A Friend in Me

by Jennifer on June 27, 2007

two frida kahloWednesday, June 27th, 2007

When I was little I would sometimes take one hand in the other and imagine it was someone else’s reaching out for me. I felt the unbelievable solace of self-comfort and it has been a refuge for me, in one form or another, all my days. I am blessed now to have the love of my life, our amazingly loving animals, and other friends and family members…but on the darkest of nights when I have had none of these, it has only been my own small flame keeping strong in the storm, and only my own company which kept me whole, and holding on.

It is my last night in Mexico, and I am contemplating the way it has touched my heart, and also broken it…as all places of any consequence to me seem to. I am thinking of Frida Khalo, whom I have always admired, and whose face I have been looking into endlessly, in so many forms, since I arrived here. Her paintings and photos are on everything from bags to jewelry, post cards, journals and clothing. She is an icon here in this town, as frequently seen as the Virgen of Guadalupe, and she is someone I would refer to as a saint.

Some eyebrows might raise at my calling her that, but only in misunderstanding of my definition of sainthood. For me a saint is not someone who does everything “right,” or follows a pious set of religious standards. A saint is not one who has lived only in selfless service, as honorable as that can be. A saint, to me, is one who has lived truly by one’s heart…wherever it has led them. A saint is one who must be oneself as wholly as possible, whether it brings them criticism or acclaim. For living truly by one’s heart is not an easy thing to do. It is the greatest work, the greatest commitment I can imagine. From that work all goodness eventually flows.

I think about the popularity of Frida’s work now, and of how she often scraped to get by while living. I think about her pain, as well as her love, and the art that was born of it. I think about the countless paintings she made…of herself. How she reflected, and reflected, and reflected, upon herself. I think about how she would send a painting with an invoice to a friend when she and Diego had no money. I think about the pride, or lack thereof, that that must have taken, and how almost everyone I know has had to take such steps at some time in their lives.

I think about that picture of her I have on my fridge and look at every day. The one that so captured me when I saw it…the one of her bright figure in the grey and dark New York which she so tired of. She was a flower. I think of all the people I know who are like that bright flower in a dark place, looking for the sustenance to keep going, and keep their light bright and the color in their heart.

I think about the painting here…the way that Frida holds her own hand, and even stops the bleeding of both of her selves. All of us have those moments where we know we have an open vein of some kind and life force is rushing out of us. We may find many different sources of sanctuary and healing, but one which is always with us no matter the circumstances is the hand within, and the friend within. Sometimes it may feel as distant as the farthest stranger, but if we can cultivate that love it will always sustain us, and always relight our small flame in the bleakest of nights within.

May your life be blessed with the greatest of inner comfort, and may you attain the sainthood, if you have not already, of living by the will of your own heart.

Love, Jennifer
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

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