To stand by yourself -- that was also part of dignity. That way, a person could get through a public flaying with dignity. Galileo. Luther. Even somebody who admitted his guilt and resisted the temptation to deny it. Something politicians couldn't do. Honesty, the courage for honesty. With others and yourself.
My theory was that if I like a confident, cheerful person, eventually I would buy it myself, and become that. I always had traces of strength somewhere inside me, it wasn't fake, it was just a way of summoning my courage to the fore and not letting any creeping self-doubt hinder my adventures. This method worked then, and it works now. I tell myself that I am the sort of person who can open a one-woman play in the West End, so I do. I am the sort of person who has several companies, so I do. I am the sort of person WHO WRITES A BOOK! So I do. It's the process of having faith in the self you don't quite know you are yet, if you see what I mean. Believing that you will find the strength, the means somehow, and trusting in that, although your legs are like jelly. You can still walk on them and you will find the bones as you walk. Yes, that's it. The further I walk, the stronger I become. So unlike the real lived life, where the further you walk, the more your hips hurt.
There was something stubborn in me that didn't want to lose weight to attract a man. If the right man came along, he'd be able to see my virtues magically. Once he kissed me, the frog would turn into a prince. I had become a trick question, a heavy disguise, but behind the disobliging exterior was the welcoming child I would always be. Of course, what I'd forgotten was that he was not Parsifal and I was not the Grail; the medievalism of my imagination was not sufficiently up-to-date to recognize that the lover was a shopper and I a product.
In the story of Ugly Duckling, when did the Ugly Duckling stop feeling Ugly? When he realized that he was a Swan. Each of us has something Special, a swan of some sort, hidden inside somewhere. But until we recognize that it's there, what can we do but splash around, treading water? The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they've got and do what they can do.
Wisteria hangs over the eaves like clumps of ghostly grapes. Euphorbia's pale blooms billow like sea froth. Blood grass twists upward, knifing the air, while underground its roots go berserk, goosing everything in their path. A magnolia, impatient with vulvic flesh, erupts in front of the living room window. The recovering terrorist--holding a watering can filled with equal parts fish fertilizer and water, paisley gloves right up over her freckled forearms, a straw hat with its big brim shading her eyes, old tennis shoes speckled with dew--moves through her front garden. Her face, she tells herself, like a Zen koan. The look of one lip smiling.