“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”
~ Derek Wolcott, Trinidadian poet, playwright, writer, and visual artist
Knowing I was in P-Town withdrawal, my friend Pete sent me a photo on my cell phone. When it arrived and I opened the message, I didn’t know what I was looking at until I read the accompanying note: shards of an old beveled mirror. I knew why he’d sent it—I love broken, shattered, abandoned stuff; it wasn’t intended to go any deeper than that.
But it kept bugging me. I felt like it meant something.
I looked at the picture again and again, trying to figure out why I felt so drawn to it, what it was trying to say. I’m in Danbury, CT, so the day I received it was miserable, gray and snowy with the promise of four more days of it and horribly plowed roads, of course. Where he was in Provincetown, Mass., it was a clear, warm day: in the photo, the sun glinted brightly off the shards of glass.
I figured it out.
A year ago, I read a short story called “The Party Over There” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer. It was one of those pieces that blew me away to the point where it still haunts me.
It has to do with a woman’s desperate desire to escape her life. At first, she takes solace in what she finds in her mirror. Then she realizes she can take it one step further—but it will require shattering that which has given her comfort. Forever. She has to give up what is safe and comfortable so she can take a risk and go forth into the unknown. Which might end up being worse.
Enter the cliché: the grass is always greener on the other side. I believe this phrase’s original intent was to remind us that we need to be happy with what we have. That life will not, couldn’t possibly, be any better if we go shakin’ the tree. Desire for something different is dangerous. So what if you’re a little unhappy? You should be glad things aren’t worse. Some people do, I’m sure, get up every day, look in the mirror, and say, ‘this, what I have, is truly awesome. I am so happy with my life I don’t want to change one thing.’ But what about those who get up and say, ‘this, what I have, is good enough. It’s convenient and safe. I can put up with some stuff I don’t like so I don’t have to deal with the pain of change.’ In this context, the grass is greener sounds like an excuse. I’m convinced, now, that this is what some people say when they’re just too afraid to make any kind of change. This is what they say to console themselves, to justify the fact that they’d rather sit around and stagnate.
But on the positive side, the grass is greener is a romantic notion: I could have a better life if I did X. This can inspire change. The grass is greener is really all about hopes and dreams. I mean, if we were that wise and could see the results of all of our risks before we take them—positive or negative—would we even think about shaking up the routine? Would we even bother examining our lives, would we even bother looking in the mirror and trying to change ourselves? Would we need mirrors at all?
Where’s the adventure in that?
I, for one, think all those shards look pretty in the sun.
If you’d like to read “The Party Over There” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer, you can find it in Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers, edited by Richard Weingarten. Any lover of horror stories should have this anthology on his shelf: I’ve read many, many collections, and this one is by far the best because the stories in it totally break the mold. If you enjoy what I write, you’ll enjoy this collection. You can purchase it here.