometry.

Yet every piece is me, because I am not the threads of my life—I am the pattern they follow. And there’s glory in every pattern of the universe, glory that burns in the dark and glows in the dirt, glory that breathes you in. God is the wind that rushes through the leaves of the universe.

I felt that breeze when I became myself.

Looking into the flag I realized that I love my apartment and my style. That I love my family and my friends. That I love my city and my kitty. That I love myself.

My pattern is a bright, whirling smear of color on a black page, bursting into bloom.

That’s what I am, today and forever: a bright smear of color.

Jack Van Allsburg

Studied psychology and writing, works at a design firm. Film junkie, amateur photographer. (’16)

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