Sunday, May 20, 2007

UNMASKED

This is a Sunday Scribblings prompt that intrigued me:
Masks. Literal: making or wearing masks for Halloween, Carnival, Mardi Gras, the theater, any other masky occasion. Or, you know, psychological: a mask you wear, that you hide behind; the face you present the world, or that you present just to one person.



My initial instinct was to post some flash fiction--some poetry around the idea of masks--a little reminder about the day we all wore masks to a friend's Mardi Gras party last year and embarrassed ourselves by looking ridiculous...but then I realized that was all just another form of me donning a mask, carefully presenting myself as I'd like to be seen and not necessarily as I always am.

"You are a hard person to get to know," my friend once said to me. This was after we'd known one another about ten years, from a girl I thought of as one of those closest to me. She was right. I should really have let M. guest-post this for me, because he is the one who sees through the layers and masks I wear, even to present well to myself. He is the one who carries my stories inside of him. For all but the most recent of our years together, I would joke to him before we left the house together for absolutely every occasion,
"Time to put the face on."
He'd sigh, but usually keep his comments quiet. There was an implicit understanding in my need to shroud and veil and protect myself.

Lately, that mask has been gathering dust on a twisted little hook in my closet. One day, I just didn't put it on--I just let myself be more myself, even in mixed company, even when I wanted to put on a face that said, "Everything is perfect, thank you...I am perfect too...life is perfect...smiles all around." A whole series of forces converged to set this in motion, personal awareness growing...adding some years that have only made me feel gathering strength--not age...learning to care a bit less about what other people say and think about me. Then, I published an essay in a magazine that sat on newsstands for months and months...an essay that scared the hell out of me for sharing.

Writing that piece was therapeutic--was all about release. I sent it out because I thought I should, this is what "writers" do, after all. It was accepted immediately...then, I started to think about exactly what I'd said and shared.
"What kind of mother is she?" I expected to hear.
"How could she ever admit that she was so ill?"
"What will her children think when they grow up and read what she published about their early days?"
It was like throwing heavy stones at the polished glass house of motherhood I'd been trying to fit myself into. Fact? I am not a perfect mother. Fact? I was incredibly sick with post-partum depression after two of my births. Fact? I don't cook well. I don't "manage" the household and do it all. I'd rather sit and read a book than go to a bridal shower. I'd trade a life of security for one of adventure ANY day. I sometimes wander around here, so lost in the lives of the characters I've created out of pen and paper that I let the ones I've created out of love and DNA spend whole afternoons hiding in blanket forts with pens, staplers, and razor-edged scissors...and yes, some Barbies have had to pay the ultimate price with Sinead O'Connor hairstyles and tribal-marker tattoos. Fact? Sometimes I'd rather just eat dessert too. Sometimes I don't care that they are grungy from playing in the dirt outside or wearing mismatched socks because no one did the laundry. If it meant I wrote a poem that day or that we all curled up on the couch the night before reading books, I just don't care. Fact? I'm bare-stripped to the things that really matter to me.

I have left the mask off...but, still--this isn't exactly a triumphant post about my own perfect evolution. What has replaced the "You're a hard person to get to know" is the newer, "You're a hard person to get a hold of." So, if you're with me...it is now going to be ME you're with...but, it isn't going to be easy. I am becoming more reclusive, more likely to tell you I don't want to do something when I once would have done it and grinned all the way through, with the face on. If you ask me something, I'm going to be more honest about it. What is difficult for me is learning to put my voice behind my nakedness, instead of simply assuming silence instead...it is a time of shifting roles for me. A slow learning curve I'm trying to get ahead of...

What it most recently meant was that I had to irritate the department of the college I have taught reading and writing for in varying intervals since the fall semester of 2000. They wanted me to take on a number of classes and office hours for this summer session that would have meant I failed to reach certain writing timetable goals I have in place for myself. I wavered--hard--over this. I am laboring away at a book that may never see the light of day, after all. Yes, I've had my positive feedback and the deal that fell through...yes, I have my list of referrals to work in the fall when the draft is fully polished--but, let's be mask-free--this manuscript is still a single girl looking for her true love. There's no ring on her finger, just a string of approaching blind dates and a hearty dose of faith. The full-time teaching would have erased my doubts about how I spend my time and what exactly I'm doing with myself. But, it also would have ended my chances to finish this book. I said I would only take on one class...and I was honest about it arising out of my need for time for creative work. I wish I could say that it went well, that my honesty was rewarded with understanding and gilded rays of sunlight. But, it wasn't. People were annoyed with me, people questioned my dedication to my students and the community. It was incredibly difficult for me not to say, "Okay, okay, I'll do it!" and wear the face all the while. But, I held to my convictions and just took on the one section. It might mean I am offered nothing in the fall semester, but that will just be an invitation to the creative life full time, as best I can tell.

Clumsily, awkwardly, curiously...I am moving forward into this unveiled self. Even this post wanders...stutters...needs cleaning up and polishing. Fact? These words are just the ones that came to me this morning. Now, they're landing here--a little glimpse of me.
Link

19 Comments:

Blogger Vanessa said...

