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The Lucy Plates

My answer to the burning house question: I would grab the kids’ art. And, maybe, a couple pair of really cute shoes.

I’m not much of a collector. So I surprised myself when I bought my 2nd Lucy plate. And totally bowled myself over when I realized one day that I had seven Lucy plates. I hung them in a row above the big kitchen window.

They’re not actually called Lucy plates; they’re the Julia series, more than 500 versions of the same woman painted by artist Piero Fornasetti and produced by German china-maker Rosenthal. I call them the Lucy plates, because the woman’s circular, blue eyes remind me of Lucille Ball.

I took the Lucy plates down when I repainted the kitchen Adams Gold, and I let them collect dust on top of the fridge for a couple years after that. Ocho recently helped me put the plates back up. “What made you get these?” he asked me. “What do they mean to you?”

I loved the question. I just love that kind of thing. I love it when someone says, “Tell me something about you I don’t know.” It’s an act of love to want to know another person. Just as it’s an act of love to want to know yourself.

I got those plates as a way to define myself. To provide myself with symbols of who I was and who I wanted to be. Here’s how I described the Lucy plates to Ocho:

Lucy I: Restraint.

Openness and vulnerability are necessary iif you are to know others and to be known by others. But there are times when it makes sense to be self-protective. I’ve learned to know how much of myself to give away; how much to keep private.

Restraint is one of the six humane virtues (courage, fidelity, restraint, generosity, tolerance, forgiveness), described so elegantly in Stephanie Dowrick’s book, “Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love.” It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read. In fact, I've had it on my nightstand now for 10 years. About restraint, she says:

“Whoever we are, however we live, we need time and internal space to reflect. How else can we learn from our successes as well as from our mistakes? How else can we know what effect events have had on us, or discover how we think we have affected other people?

Reflecting, we may choose not to judge.
Reflecting, we may choose not to speak.
Reflecting, we may deepen our listening.
Reflecting, we may remember how to endure our own uncertainty.
Reflecting, we may choose to speak lovingly, rather than bitterly.
Reflecting, we may remember that not reacting can also be an action.
Reflecting, we allow ourselves to be surprised.

Restraint offers a space between intention and action and the opportunity to protect others from actions or reactions that should exist only in your imagination. The more conscious you are of that space, and the freer you are to occupy it, the more easily you can choose whether and how to act.”

Dowrick’s words teach us to ask, “What is most helpful, in this moment? What is most true, in this moment?”

This is something I’m acutely aware of recently. I made the very conscious decision on Christmas Eve to stop drinking. Naturally, this is a way to practice restraint. But the more important benefit, I think, is that it is allowing me to be totally present in my life. I am not quickly passing through this moment, waiting for the next moment; I am in this moment. And being in this moment, I am able to take a long look around in it. There are things here I would have otherwise missed. The things that make life precious.

To be continued….


Jena Strong said…
This is so wonderful. I am going to print out this "reflect" list and post it above my computer - so often I'm quick to jump in, to react. Much of what my life is teaching me is to slow down, take time, wait, stay - then respond (or not).

I look forward to the series continuing... this is better than Cable TV!

xo Jena
bella said…
You have forever alter my sense of this word restraint.
It has also been associated with repression to me. Restraints as in being tied down.
Yet I love this, that it can be SPACE. To reflect. That pause. Teaching us to be fully present.
Love to you.
Sherry said…
I can't wait for this to be continued!!! Your definition of restraint is remarkable!!!

Adams Gold?! I was looking at that colour for my living room!!!
Jayne said…
I just spent some time getting caught up on your blog, so I have to reach back a couple of posts to say that I love Kendall Hailey's book. I hadn't thought about her is quite some time, but she really influenced me. These days, I am definitely an autodidact.

I love the notion of reflecting on a single word like "restraint."
Jenster said…
What a great post. I'm looking forward to the continuation.
lahdeedah said…
Jena, makes me happy you like this :)

Bella, I love this take on restraint, too, but I have to credit Stephanie Dowrick. She's just brilliant. You seem like someone who would love her writing.

Sherry, thanks! And you will so love Adams Gold if you use it. In my little oblong kitchen, I feel like I'm in a butter dish when the sun comes in and illuminates the yellow.

Jayne! I'm so happy to see your name! I thought you'd hung up your bloggin' shoes! Going to read you now...

Jen, I hope I can get to the next post--life is crazy at the moment. Thanks for the kind words.
Chloe said…
Jill- Reading this brought my scattered mind back to the present. I’ve never thought of restraint in this way either. I usually associate it with stifling myself or being “good.” This is a great perspective.
KT said…
Hi Jill, I'm impressed (I would say "bowled over" but that would be too punny) that a bunch of plates could lead to such a beautiful post! Hope that isn't insulting to your plates, they are really cool and beautiful. I looked them up online and found a few more. There's something about them that makes you want to know more about the artist and the model....

I am a collector of teacups, though I don't have a spot in my home to display them properly. They sit in the china cabinet and I take them out every now and then so the girls and I can have a "grownup ladies lunch".

As for restraint, I appreciate the new look at the word.

Also, I love your "in the moment" line as well. ("I am not quickly passing through this moment, waiting for the next moment; I am in this moment.") Something to remember.

Thanks for a wonderful read, Looking forward to the continuation....

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