Let me listen to me and not to them.
– Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946
Its medieval spires piercing the heavens above Prague, St Vitus Cathedral is a massive, imposing structure, the crowning glory of what is the world’s largest castle. The cathedral is the final resting place of the remains of provincial patron saints, sovereigns, noblemen and archbishops. Along with religious services, the coronations of Czech royalty have also been held here.
With a name that conjures up both a heavy metal doom band and a neurological disease, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the dark and weighty symbolism covering the building inside and out.
Vitas is the patron saint of Bohemia, the kingdom of which Prague was once the capital. He is also said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks and oversleeping. In the late Middle Ages, many Eastern Europeans celebrated the feast of Vitus by dancing before his statue. This dancing became popular and the name “Saint Vitus Dance” was given to chorea. It also led to Vitus being considered the patron saint of dancers, actors and entertainers.
I could have used some saintly intervention the first time an email popped up on my screen with the subject line intoning, “So-and-so has unsubscribed from www.ViewfromthePier.com.” An electric current of fear jolted my gut and ricocheted around my central nervous system. Tears of shame sprang to my eyes as a violent blush raged from my head to my toes. I was absolutely, utterly mortified.
Someone didn’t like me.
I dared to share this horrifying turn of events, this most dreaded of all possible developments, with my husband Tom and my kind webmaster Andy. They each took pains to point out all the myriad reasons someone might have unsubscribed, none of which actually had anything to do with me personally. They might have been receiving the daily email link at work, and had changed jobs. They might be moving and switching internet providers. They might have signed up for multiple sources of daily inspiration and had been blessed with more bliss than they could handle.
I was skeptical but I had to admit, these were all perfectly valid potential reasons this person had pushed the button to eradicate me from their existence. I was willing to concede it was possible that the decision was not because they thought that day’s blog was vapid, overwrought or too sentimental. In a moment of clarity, I realized that I was never going to know what the reason was and that I had a choice. I could remain a puddle of self-centered pity and fear or I could shake it off, like a big shaggy dog that comes in from the rain.
Today, I am a survivor of 36 unsubscriptions. Some nice souls have written little notes explaining their departure. In another one of those unexpected moments of being able to see my own growth, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had stopped searching for the hidden meaning of these seemingly random exits and instead began to focus on the new subscribers waltzing in the door.
While 36 seemed to be a magic number for me, in Prague, the often mystical number seven reigns supreme.
According to Castle officials, the Crown Jewels chamber in St Vitus Cathedral, where the Crown Jewels of Czech kings are, is under lock and key and, without exaggerating, it is the place least accessible in Prague Castle. The door, and likewise the iron safe, has seven locks and there are seven holders of the keys: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Prague Archbishop, the Chairman of the House of Deputies, the Chairman of the Senate, the Dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus Cathedral and the Lord Mayor of Prague, who must all convene to facilitate opening the impenetrable door and coffer.
The tradition of the seven keys was established in 1791 by King Leopold II when he agreed to comply with the wish of the Czech Estates to return the jewels to Prague from Vienna. They were put in safe in St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, this time in the crown archives beyond the St. Wenceslas Chapel behind iron bars with five locks. They were placed in a special chest with additional two locks whose two keys were given to two guards of the jewels. Even though the jewels were later moved to another location, the tradition of the seven keys has been maintained.
Alas, my magic number has not remained static. This week, I was given the opportunity to unlock yet another inner sanctum, when someone unsubscribed because it was personal.
I wish I could tell you that my practice runs had prepared me for this, and that I have become so evolved I am impervious to the pain of rejection. I can’t. I want to be liked by everyone. No, that’s not true. I want to be loved by everyone.
But the truth does indeed set you free. Confronted with a direct cause and effect scenario, I could look at a specific set of circumstances and know I had been the best me I could be. I had searched my heart with neither fear nor favor and taken a course of action that I knew was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it was not likely to make me particularly popular in certain quarters.
So, while the 37th unsubscription certainly stung, the prick was to my pride and not my conscience. Today, the latter is a precious jewel I need to guard with care. I am neither an actor nor a puppet and I need to dance to my own tune.
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For more images of Prague, see My Travel Photos.