A permanent mask. His face, completely covered in tattoos. The milestones of his life inked into his skin, forever.
Inked into his identity, inked into his presence, inked into how others will “see” him for the rest of his life. Inked into the gait of his walk, the rhythm of his step.
A face transformed into…what, exactly? A real-life looking monster? A freak? A scary dude whose life went off the rails?
As we passed each other in the park that day, I was left with a certain heaviness of heart. Him. Whoever he was. The pain of his life inked into a mask of sorrow, worn with obligation, day after day after day. I felt so sad for him to have done this to his entire face. To his identity. To his soul.
But perhaps I am jumping to a terrible conclusion and projecting my own stereotypes of what might drive someone to ink his entire face. Perhaps his mask is a symbol of a life well lived? Could it be? A life of bedtime stories, giggles, deep friendship, falling in love, a supportive family and warm hugs at night. A life where happiness resides. Who am I to assume anything about him anyway? But I admit that what I see is the stain of a pain-filled life, the remnants of which he has chosen to imprint for the rest of the world to see. It’s too personal, as I know tattoos are meant to be. And so I don’t know. But I imagine the stories. I imagine the hurt.
Perhaps he wears it to hide. To hide from the knowing eyes of those familiar with his story. From those who expect him to be broken. Or, maybe, his mask speaks for him. It shares the inexpressible, through shock, imagery, symbolism. A silent movie played out on his skin…a way to communicate that which no words can express. Just a dark, painful, ink-filled story. Forever imprinted on a face that was once naked, pure, and untouched, a long time ago.
And then it hits me that we all wear masks. To fulfill our needs, fulfill our desires. To help us appear a certain way; better than we really are, stronger than we really are, nicer than we really are. Our masks keep us safe from the pain of what may be the truth of who we really are, in any given moment. They keep us hidden and covered and far from hurt, pain, rejection, misinterpretation and feelings of worthlessness.
But for The Man with the Tattooed Face, he wakes up with the same mask, every single day.
And I am so saddened by this.
Will anyone ever be able to see him, for who he really is? Can anyone get beyond the ink that covers every single inch of his face and see when he is genuinely happy, sad, worried or scared? To see the beautiful lines around his eyes, the slight upward tilt of his lips, the burrowed frow? What if the pain he has been trying to hide all these years is now healed? Can anyone see past the ink to the peace he now feels? Can anyone see the man for who he is now, today?
And what about the rest of us with our non-inked faces? If we wear our masks too often, how will our genuine joy, fear, sadness and worry be noticed? How will people be able to know and see us, to really see us, if we wear our masks too often? Perhaps the imprint of our own masks leaves permanent stains on our faces, on how people see (or don’t see!) us. What if this were true? Would we think differently about the masks we wear?
So while I worry for The Man with the Tattooed Face and the fact that he cannot take his mask off, I am soothed by the realization that we can. I can. We have the choice to take our masks off or even not put them on at all! To be seen, as we are, in all our pain, glory, imperfection and joy.
So consider this an invitation. An invitation to acknowledge the privilege it is to be able to drop our masks in the first place. And the power of what this means!
Why is this important?
Because when we stop hiding and concealing the truth of who we are, we connect. We connect to each other’s pain, joy, worry, sorrow, grief, fear, happiness, excitement and all the other messy feelings life offers us.
We connect to the mom who can’t keep her tears inside because she is so exhausted by another night of interrupted sleep and so we offer her a helping hand, a warm hug and the space to say, “I get it. I’ve been there too.” And she feels a little bit better, a little bit less alone, a little bit more loved.
We connect to the friend who just found out his mother has cancer and he is terrified about what this means for his dad, himself, his siblings. So we take his hand and say, “I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?” And he, too, feels the love, support and maybe even hope.
But when we mask ourselves, we do not see clearly. How could we? We are hiding. And inherent in this covering-up is a desire to conceal TRUTH. To conceal the truth of who we really are. And when I am not being honest with my own identity and being me for me, how can I be me for you?
I want to be me for me, and for you too! I want to be me for myself but also for my children, my husband, my friends, my neighbors, and my family. And I want them to be unconcealed to me. To be uncovered, real, raw. To feel safe enough to be all of who they are.
So the invitation still stands! Let’s create a world safe enough to be ourselves. Safe enough for all, so that permanently inked masks lose their attraction. So that the desire to hide our truest selves loses it’s seductive power and we feel free enough and loved enough to show the world who we are. We choose being real over being concealed. We choose being rejected over fear.
We choose to show up for EACH OTHER, because after all, isn’t that what humans need most, Connection? To know we are not alone. And when you show up in your Truth, you give others permission to do the same. How beautiful is that? xo
What do you do when someone you love is going through a difficult time? How do you handle the pain, hurt, worry, sorrow and feelings of helplessness? How can you best support someone when they want distance from you?
