Over the weekend, I was able to see a production of Man of La Mancha. It is a powerful story based on the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. While there are several layers to the story, the main plot revolves around Don Quixote’s love and admiration for the woman he calls Dulcinea. When Don Quixote sees Dulcinea he knows he has found the perfect woman of virtue and beauty. She has done and can do no wrong.
The only problem is that Dulcinea is actually named Aldonza, and instead of being a virtuous woman she is a tavern wench. She can see nothing beautiful in herself or in her life. Throughout the play, Don Quixote continues to call her Dulcinea and speaks to her of her beauty and worth. And throughout the play, Aldonza continues to argue with him and tell him that he is unable to see the truth.
Near the end of the play, she boldly declares that she is and always will be Aldonza. Yet shortly after that, she is at the bedside of Don Quixote as he takes his last breath. When his companion, Sancho, looks at the woman on the other side of the bed, he calls her Aldonza. Then she stands up and declares, “My name is Dulcinea.”
All of us have reason to doubt our own inner worth or beauty. All of us have seen the ugliness in our lives, because we are the ones who have done it. We have committed atrocities. We have spoken terrible words. We have given in because we were too weak to stand strong. We have relapsed. We have lied. We have cheated. We looked where we said we weren’t going to look.
And others have confirmed our opinions. We have been reminded by people in our lives of all of our failures. Sometimes, our parents have told us we will never amount to anything. Or they have derided our dreams as unrealistic or fanciful. Sometimes, our romantic partners have told us that we are just good enough and we are lucky they stick around. They cheat on us and tell us if only we were better it would not happen. Or they beat us and tell us if only we would act right. Sometimes, our friends remind us of all the mistakes we have made. Especially when we are trying not to make them anymore. They ask us if we think we are better than they are. They tell us we really won’t last doing the right thing. They tell us they will see us back again.
All of these messages pile up and crush us underneath their weight. No wonder so many of us think, and maybe even say out loud, that we will never be more than Aldonza.
You are amazing. You may not know it, but you are. I know you have messed up. I know you have made some poor decisions. I know you have failed.
But that doesn’t matter to me. You are amazing.
You are beautiful. All those imperfections that you notice when you look in the mirror do not stand out to most people. I know you think they do, and that is hard to overcome.
But you are beautiful. You are amazing.
You are a hard worker. I see you trying to do the right thing in each situation every day. I know you are tired. I know you are overwhelmed. I know you do not have a 100% success rate.
But you are a hard worker. You are amazing.
You matter to me as a person. I know others have cut you down. I know others have told you they don’t like you. I know those messages hurt down deep. But your life is important. Who you are as a person is important. You have gifts and talents to offer that no one else can. You have knowledge and experience that no one else does. You have something I need. And hopefully, I have something you need. Let’s figure that out together. I know what other people have told you.
But you matter to me. You are amazing.
I have heard the stories. I have witnessed the mess. I have walked alongside some of you through the darkest moments of humanity. I know why you struggle. I know why you doubt. I know why you question.
I know why you think less of yourself. But remember this: You are amazing.
Your name is Dulcinea.