Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Mask I Wear

A recent event leads me to post this. I first read this about 30 years. I find this as true today as the day it was written.

The recent event is the revelation that my daughter has been using razor blades to cut herself. She has shown me the cuts. It will be a long exploration of why she does it, but the core of it is in this poem. How it happens for each of us is different.

Ultimately it's about feeling connected and accepted. Unfortunately, our society and our increasingly industrialized planet, has not only broken our bonds from what sustains our bodies in the natural world, but the bonds between each other that sustains our spirits and balances our minds and gives us a place in the world.

We now live in a society that breeds both physical and mental pathology at a phenomenal rate. I have no idea what kind of future we are handing our children when we ourselves are as broken as the children we raise. ~NeoLotus

The Mask I Wear

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks-
masks that I'm afraid to take off
and none of them are me.
Pretending is an art that's second nature with me
But don't be fooled, for God's sake, don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure
That all is sunny and unruffled with me
within as well as without,
that confidence is my name
and coolness my game,
that the water's calm
and I'm in command,
and that I need no one.
But don't believe me. Please!

My surface may be smooth but my surface is my mask,
My ever-varying and ever-concealing mask.
Beneath lies no smugness, no complacence.
Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in fear, in aloneness.
But I hide this.
I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weaknesses
and fear exposing them.
That's why I frantically create my masks to hide behind.
They're nonchalant, sophisticated facades to help me pretend,
To shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
my only salvation,
and I know it.

That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
and if it's followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself
from my own self-built prison walls.

I dislike hiding, honestly
I dislike the superficial game I'm playing,
the superficial phony game.
I'd really like to be genuine and me.
But I need your help, your hand to hold
Even though my masks would tell you otherwise
That glance from you is the only thing that assures me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.

But I don't tell you this.
I don't dare.
I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me, that you'll laugh
and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing, that I'm just no good
and you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
With a facade of assurance without
And a trembling child within.
So begins the parade of masks,
The glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's nothing
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying
Please listen carefully and try to hear
what I'm not saying
Hear what I'd like to say
but what I can not say.

It will not be easy for you,
long felt inadequacies make my defenses strong.
The nearer you approach me
the blinder I may strike back.
Despite what books say of men, I am irrational;
I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.
you wonder who I am
you shouldn't
for I am everyman
and everywoman
who wears a mask.
Don't be fooled by me.
At least not by the face I wear.

By Michael Sweeney.