I feel that I have two distinct personalities. One who longs for attention and accolades, and one who blushes and instinctively hides the moment the spotlight is turned on her.
In the past, this has made me feel insecure. How is it that I desire attention and simultaneously want to run from it? I have told myself that I must be the most self-conscious, arrogant person in the world. I thought that this dichotomy made me weak and wishy-washy, as if it meant that I didn’t know myself enough to be solid in either role. However, I now see that each side serves a purpose that allows the other to live and flourish.
When I began to write about this, the children’s book lover in me translated this subject into a fable of sorts. The moral being acceptance and appreciation of ourselves as complex beings, who at times, may not seem to make much sense. I believe that each part of me nurtures the other parts, and each cannot healthily exist without the others.
Here is the story of Panda and Dragon.
Once upon a time Panda and Dragon lived together in a small room with only one window. Dazzling and fiery Dragon, who thrived on attention, spent her days sticking her head out the window, breathing fire, blowing smoke rings and showing off her glittering scales and wings. Shy, clumsy and self-conscious Panda could usually be found in the corner of the room, quietly chewing on bamboo, or meditating in Dragon’s shadow.
One day, a girl walked by the window and Dragon said, “Hey! Over here! Look at me! I am the fierce and beautiful dragon. Let me amaze you with my beautiful wings!” The girl looked over, and was mesmerized by Dragon’s beauty, elegance and allure.
“Wow!” said the girl, “You are a magnificent beast!”
“I know!” said Dragon.
Panda sat quietly in the corner, enjoying the cool breeze from Dragon’s wings.
The next day, the girl walked by the window and Dragon said, “Hey! Over here! Look at me! I am the fierce and beautiful dragon! Let me amazing you with my breath of fire!”
The girl looked over as Dragon breathed a river of fire out the window. “Wow!” said the girl. “You light up the world! I wish I could be just like you!” Dragon grinned smugly at the complement. Panda, seated in the corner, began to feel a little bit warm and broke out in a sweat.
The day after that, the girl walked by the window and Dragon said, “Hey! Over here! Look at me! I am the fierce and beautiful dragon! Let me amaze you with my smoke rings!” The girl stopped to marvel at the perfect rings that puffed from Dragon’s nose.
“Wow!” said the girl. “You must be the most talented beast in the world!”
Dragon, nose lifted to the sky, said, “Yes. I must be!” Panda let out a little cough. The room was beginning to feel small.
On the fourth day, as the sun lifted over the mountains, Panda woke to find Dragon still fast asleep. Panda let out a relieved sigh, put on a tea kettle, and heaved herself up to the windowsill (which was not easy for Panda). Panda inhaled the fresh air as the birds began to sing. She looked over at sleeping Dragon and noted that her flashy personality was getting tiresome.
The girl walked by the window.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” said Panda.
“What tricks can you do?” asked the girl.
“I can sit quietly for long periods of time and chew bamboo,” said Panda.
The girl was puzzled. “Those aren’t tricks,” she said. “Do you have glittery wings?”
“No,” said Panda.
“Can you breathe a river of fire?”
“Nope,” said Panda.
“Can you make smoke rings?”
“Sorry, no,” said Panda, feeling a little embarrassed. What exactly was she good at? Just then the kettle began to whistle.
Dragon stirred, feeling irritated that her beauty sleep was being interrupted by the kettle. She thought to herself, “Why is Panda even at the window? She can’t do anything but chew bamboo and sit quietly! What does she think she has to show the world?”
She began to lift herself from her sleeping spot and noticed that her wings looked dull and felt heavy. She eagerly approached the window to nudge Panda out of her way and take her rightful place, but when she went to open her mouth to tell Panda to move, she found her throat was sore. She attempted to blow a smoke ring at Panda to puff her out the way, but her nose was stopped up. Dragon had caught a cold.
Panda turned to look at her. “What’s wrong, Dragon?”
“I don’t feel very well,” Dragon said.
Panda, attempting to dismount from the windowsill, fell over and tumbled to the ground. Blushing, she got up, dusted herself off and waddled to the kettle.
“I’m sorry you don’t feel well, Dragon.” she said, handing Dragon a cup of tea with honey. “Maybe you should rest today?”
Dragon took a sip of tea and felt her throat soothe. She looked at Panda who, in her opinion, was never much to look at. She had no color; only black and white. She had no wings; only stumpy legs. She spent her time quietly in the corner where no one would notice her. She couldn’t breathe fire or blow smoke rings.
Then Dragon’s eyes met Panda’s, and for the first time, Dragon noticed Panda’s eyes, turning self-consciously downward, had a kind and nurturing quality. “Thank you for the tea, Panda. I think I will rest.”
Panda looked over Dragon. Sure, she was flashy and arrogant, but even flashy and arrogant beings need to be taken care of sometimes, right? Panda put on a pot of bamboo stew.
“That will make Dragon all better,” she thought to herself.
Later on, that day, the girl came to the window. “Hello?” she called out. “What’s that amazing smell?”
“Hi!” said Panda. “That’s my bamboo stew. Would you like a bowl?”
“Sure!” said the girl and reached over to take a steaming bowl of stew from Panda. Looking through the window, she noticed Dragon on the floor. “What’s wrong with Dragon? Will she wake up soon and do tricks for me?”
“I don’t think today,” said Panda. “She a little under the weather. I’m taking care of her.”
“Oh,” said the girl, clearly disappointed. “She’s lucky she has you. Tell her I’ll come back when she’s better!” The girl happily slurped her stew and skipped away.
Dragon, overhearing the conversation, thought to herself, “I sure am lucky to have Panda. Who else would take care of me when I’m sick?”
For the next few days, Panda fed Dragon stew and tea until she was healthy again. The morning she was finally feeling better, Dragon went to the window, careful to be quiet and not wake Panda, who was exhausted from all the care-taking. The girl noticed Dragon and came running up to the window.
“Hi Dragon! Are you better?! Can you breathe fire for me?”
Without thinking twice, Dragon took a deep breath in and let out a crimson bolt of fire. The deafening noise immediately woke up Panda who had been sleeping deeply. Panda sat up, reached over for a bamboo stalk and began to chew while watching Dragon put on a show for the giggling girl.
“I’m glad Dragon’s feeling better”, Panda thought, as the cool breeze from Dragon’s wings tickled Panda’s fur. As the air turned warm from the smoke and fire, Panda rolled her eyes and shook her head while smiling at her friend’s magnificence. She was inspiring.
Panda began to meditate in the corner, a small smile remaining on her lips, as Dragon entertained every passer-by. When she opened her eyes, she found that Dragon had placed a cup of tea on the ground next to her.
“Thanks, Dragon,” she said quietly, knowing that Dragon couldn’t hear anything at that moment outside of her own brilliance. Dragon did hear Panda, but ignored her, completely focused on her fans. She would tell her how much she appreciated her later...
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.
The image at topic is an older piece that I created in 2013 called BAMBOOM!