(Note: Indigo children are extremely bright, highly intuitive, exceptionally creative and believed to have a strong, innate subconscious spirituality.)
Sometime after my fifth birthday, when my mother showed me a picture of a reversible drawing in a puzzle book – Rubin’s vase – I might really have made her see things clearly the way I did. You could make things shift in your mind and see there was a larger, brighter world hanging on the outside edge of this one. You could see there were invisible designs at the heart of everything! Instead, she tried to make me see – which blinded me for years.
When she asked if I saw the white vase with the black background, I nodded. Who didn’t, right? Equally clearly I saw two black faces staring at each other in front of a white background, only I didn’t mention it because I’d already learned the hard way to be careful about telling her everything I saw. I’d seen her look at me as if I were some weird creature from another corner of the universe often enough.
So this time I kept quiet about those other images in Rubin’s drawing – the two black faces with the white background. She wouldn’t see them anyway. She never saw so many things I saw, mostly because she never wanted to hear what I saw, as if it frightened her.
My mother held the book open patiently with the drawing in front of my face and asked me to look at the vase until something fantastic happened; however, she wouldn’t tell me what that would be. Obediently I stared at it until my eyes watered. Obviously my seeing this unusual happening was terribly important to her, but nothing happened.
“Mommy, does something happen to you?” I was letting her down and my stomach knew it.
“It didn’t at first. Not for hours.” That was comforting, “But then I read what was supposed to happen, and I kept trying. Suddenly, it did.”
Ah, so that was it. You had to read about it first. Maybe I wasn’t so stupid at this after all. I hadn’t read the book. Nevertheless, I kept staring at that design my mother had propped up now on the table in front of me, growing furious with myself because nothing happened. After a half-hour or so I gave up – about the same time, I could see, my mother definitively gave up on me. That’s when she told me I should have seen the vase turn into two black faces with a white background.
“But I saw those right away!” I exclaimed.
“Don’t you lie to me! You would have told me if you did.”
How cheated I felt! Not only had I seen those stupid faces from the beginning, but for as long as I could remember I’d been doing this same kind of thing, not with a silly drawing of a vase, but with everything – with objects, with events – far more complicated than that stupid drawing.
It usually happened when I stared off into space, the space between the couch and the violin on the wall, or the space between the player piano and the front door. That’s when unexpectedly, without warning or a sound, I’d find myself staring into the inner light of a larger, brighter world hanging on the outside edge of this one – or sometimes on the inner edge. And yet…and yet it was this one, this same world I could touch, only it had turned inside out.
I still saw the living room, the couch, the piano, the front door. Yet each thing was clearly something else besides – something else in disguise. Ah! How interesting it all was!
Blurring my eyes, or rather, blurring my mind, is what did it. When I stopped listening to words, then spaces became solid, more solid than objects. And what had been solid before became transparent. Fluid. Alive.
I’d see, hidden within the spaces, new wholes made up of combinations of objects or parts of objects that were separate, solitary, distinct things. The arm of that chair, that left curtain, the blue cape on the peasant girl in the picture on the wall, and the fringe on the lampshade (for example) made up one whole new thing I had to learn about and name.
I’d look around for figures I’d known in dreams and the moods that belonged to them, delighted to find they were real. That soft “she” was inside the softness of the towels, the blankets and the rugs and…toilet paper! Hi! I’m so glad you’re here.
And the strong handsome uncle in my dreams… Here he was, all around me. He was wood now! He stood over there as a door, lay under me as the floor, hugged the books in the bookcase as shelves, made the music of the piano possible by the structures he had formed, held my feet carefully and supported them with each step when I went down the stairs.
Where was that little snot…Ah! Outside. The briars, weeds, thorns, bark and…bird droppings! Of course, it would have chosen to be that!
And that huge project inside me I’d spent so much time on in my dreams, the one that cost me so much effort? I’d see the clouds, billowing cumulus clouds well-outlined against the sky, and know. And those ugly thoughts? There! They were out there all right, the mud in everyone’s garden.
“I do this all the time,” I repeated to my mother, irritated now she thought me an idiot. “You know, see things turn into something else. I see things turn inside out whenever I want to. I thought you meant something…different. Something special.”