A raw and wonderful glimpse of you.
Reading his helps me. A lot. And I know I'm not alone. Vxxx

4:26 PM  
Blogger Remiman said...

L-HT,
I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. It's a pleasure to meet you without your "face";-)
rel

5:52 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

So many parts of your story are familiar to me. I too have been learning to say no to expectations and find my own priorities, which more often than not involve writing and creating. Yes, the vacuum cleaner has been sitting in one corner for several days, waiting for me to finish what I started when I became distracted by words in my head and had to turn off the vacuum and rush to the computer. In the grand scheme of things, the vacuuming doesn't matter; caring for those we love and being true to one's self does. And you're doing that at last and that's what counts, Delia. Bravo! Love, Tara xo

5:55 PM  
Blogger Shaz said...

This was great I love th openess of you and can relate to fact that not many see inside me. That is untill allowed people to read my words as they are always honest.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Ali la Loca said...

I relate to so much of this.

I, too, am hard to get to know and hard to get ahold of, both by choice.

Thank you for putting this down on the blog in its original, mask-free form.

8:52 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I like this glimpse of a smart, full-hearted woman learning to be true to herself.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Melba said...

D,
I love your picture, a glimpse of you :)
I think there need to be a new education in schools or a manual on how to teach children the art of being oneself. Ok...I guess we, as adults need to learn it to teach it. I have had to disappoint many a supervisor for moving (out of state) and then moving again and again and again...the thing is I have been on the receiving end of people not keeping their committments to me because they need to be true to themselves and while I understand this, it is still disappointing, it still sucks.
See I am thinking maybe if we are always or at least more of our true selves...that we show our naked selves all the time...through every stage of life...
Wow what a world it would be. I don't know if that is possible.

Enough rambling? This is me. But you knew that already!
XO,
Melba

9:20 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

This was a wonderful post, Delia. And good for you for sticking to your authentic self even when it's tempting to reach for the "face."

1:01 AM  
Blogger Becoming Amethyst said...

Fact? I'm crying tears of recognition.
Email coming later.
Thank you for this post.
xox

3:21 AM  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

a very revealing post! Thanks for sharing.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous acumamakiki said...

I love every word here and feel as though, I would like and feel most comfortable with the you that is now. Reading this makes me more comfortable with 'you' if that makes any sense - knowing that I wouldn't have to be anyone but me. xo

8:06 AM  
Blogger Nessie Noodle said...

beautiful and inspiring...
thank you for sharing.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Bravo! I loved the honesty it was so re-freshing. I think you are an awesome woman!

5:59 PM  
Blogger daisies said...

very nice and i completely relate to this on so many levels ~ you wrote it out so well and i thank you for your honest, raw, little glimpse of you ... xox

11:26 AM  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

Oh, God...this really RESONATED with me on so many levels. I think being a mother has put that mask more firmly on my face, to the point where I wonder if I can EVER take it off--as a writer, as a woman, as a person.

*sigh*

I need to think about this.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

9:35 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

A wonderful, real glimps! Oh gosh, reading this I was thinking how...great it was. Not the writing-- as is always the case with you. But the VOICE I heard. A womans voice I like a lot. A person I can relate to, and one I admire for many reasons.

...My kids socks usually don't match. My laundry piles up. I cook something *most* nights, but not always. Often I am lost in thought, the many thoughts in my head, as my kids play at...something. I holler too much, all because I want quiet... I am such an imperfect parent. But trying to be perfect is too hard. I would rather do other things, and that is a fact. I am happy to know I am not alone.

I like that you are sharing this change you are having. I like that you have been around for my own changes this last year. You might be hard to know or hard to get...but no one who is ever really interesting to me is simple.

I still have that magazine. I am going to keep it for anyone I know who will go through what you did. ;)

love to you.
:)

12:15 PM  
Blogger bee said...

oh delia....

this is such an incredibly powerful piece. i don't even know where or how to begin telling you how much i got out of it, or what i found beautiful.

i was never able to be the person with the "face" (at least, it seemed to me - rather, i envied the people who could do it). i always seemed so RAW and OPEN and HIDING (because of that rawness) and people were always asking me 'how i was doing' in that gentle voice i came to instantly recognize...

i think you touch on so many truths here, for yourself and that lead to conections with others, and i appreciate you so much for being so honest here.

thank you.
xo

9:07 PM  
Anonymous krista said...

I would be interested to read that article you wrote...

I loved this post.

The parts you wrote about motherhood resonate with me so deeply, and I tend to repress this guilt for getting lost in my own world and not caring about mismatched socks...

I'd like to learn how to not have guilt about it. Because I am who I am, and sometimes I get lost in in my spirit and my creativity, and that's just the way it is.

I'm just not good at the total self sacrifice motherhood thing.

Like in anything, it's nice to know I am not alone in that feeling.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Thank you all for your kind-kind-kind words...for Krista (and anyone else interested): the article I was referring to in this post was a feature in SageWoman Magazine (number 70), which is now an archived issue. You can get a copy of it here: www.sagewoman.com/archives.htm
Love,
D.

8:59 AM  

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