Jean Croker Petke

Surface Safety

Surface Safety

In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton writes:

Better keep on the surface, in the prudent old New York way, than risk uncovering a wound he could not heal.

She’s right. If we stay on the surface we don’t have to worry about uncovering our wounds — either recent ones or ones from another time. No one else will discover our wounds either.

We can be pleasant. We can pretend everything is fine. We can do all the right things. We can keep our secrets.

We can keep everyone at arms’ length.

In my private ponderings I call people like that The Plastic People. The Perfect Plastic People. Their hair is always in place. Their clothes don’t wrinkle. Their face is never without its pleasant expression. Their life appears to be in control. Their homes are in order.

But here’s the problem with all of this. I don’t know how to relate to the perfect people. At my core I believe we’re all made of the same cloth, so to speak. The colors and patterns of your cloth will be different than mine — but it’s still fabric that wears and tears and ravels and gets mended and fades. None of us can escape those things that happen over time. So if all I see of you is exquisite unblemished silk and my fabric is ragged denim I experience a disconnect. Yet, I know . . . I know there must be more to your story, though it’s hidden, perhaps for a long time.  Perhaps your wounds are still open, still unhealed, too personal to be shared — at least so far.

I get that. I really do.

But I’ve learned, after playing the role of the Perfect Plastic Person for longer than I like to admit, that it’s not our perfection that draws us together. Rather, it’s our less-than-pretty, our imperfections, our mistakes, our ordinariness that call us to connection, that begin a friendship.

If I know your silk has some threadbare places . . .

perhaps I have some thread to offer as repair for your unraveling

perhaps you have some yarn to decorate my tear

perhaps in our stitching and careful mending and sharing of pins and needles and scissors we can come to know we’re more alike than we are different.

Exposing our rips and tears and worn places doesn’t come easily. It’s scary at first and requires courage we’ve not mustered before. Over time, bit by bit, we begin to trust another with who we are beneath our plastic exterior.

And so begins the mending of our cloth, the healing of our soul, and the choosing to share our journey toward wholeness.


Until next Tuesday . . .