It was my chance to finally reveal what for some reason she couldn’t see. “This is what happens with everything. Everything. This drawing is like me. Like you, too. That’s how everything’s made. All of it.” And I did my best to smile, hoping she’d finally share my point of view. But she had turned to a crossroad puzzle in her newspaper and didn’t even hear me.
Patterns inside me made the outside of me. Just like in Rubin’s drawing. Patterns inside my parents made the outside of them. But I didn’t have those words at that age. I couldn’t say there were incredible invisible designs at the heart of everything. In fact, I couldn’t say anything else. Instead, it was my mother who spoke as she looked up suddenly from her crossword puzzle and stared at me with tears in her eyes.
“If you’re so smart and you do this all the time, why didn’t you see the black faces, huh? Mommy thought you were smarter than this. I always wanted an intelligent daughter, not a stupid one. You really let Mommy down.” And she burst out sobbing.
That hurt so much. Gradually I didn’t want to see what she and my father and even my grandparents missed seeing. I didn’t want to be mocked for the beautiful things I saw, nor called a liar. The pain was too much. Yes, it grew too painful to see differently than they did.
Gradually mistrusting myself and my own perceptions, in anger I resolved to live the kind of life they were living – a life made up of only the visible. I focused sadly and exclusively on what could be seen simply and stupidly with only my eyes. On plain sight. On the sorry sights. I became a citizen in a world where people believed in appearances alone.
The perceptual magic disappeared, and there was only drab and ordinary reality. Nothing shifted anymore into something else. My world, despite its many pleasures, was drab, flat and ordinary.
Sometimes I tell myself if only I’d had a few picture postcards of Salvador Dali’s paintings back then, some of those double or reversible images he painted in the late thirties, I would have tacked them all over the walls. I would have played with them as if they were a deck of cards. But most of all, I would have asked people to look at them, tell me what they saw, and prove other people could see double, too.
I could have approached some of our neighbors with them or people walking on the sidewalk alongside our house. I might even have shown them to people picknicking in Metropolitan Park on Sundays while my parents were grilling hamburgers or sausages on one of the open pits among the green picnic tables.
Yes, I could have shown people images like Dali’s Spain. Hiding my excitement, I would have asked them to take a good hard look at the men fighting, the prancing horses and the stretches of desolate battlefield.
And although it may have been difficult for them at first, eventually many of them, with or without my eager coaching, would have been forced to admit that before their very eyes (no, it happens somewhere behind the eyes, somewhere inside the mind I would tell them) those prancing horses, fighting men and bits of battlefield became suddenly, inexplicably, the head and body of a beautiful woman.
“Oh, my golly!” they’d exclaim. “A lovely woman with full red lips and two large melancholic eyes!”
If I had wanted to have an easier time of it, I would have shown around The Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, for here Dali’s double images are exceedingly well done. At least some of the people I asked – those potential friends and allies of mine (how I would have loved them, how I would have cherished them!) – would have to admit seeing Dali’s Gala, seated on the left in the painting, looking peacefully at a group of figures to the right, two women dressed in black-and-white seventeenth-century Spanish costume, when suddenly the two women, together with a large arch in a ruined building behind them, disappear altogether to become a marvelous bust of Voltaire.
“Their hands and arms disappear and I see a man’s jaw!” they would have said. “Their dresses are somehow – is this magic, or what? – his cheeks! Their faces are really his eyes! How is this possible? And, look, the sky behind the arch is really the upper half of the man’s head!”
No magic. Just flexibility of perception. Mental gymnastics. As long as the possibility has been artistically built into what is seen, one image can be made to shift into the other. On condition, that is, that what is first seen is deliberately lost from the mind’s eye and broken down into meaningless splashes of paint which are then reorganized into a new picture.
Or so I would have wanted to explain if I would have had the words.
Yes, anyone can do it. Anyone can see double. And to those who did I would have said, “Bravo! But only what’s in the frame shifts for you, right? Everything else outside the painting stays the same. Right? Now listen closely. For me, everything shifts. You, this backyard, those cars, the oak trees, picnic tables, sidewalks. Everything.”
How many years I tried to forget I could see double! I played word games and memorized the license plates of cars that passed by on the street, and did complicated arithmetic tables in my head for kicks just to forget. I flooded my mind with flat, unimaginative words, and flat, unimaginative numbers at school. So many numbers, so many words…
One good thing, though, I guess. Like Mom, I became great at doing crossword puzzles.
©2012 Francine Juhasz, Ph.D.