How can we watch the news lately and not feel the interior of our souls come crushing in…tumbling into the darkness where defeat, outrage and deep sadness live?
These are some of the questions I have been grappling with, of late, and I know they will resonate with some of you (if not all of you!) as well. I know, I know, light shit, right? LOL!
Anyway, I stumbled upon a quote that changed my entire perspective on love, particularly in the circumstance of loving someone who needs their space from you.
It’s about loving in a way so the person feels free.
Let that sink in for a moment. I did. I needed to “sit” with it.
So what does that mean anyway?
I think, at the root, it means that we accept and love them unconditionally. We do not weigh them down with our own ideas of who they should be or what they should do. We love them for who they are. For who they show us they are. For the pain they share and the pain they hide. For the truth they tell and the lies they spew. For the anger they throw our way and the love they shower upon us. We set aside our own agendas and we love with the purest of intentions for who they are in the very moment of now.
Because what else can we do? Really. This is not a rhetorical question. I mean, yes, we can be angry, judge, blame, accuse, and defend ourselves. But how will any of that help us to love better, love more, and feel more connected to those we love?
This is so hard people!!! And I never realized just how hard until recently. Here’s a story that might help better illustrate my point:
My family and I went to grab some gelato a few evenings ago and sitting on the terrace next to us was a young family with a little newborn. The mom had just finished breast feeding and the little baby was hung over her mom’s shoulder in that totally-blissed-out-drunk-on-boobie-milk-kind of way. And I couldn’t help but look at the gorgeous new life before me and notice how deeply free she felt. She was so loved. So cared for. So secure on her mom’s shoulder, her belly filled with all the nutrients she needed. She was just BEING. There is so much freedom in just being. No judgements about what she should or shouldn’t do, no expectations…you get my drift.
(And look, I get that I am talking about a newborn here!! But stay with me.)
THAT is what I want my loved ones to feel like when I love them. To feel secure, cared for, fulfilled and free to simply BE.
So how do I do that? How do we do that? How can we collectively love each other so that we all feel FREE to be who we are and live how we want to live, in a way that is supportive, nurturing, accepting, inspiring, loving, peaceful…..
Well, I could tell you…but then I’d have to kill you. Because then I would hold the freaking KEY to the universe and end all the suffering around us, now wouldn’t I?
So, instead I offer you this.
I don’t know. I do not have the answers to how to live this way. How to love this way. But what I do know is that I have hope or faith or however you want to define that feeling of trust in something bigger than me.
I trust that by doing my best to love from this place of giving freedom will bring us closer. Loving this way will allow for growth, confidence, security, fulfillment, exploration, respect and for each of us to know we can just BE. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Wouldn’t THAT feel like freedom?
Because isn’t that the point anyway? To feel the freedom to BE exactly who you are and trust that you are lovable in all your imperfect glory. Period.
In trusting that you are enough as you are, you will open yourself up to love others for who they are. And the shields of vulnerability will drop away and we will each have the freedom to…
A little post I wrote a few weeks ago about how gratitude works when you are in the throws of misery.
Ok, listen up folks. I got hit. I got hit HARD.
I have been sick for the past week, nursing a cold/flu/bronchitis/sinus infection type illness that has left me with little energy, a hoarse voice, a stuffy nose and the worst of it is that I have no sense of taste or smell.
I find this last symptom particularly devastating. Has you ever lost your sense of taste and smell? It is AWFUL, right? And I wouldn’t wish it on my most disliked neighbour!
Alas, I have had a lot of time to lay around and think the last few days. (People, I have so many blog posts written in my head right now! Stay tuned for those.)
I have almost cried from misery, howled in achy pain, and even had some terrible night sweats over the last week. But what has struck me the most about my little lapse into illness, is how thankful I am to be able to taste and smell…when I am well. Because not being able to enjoy the aroma of my morning coffee or the smell of cooking onions or even the freshly blossomed lilacs in my neighbor’s yard…this is heartbreaking to me.
And my life is so much less interesting and delicious and exciting without any flavour in it. Or, to put a positive spin on it, my life is so much more interesting and delicious and exciting when it’s full of flavor!
So, what’s a girl to do when she can’t indulge in the sensual flavor of her life?
I chose gratitude. And thinking of these blessings instantly makes me feel better, even just a tiny bit. So here are some of my take-aways from this week, thanks to this sucky, muscus-filled monster inhabiting me right now:
- The way my body feels on a normal day is amazing. Who knew how GOOD I felt not having terrible aches and pains all over my joints, muscles and inside my head?
- Eating = SOOOO pleasurable. Appreciate the subtle flavors of every bite. Stop rushing. Care about what I eat. We are privileged to be able to eat they way we do. Care for it, care about it. Honor your food.
