Jean Croker Petke

Being Blue

Being Blue

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 . . .


9 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Pam Baker-Redman -

    Awwww, Jean…I can identify! I was born & raised in the South, but apart from the accent I don’t hear (but others of course do), I have often had people living in my same KY County ask me where I’m from! I grew up in a neighborhood of mostly boys. I PREFER the way men interact with each other….the directness & lack of cattiness & pettiness. As a child, NEVER liked playing with dolls (boring!) I never liked the fact that the boys in my neighborhood could pull their shirts off on a hot, humid summer day. So one day I joined them…it must have caused quite a stir….a first & last such occasion for me.

    Although I’m a very social person, I always prefer to work in a position of autonomy…I’ve never been part of the crowd, Conseqently, I’ve often experienced the resentment of my female peers in the workplace. Women who resent you, tend to gang up on you….which I’m intelligent enough to recognize, strong enough to withstand & brave enough to combat & overcome.

    I’ve been the only female in a male-dominated job. I’ve looked dangerous in the face & didn’t run….in underground coal mines & in a Federal Prison. I’ve withstood the harassment of both men AND WOMEN because of it. I’ve had men try to run me off & women ostracize me. I stood my ground. I’ve weathered more than a few storms in my life, so these silly little games are child’s play to me.

    Still I enjoy spa treatments, massages, & female bling but I don’t obsess. I will work in the garden with those manicured nails. Dirt on the outside of us washes off; dirt on the inside won’t. Character & integrity are the things that really matter, no matter who you are or where you’re from.

    I don’t call myself a blue horse (they’d be gorgeous though). I am just ME…..unique & one-of-a-kind. At the end of the day, I appreciate those who show respect (I’ve earned it)….for me & for others. I appreciate the positive in ALL people. Uniqueness is VERY appealing. We are the people who won’t be forced to a pair of I’ll-fitting shoes. No apologies. (ENTJ) 🙂

    • jcpetke -

      Ahhhh, but are you a blue horse? Horses are my tribe — you may have a different tribe of kinfolk. Treasure them, for that is where you thrive.

  • Linda Dingus -

    Talking about blue horses, I grew up with two work horses. One was so black that it looked blue. The other was a red horse. Guess what we named them: Blue and Red. The blue horse was feisty and the red horse was more subdued. Farming with horses is something I believe every child could benefit from in this computer world. Two commands for the horses: gee and haul which meant go right or go left to keep them in the middle of the row.

  • Joan Wilson -

    Your message rings true to a fellow INTJ. Add to that being a scientist and I understand you completely. At parties I was always in the living room with the men, while the women were in the kitchen talking about babies!

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