Masks

Written on: Wednesday, 28th June 2017 – 11:43

I have a doctor’s appointment today. When I remembered at 10:20 and checked my phone I immediately threw myself in the shower getting ready to try to make it to Stirling for 11:00am.

I arrived in a panic, sweating and out of breath having run to the surgery from my car, left abandoned on the street I used to live, hoping against hope that I would not miss it.

After arriving in the doctor’s surgery I sat waiting for ten minutes before the receptionist told me my appointment was not until 12:35, not 11:00.

I moved the car and walked into town, passing a coffee shop my brother worked in many years before. The gentleman who stepped in to cover my post while I have been off work was working with a client. I think they saw me, but rather than engage I kept my eyes front and centre and walked faster. My only intent was to ‘get away’.

The prospect of talking to an employee I could handle. All they or a colleague want to hear is, 

“Yeah, I’m doing better. Thanks for asking.”  

(Better? Better than what? Better than contemplating ways to die? Most things are better than that.)

It wasn’t coming face to face with a colleague that scared me. It was the idea of having to talk to or even acknowledge a client. I am in a type of pain that often seems indescribable and selfish. I can’t face the idea of being around clients when it would mean putting the mask back in place.

The longer the mask is left on, the harder it is to take off.

But wearing all of the masks at the same time. The masks of definition by action…

Every role and every person I have worked with over the years which have required me to be something for them have necessitated the creation of a new mask. Sometimes they are worn for short periods. Sometimes longer. While they are on, you can be anything. But wearing them drains you. The masks drain whatever lies underneath them to give them power.

Now, all of the masks are off.

When they were created, they fit like death masks. Designed to fit my face and my face alone.

While being worn, a mask never changes. But the person underneath does. Without realising it, the mask changes things about you that you may not have even known about yourself until eventually, you pull the mask away only to realise that the face underneath is no longer one you recognise.

Once the mask is off though you know. You know that you are no longer the same. When it comes time to wear that mask again you have to put it back in place ready for those that need to see it. But the mask was made for your face, and your face only. The face you used to know. The face that changed under the mask into a face you don’t recognise. The mask no longer fits, making it harder to wear and harder still to convince people that you are the same version of yourself that once wore it.

*****

Response: Thursday, 27th September 2018 – 12:15

During the Summer of 2017, I had to take a sabbatical from work. My mental health had been in a place of decline for some time, and the stress eventually led me to a place where the only thing I could do to get better was to step away from all of my commitments for a while to address my problems head-on and work on getting better.

During this time I wrote a lot, and most of that writing will stay private for a bit longer until I have had a chance to review it and decide how I feel about certain things.

This entry into my personal log, in particular, is the first thing I wrote in a brand new notebook and after filling the last page of the notebook yesterday, it is where my transcription of this notebook begins.

I wanted to share this because I feel so very far moved on from this place and time. But still, the underlying message I was trying to put into words seems so insightful and was the beginnings of the ends for some parts of my life and the start of a whole new chapter which I am only just beginning to tell the story of now.

My lesson learned from this was to spend more time being around people, and places where I could be myself without having to rein myself in or have to put the needs of others first. I talked about being selfish but learned that if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t care for others without it being to someone’s detriment.

The masks I’ve worn may have changed me, but after a while I did begin to recognise myself again. I learned to listen to my own voice of need, and by slowly meeting some of those needs, I realised I was the same person as I’d always been, I just had to make more time for me to ensure that I was still being the truest version of myself.

It takes a lifetime to master being yourself because every day you will learn and life lessons will change you. Embrace the changes, and love yourself. You deserve that love the most and have likely worked hard for it.

Truths and Lies

Writing Prompt: Write 4 things about yourself that are true and one that’s a lie.

I believe in an afterlife.

I am capable of being happy.

I am a good person.

I want to live a long and happy life.

I stopped trying.

 

Truths and a lie. Usually, this is a game. An icebreaker. The aim: a person shares some truths and a lie about themselves, others must then try to correctly identify the lie.

The truths I’ve picked are all things that though I believe them now are not things I have always believed of myself. Throughout my life, I have believed ‘truths’ about myself that were unfounded. Things which with the benefit of hindsight and clarity of experience have revealed themselves to be falsehoods.

The Lie. The lie is something I have told myself over and over again until I almost believed it. Then recently during the most difficult experience of my life so far, I realised that not only did I know this statement to be false, but all at once saw the power the words had had over me. I learned recently that our beliefs change as our understandings evolve and develop, all we have to do is keep learning, growing and above all else living.

It took me a long time to recognise these statements as truths or lies, and it will likely take me a lifetime to master the power which these statements have over my life. I know now which of these statements are true, and rather than ask you to find my lie, I ask instead that you look for your own. 

If you find something you tell yourself often that you no longer agree with, then put this lie to the side and find your own truths. You’ll be surprised what you actually believe about yourself.

I Had To Ask

Three times I’ve met you in the last year and each time, I am incredibly glad I had the notion to do so. The more time I spend around you, the more time I want to spend around you. Hours in your company never quite seem like enough time and even the topics which might otherwise be difficult to talk about are interesting and fascinating, partly because your unique view of the world challenges my own perceptions and makes me want to know more about the world around me.

When I first got in touch, I did so because I couldn’t shake the feeling that you were someone I would enjoy developing a friendship with. I sat next to you everyday for the best part of a year, ten years ago, yet I was never able to chat to you beyond trivial greetings. With hindsight I recognise that that was due to an attraction to you that at the time I wasn’t able to admit to myself, and instead presented itself as a social awkwardness.