- Sleep. It is not over-rated. Sleep and rest are essential for healing, growing and being well. (I struggle with this one on a daily basis so this was a big one to learn!)
- Being able to breathe through my nose. Wow. So much appreciation for this one.
- Having the ability to be compassionate for others in various stages/states of pain, illness, and hurt. It is so easy to dismiss or minimize someone else’s pain. Once again, I am reminded how compassion = love and how we each have a responsibility to BE compassionate for ourselves and others.
So the next time you find yourself miserable, try flipping it into an exercise on gratitude. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel.
I hate to admit it, but I judge people. I wish I could say I don’t and that I’m “better than that” (wait, is that a judgment too?), but the fact is that I do. There you have it.
I am not proud of this fact. I am working on it. Working on opening my heart everyday to being kind, compassionate, empathetic, and loving to any and all people I meet and know and even love. And the thing is, I know how to do it too. I know how to feel the love in my heart for others when I *see* them (in all their glorious imperfection) or as someone who is perhaps struggling, or doing the best they can, or just being who they are.
But sometimes, I’m not operating in my *evolved* state and I judge with nasty thoughts like, “What the hell is wrong with her?” or “I would never do that!” or “Why can’t she just get over it already?” And I start to think that I have it figured out better than that person.
HA! What bullshit.
But the impact of my judgments really hit me a few months ago as I started to think unkind thoughts about a person I had seen on the sidewalk.
It hit me that my negative thoughts had a double effect of negativity! First, on the person I was judging (even if they had no idea) and then, on myself as well. You see, when we think negatively of someone we are in fact denying ourselves the pleasure of positive thinking and ultimately, love.
This truth hit me hard and helped me realize that in offering kindness and compassion to others (which is, I would argue, the way we all aspire to be), we actually offer the same back to ourselves.
We are not loving toward ourselves while being in judgement of others.
And I know we all want to be kind (or least kinder) to ourselves. But what we often fail to realize is how negatively thinking about other people (and this can be applied to just about everything in life!) takes away from our contact with positivity. The more negative feelings, thoughts, judgements, beliefs, emotions we put out there into the world, the less room we have for the positive ones. The more space we give to judgement, the less we feel the power of loving kindness.
So the next time you catch yourself saying, believing, thinking, and feeling something unkind about another person (or even about yourself!), I invite you (and I include myself in this) to ask yourself “Why do I want to deny myself love?”
Isn’t LOVE what we all long for? Isn’t LOVE what makes the world go ’round? Isn’t LOVE why we are all here anyway?
Love yourselves. Wholly. Deeply. And let it start by being a loving presence for others.
I’ve been dedicated to doing a Kundalini yoga class every Friday morning since the New Year. And I am loving it! While I did Kundalini years ago, I took a very long hiatus once I had kids but am happy it’s back in my life again.
Except last Friday morning, I woke-up and instantly felt some dread around going.
“Why?”, I wondered. “I love this class.”
I immediately went into my default thought pattern trying to justify why I probably didn’t “feel like going”; namely, telling myself the following:
“It’s true, you have a lot of work to do, you should just skip it today”
“Your time would be better spent during those two hours working instead”
“It’s ok not to go every week and besides, you have a lot of stuff to do.”
You get my drift, right? Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Except, here’s the thing, all of them left me with a feeling of guilt. And GUILT sucks, right? I mean, who wants to feel guilty? It is THE key emotion to pointing out where we are”shoulding” ourselves in our lives. Clearly I had the underlying thought “I should go to yoga” and then tried to rationalize it away with my above thoughts about being more productive and working.
But you know what? I tried something new instead of relying on my usual coaching tools to help me let go of the guilty feelings I was having. And it was so effective and, dare I say it, magical! And easy to boot!
I asked myself this, “What do I really want to do?”
The answer came immediately. “I want to go for a walk in the sun! I want to breathe the fresh, cold winter air into my lungs and walk, walk, walk.”
The guilt lifted. The energy came pouring back into me (as we all know, feeling guilty completely drains your energy) and I got myself dressed to go.
And while I was walking that morning, all sorts of incredible inspiration came to me! A new coaching program, an idea for a retreat, website changes I want to make and lots of other cool stuff!
I cannot wait to try this question out again the next time I find myself in a situation of feeling guilty about not doing something I think I “have” to do. Giving myself permission last week to do what I really wanted to do actually resulted in more energy and inspiration which equals more productivity and clarity, in my life and in my work.
That is a win-win in my book. And, as an added bonus, I was able to sit in the sunshine for a few moments while feeling rather proud of myself for my decision to honour what I really wanted.
The next time you wake up feeling that sense of dread or guilt or find yourself “making excuses”, I invite you to ask yourself the magic question, “What do I really want to do?” And then, see if you can give yourself permission to do that thing. I promise good things will come your way if you do.