Mask/unmask

I came upon this angelic form outside the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing in Los Angeles. Awash in patina, she stood regally on the deserted streetscape. The flowing locks, the wings, the open arms beckoned me to approach. As I got closer I noticed the angel was wearing a mask.

I thought about why this shocked me just a little.

I am a keeper of secrets. A wearer of masks.

This comes from a lifetime of practice.

Having an alcoholic parent, I learned to clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for public consumption.

It goes on from there. A bad first marriage made it  easy to slip back into the habit of  clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for family consumption.

Having sprouted from a family tree whose limbs are heavy with the weight of secrets/lies/cover ups is another big part of it.

It gets to the point where I cannot buy a pair of shoes without wondering if I should say anything to anyone.

I’m trying to unmask a little more. But it’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t know how to defend my own truth. I put something out there and the consequences seem endless. It’s easier to keep it tucked away.

Sometimes, when in the right company, I can just be me. Later, always later, I cringe. I went too far, I think.

Then there are those times when candor  is nothing more than handing ammunition to the enemy. Years ago I revealed to a partner — one to whom I thought I could go maskless —  that I am an abuse survivor. He couldn’t handle this truth. Ultimately, it destroyed our relationship.

I want this to end. I’m aware that every mask I strap on my psyche further clouds who I really am. Not only to others who have nothing other to go on than what they see and hear and read, but also to myself. How can I live an authentic life and interact with others when I am not presenting to the world who I am?

This is one of the many goals I’ve set for myself. I want to unmask a little more and live with the consequences. If someone can’t deal with my truth, I need to let it go.

Tricky

“I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”

~ Linus Van Pelt

Do you have a Great Pumpkin? Is there something in your life that means a great deal to you but that you keep under wraps? Have you let the secret out to someone and had an unfortunate outcome?

I have a few things about me that when I share them with others, result in silent, polite head nodding or a series of questions that imply: I think you are a bit crazy so I need to know if I should leave you alone with my kids.

What happens next? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes a shift in a relationship dynamic. Sometimes exploitation. Sometimes a new alliance.

To sit out in a pumpkin patch, alone, based on the idea that something you cannot prove or explain will happen at some point, is faith or it is foolishness, or it is both. That’s the thing about Great Pumpkins. You kind of know and feel somewhat foolish for believing, but you keep the faith all the same. It just feels better that way.

Still, I tend to keep my Great Pumpkins to myself. I’ve learned the hard way. Ever since I admitted a crush on the class dork in second grade and was mocked on the playground after school, I’ve learned to keep my deepest wishes, desires and practices to myself.

Great Pumpkin theories are shared on a need-to-know basis.

I’m not always happy with this arrangement.

Some of you out there are so open with your lives. Whether it’s a health issue, an impending divorce, a hurt from the past, an addiction or weird obsession, or just stupid daily stuff, you put it out there. This is the stuff of life to which I’m drawn. Raw. Real. Honest.

Blogs about perfect people and their perfectly sculpted and staged lives bore me on good days and gut me on bad days.

Blogs about real things keep me coming back for more. Just today I read three moving posts: a woman fighting for her life, overcoming one emotional trauma at a time; a woman revealing that she and her husband have separated; a woman breaking silence about the domestic violence in her home.

Not all is gloom and doom in the blogosphere. I also enjoy reading about those of you who are doing well but share your life in a way that endears me to you, makes me want to meet you some day over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Sometimes I think I know more about the bloggers I read, and they know more about me, than the people I know in real life.

And that is a pumpkin of a different color.

Apple Blossom

It’s an ash-colored morning, typical of  late February in Michigan.  I’m steering my car down the Interstate, dodging potholes and icy patches, heading into downtown Detroit. I’m on my way to a training session to be a literacy tutor. I should feel excited, inspired and enthusiastic. Instead, my soul is as dirt-flecked as the roadside snow.  I need a sea change. I tap the CD player button on my dashboard and release the sweet notes of this ditty:

Hey little apple blossom
what seems to be the problem
all the ones you tell your troubles to
they don’t really care for you

Come and tell me what you’re thinking
cause just when the boat is sinking
a little light is blinking
and I will come and rescue you

Lots of girls walk around in tears
but that’s not for you
you’ve been looking all around for years
for someone to tell your troubles to

Come and sit with me and talk awhile
let me see your pretty little smile
put your troubles in a little pile
and I will sort them out for you
I’ll  fall in love with you
I think I’ll marry you

–The White Stripes, “Apple Blossom,” De Stijl. 2000

This song parts clouds. It turns gray to blue. It radiates sunshine. It coaxes buds into bloom. It’s simple, sweet, perfect.

I twist the volume knob to loud. I hit replay two, three, four times. I belt out the lyrics.

If ever I had the guts to sing karaoke, this would be my song.

If the universe is sending a message, I’m listening.

Because it all comes down to having someone to tell your troubles to, someone to respond when your light is blinking. Even if that someone is yourself.

I want to be honest.

I want to keep it real.

I want balance.

I’ve always needed someone or something to tell my problems to: a diary, an imaginary friend, a best friend, a loving grandmother, a school counselor, a therapist, a lover, a neighbor, my husband, the cat, the Internet.

Creating my own blog was supposed to lift the heavy burden I’d dropped on friends and family and lovers and spouses. I can drop a heavy load. I’ve been told.

Secrets don’t always stay that way. Violators force open my diary’s delicate pages and ravage her secrets. Gossips spit out my stories in venomous bursts.  Lovers bolt, taking their comforting arms and patience with them.  Husbands grow bored with broken records. Loving grandmothers die and their ears go deaf, their mouths mute.  Neighbors move. Therapists increase their rates.  The Internet figures out who you are.

Why the need to spill?

If I knew the answer, you wouldn’t be here reading any of this,  would you?

Thank god for the healing power of music. I leave you with this:

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