I’m still aware that a part of me feels that same attraction to you now, and although I am very happy to be able to develop a new friendship with you, I don’t want to mar that potential friendship by misconstruing any unspoken boundaries. I said earlier that a big part of the last year has been about creating opportunities, and knowing you is an opportunity I am so glad I acted on, if I’m completely wrong here and you have no interest in anything beyond friendship then I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. However, I hope that even if you aren’t interested in anything beyond friendship that asking you directly does nothing more than give you at least the reason why it was you I chose to catch up with beyond any other person.

Defining Pain

Written on – Tuesday, 7 August 2018 – 14:15

 

I have experienced many types of pain this year.

The pain of losing a job I love.

The stress and anxiety that comes from being unemployed.

The fear of the unknown.

The challenge that is finding a new purpose.

An illness that floored me for months.

For the first time in my life a broken bone. A physical pain comparable to nothing else I have ever felt. I thought that that might be the turning point, the moment that I could say the most difficult thing had happened. 

I was so wrong about that.

Broken bones may hurt, but they hurt nothing in comparison to broken hearts.

A broken bone you can’t ignore, it is all consuming and steals your focus anytime it tries to wander. Yes, drugs help, but they only distract you from the physical pain which waits on you.

Emotional pain is different. It too is all consuming, but unlike physical pain, if you are not ready to process it, you find yourself in the VOID. The place where emotions can’t hurt you and feeling good and bad disappear.

Physical pain is all present all of the time it can be medicinally repressed and in time, without ever doing anything, it fades away. Emotional pain can be like pressing pause. However the longer you ignore emotional pain, the harder it can be to recover from it.

Call it depression, call it denial. But for me it’s just old habits dying hard.

It reminds me so much of the poem by Norman MacCaig, ‘Visiting Hour’.

The poem itself is about a different kind of loss. But the line,

“I will not feel. I will not/Feel. Until I have to.”

This resonates within me often.

Years of counselling and self-discovery prove to me that I will feel again. When I am ready. 

Perhaps I’ll cry. Perhaps I’ll shout, or swear. Perhaps I’ll wallow in despair for a future that will never be or a relationship that is already long over. I can’t say for sure how I’ll react.

Four days have given me very little time to come to terms with how I feel, yet already I have felt myself on the verge of being overwhelmed. Every time I pick up my phone to talk to you and then remember I can’t. Every time I hear an inside joke that only you would find funny, and then remember we will unlikely never laugh together again.

I scroll through photographs of the last nine months, and your face haunts me. Your smile, beautiful and already gone. How long has it been since I saw it? Even if I hide your face, I still see it burned into my mind. I can picture every expression, every reply and retort. I can see you roll your eyes and scoff as I tell another stupid joke.

Every time I think of something good that we shared I find tears in my eyes, as I come to terms with the fact that these moments are only in the past, and will come to be nothing more than a memory. 

I wish I could change how things are. I wish I’d been able to try harder. But it isn’t just the good things which I recall. The hard parts, the parts neither of us could get passed. The words that were said, the look in your eye that last night we were together. I doubt I will ever be able to forget that look. It spoke more words than I will ever be able to and sealed a fate that neither of us dared try to change.

I may not be ready to feel, not everything. Not all at once. But when I do I hope that what I retain are my memories of the good, that they shine brighter than any darkness which found us.

Navarone. I wish you all of the best going forward in your life, knowing that I no longer get to share it with you. As we move forward, as individuals, I hope that our time together has made us stronger. I hope that we can both find the happiness we were unable to find together.

Passion

Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018

I still can’t shake a feeling that has consumed me for a while. It is a sense of impending doom. Dread which lies in the pit of my stomach, gnawing at me from the inside out. I live the life I have so far lived, as but a dreamer would. Wandering from scene to scene, never really engaging with things, and when I finally find something worth engaging with, it changes or fades away.

I am inexperienced in all of the things that matter, and the longer I go on into the unknown of life, the less I seem to know.

I want to feel confident that I am being me, the truest version of myself, but I feel compromised, unable to express a part of me that I do not fully understand. 

I want more than I currently have, but to attain it, I fear I will have to become something I am not ready to be. Whole.

There was perhaps a time where I was happy, and I was ready to be anything. But at some point, I either strayed from the path or chose one to narrow and confined to allow me any room for error. Now the path that lies before me is overgrown with thorns and vines and I stumble at every step forward. Backwards is just as treacherous, just as difficult. No, I cannot go back. To embrace even a facet of what I want does seem to show me a way forward that isn’t just to lie down and wait for death to claim me.

If I persevere, perhaps I can move forwards, really embracing what I am. What I want to become.

Another ramble of words that sound like I am making progress, but even as I write, I know that they hold no meaning. They are the words inscribed on the wall that surrounds my emotions, they are the mantra that keeps me moving forward, without ever truly engaging with where I have been. I wish I understood my emotions, but they are as confusing as they are elusive.

To live, I simply have to participate in life. The longer I sit and hope that life happens to me, the longer I will sit and observe, never truly knowing happiness.

I have things that I am truly blessed to have, so why can’t I see them for what they are?

I wish there was an easier way to move forward, but that is not the point of life. It is facing that which is difficult, which gives us the challenge we need to know that what we are doing is what we want to do.

It is finding a challenge that is worth overcoming that shows us what we want, and what we are willing to work for.

Passion is about finding that which drives you. 

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