My Own Little Magic Circle, or, Becoming Real

The Magic Circle, 1886 – John William Waterhouse

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” 

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

~The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Awakening
by Anne Hill

If I touch you I will know you
Though my veil be drawn, you’re glowing
In my mind and soul and body

I feel compelled to hide details and information about myself that I feel others wouldn’t like, wouldn’t care to know, couldn’t accept or wouldn’t understand. I generally err on the side of squishing myself in a little box of Acceptable Things You Can Know About Me…generally choose to make myself smaller, silent, bland and uncomfortable rather than risk making others upset, or unhappy, or uncomfortable.

For instance, you may know that I am liberal, but you may not know my stance on hot-button issues like abortion, immigration and social welfare. You may know I am not Christian, but you may not know that I am a practicing Pagan. You may know that I struggle with weight issues, but you may not know that I am dealing with disordered eating. I don’t share, not because I don’t think anyone will care, but because I believe people will care, will judge, won’t understand and will eventually abandon me. (It was really hard to write that last sentence. I kept typing “leave me” or just the word “leave” because I didn’t want to admit to the word that rings truest, “abandon” – because you, my dear Reader, may judge me weak and dependent.)

“My sponsor tells me that it’s none of my business what people think of me, so I try to remember that” – a friend’s wise words – and I can see, in trying to control what others know about me, I’m trying to control what others think about me, and how that’s a clear path to failure. My hiding doesn’t serve anyone, and it does impact one person- me. In my little magic circle of invisibility I get to be “safe” – unknown, beyond all imagined reproach…and beyond true intimacy and real interaction.

And sure, withholding can be prudent action in some circumstances. Each person I meet doesn’t have to know everything personal detail I could share. Still, I have been acting out of fear and calling it privacy – that’s very clear to me now – and it’s time to start being Real, as I am strong enough to risk it.

So, with a scared and brave heart, I declare:  the circle is open, and unbroken.



  1. PJ

    We shall all be Real together and find strength in numbers. That graphic you used is one of my most favourite always.

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