My mother had a portfolio of art prints, probably begun in her college years. She had added art clippings along the way. Sometimes, on a quiet Saturday morning, she would let me sit on the living room carpet and look through her pictures. “Only touch them on the edges,” she’d warn, “and keep them flat. We don’t want wrinkled pictures.” Parental words to a young child. And so I entered her world, all by myself, a world that included Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough and the ballerinas of Edgar Degas.
The picture I remember most of all is The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.
Our family owned two horses, but they certainly weren’t blue. In fact, they were rather ordinary in color: one chestnut brown with a white blaze, the other a lighter brown with black mane and tail. These blue horses were magical to my young eyes.
Decades later, I recalled those blue horses. I could picture them in my mind, but had no idea who the artist was. In the days before the internet, searching for this image was complicated and nearly impossible. Their image returned as I was working on my mid-life identity, life changes, and spiritual growth, while pondering some personality assessments that were a work requirement. I posed my nagging question to the company psychologist. “I always feel like a misfit and I’ve always attributed that to the fact I was raised in the Pacific Northwest but live in the South. I’ve always thought it was a cultural issue. But I’m wondering if it might be my personality.”
“What’s your personality type?” he asked.
“INTJ.” (Introversion, Tuition, Thinking, Judging on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)
“Your feeling of not fitting could be partially cultural, but mostly it’s because of your personality type,” he said. “First of all, there aren’t many people with your type in the population. You’ll have difficulty finding someone like yourself. Secondly, your type is more common in men than in women. And third, the South does not support women like you.” His words were clear and cut deep — not to wound, but to clarify.
Bingo!! I am a documented card-carrying misfit!
So “misfit” is my normal. There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just different. All my life I’d tried to fit into the resident herd of brown horses, when, in fact, I am a blue horse. It’s all quite simple. Now I know why I remembered those childhood blue horses.
The power of image and the clarity of words changed my life.
I decided to begin embracing and accepting my differentness — and to become the best blue horse I could be. Fitting into the norms of others was an exercise in futility. Been there. Done that. It doesn’t work for me.
I’ve seen Marc’s original horses in the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. And I’ve found another of his paintings I like equally well. It hangs in my living room as a daily reminder of who I am.
Never underestimate the power of remembered images.
Until next Tuesday . . .