I believe in the power of metaphor- that life speaks in images that bring meaning to the mundane and the profound.
In my literature studies, the practice of analyzing symbols enticed me to use the same analysis in my day to day life. A stranger’s smile might be a secret understanding, or a missed bus might be saving me from disaster. Playing with metaphors connected me to a confusing, yet promising world.
One evening, at home on winter break during my freshman year at college, the metaphor game became a philosophy.
I sat in the lights of the Christmas tree watching Don Quixote battle windmills on the television, my father passed out on the couch across from me. I watched as my mother went up and down the front room steps, depositing all my father’s personal belongings in his car in the driveway.
After a few trips, dropping socks along the way, my mother sat next to me. The Man of La Mancha had just professed his love for the beautiful Dulcinea. My mother told me she had decided that after the holiday festivities were over, so was her marriage. I realized that, like Quixote, my own life was transforming before my eyes.
That scene was the moment that I began to see windmills and barmaids rather than knights and ladies. I realized that my family had been battling windmills. That life’s battles are fought mostly in the mind. And that the inspiration and determination of the human spirit allows us to win those battles. We win life’s battles when we are able to perceive beauty in the most unexpected places.
For all their faults, I loved both my parents at that moment. My mother-able to imagine herself in a different life and my father- the dreamer who would soon be forced to face reality.
It was no coincidence that Man of La Mancha was playing that evening. The metaphor of Don Quixote’s“impossible dream” showed me that love can transcend the real and imagined demons in our lives. Our lives are full of metaphors that transcend our pain, helping us appreciate the beautiful irony of life.
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