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Two Faces

Each of us has more than one. One face we’d prefer to have the world see, and another we live with every day. If we’re lucky the two resemble each other and we don’t have so much work to do. I don’t feel lucky.

Perhaps, because I’m the kind of writer who’s drawn to the emotions I see in so many spaces far outside myself as well as the ones I carry inside, I rarely escape what I want to hide. I wear my mask, but it keeps slipping. It’s on the floor now. I reached for the keyboard instead of bending down again.

I wonder how strange I seem when I stop pretending. I think I understand my pieces, but I’m not sure how the whole appears to those who don’t. I want to be seen and I don’t. One moment I want to poke out my chest and say I can take care of myself and I can be alone, no problem. Then I turn around and want to scream at the world to stop heaping things on me that I don’t know how to fix. I want all the creeping fingers poking at me to stop so I can formulate a plan and tend to it, but they won’t. They say, “If you do this, I’ll hurt you now. If  you do that, I’ll hurt you later.” They laugh at me because I could’ve tried any of today’s plans two years ago without worrying. But ha, ha, I didn’t have them then. Life doesn’t always reward the slow upward swing of the learning curve.

So here I am waiting because I have to, trying to think when I can, sleep when I can, write when I can, and survive the things Otis Redding sang about in his famous song. If I remain the same I’ll die. I’ll try to save myself. That’s what the thinking’s for.

Maybe someday I’ll have more to contribute to the world besides my mere survival. I’ll try to do that too.


26 thoughts on “Two Faces

  1. What a beautifully written post. I think I might have the opposite problem of not being able to show more than one face. When I was lecturing at the local university I had a hard time ‘putting on’ the lecturer face and was just ‘me’ so I gained a reputation for being somewhat unprofessional but popular – weird. On the other hand of course we do all have many faces, many personas, many identities. I loved your post!

  2. I adore this and I agree with jmgoyder— your vulnerability is beautiful.

    I also think, as a writer and a person, when you unpack your fears they become less heavy, less mysterious, and therefore, less powerful against you. They become what they are: fears.

    And you’re doing that, here, and sharing it with other people who may be fearful— that’s a huge accomplishment in my book.

    • There’s a little more space in my head for thinking when I open the valve and let out a bit of pressure, but I’m still heavy, heavier. The specifics are crushing. My time is spent peeling myself off brick walls and then hurling myself at the next. But I do hope something about the sharing helps more than just me, and that it’s not just whining. Thanks for suggesting that it isn’t.

      • No, whining is not this articulate, I think. And it doesn’t open up space; it closes space. Whining is a “no” to every solution. To me, it feels as though you’re unpacking each scary thing and trying to examine it and see it for what it is. That takes muscle. And tenaciousness. And a little something extra I cannot describe.

        Writing is creation, and creation dispels fear. That’s my reasoning anyway.

  3. You take the words right out of my mouth, and say them so much better than I possibly could, cos I don’t feel so lucky either.
    From the inside I feel like a misanthropic, introverted, shy, inarticulate person, and it confuses me to be perceived as the opposite of that…which I am, all the time. I wonder if it’s possible to be so confused all your life. trying to be liked when really you don’t want to care if anyone does or not!
    Sometimes I really wish I could stop pretending, but I’m afraid of the consequences 😐 Sorry for the rant. I don’t make sense but I just wanted to say these things somewhere 🙂

    • Throughout history society has dictated that more than one face is necessary. I understand the part that keeps us kind and able to care about one another, but even actors say that acting is difficult to do in real situations. It didn’t feel like a rant. I understand.

  4. It does not help that our society expects everyone to be 21 and a successful social media mogul, retire at 30 years old and the elderly need to just “get out of the way”. Sometimes I long for a distant village where everyone helps each other, where children are expected to do chores and where the elderly are the most respected.

    • We also have to be excellent actors and successful chameleons in job interviews. I’ve actually been learning, but I’m obviously not good enough at it yet. I’m still seen and rejected. It’s hard to be perfect when one’s confidence and well being is assaulted almost daily.

      • Sheesh no kidding. I look at my resume and think, who is this sad, boring person on the page? How long will I have to pretend I’m someone else to get a full time job? It’s really demoralizing.

  5. I agree with all them, up there. (Came late and all the smart comments were taken!) I love it when your mask falls on the floor and you let it lie and write instead. My masks are my shields and I feel like I might die without them, but I love it when someone proves me wrong.

  6. Good morning LadySparks! I read this when you first wrote it, and it has been with me since. I wanted to take time with my response because this piece was so hugely personal and affecting. It certainly spoke to me. It made me think of just how vulnerable we all are. I think that we all have two (or more) faces. Mostly, we can manage two, though it is our intention to only wear one. There are times when I feel tremendously poised, gracious, and competent. Then there are other times when I am crying more than I am smiling, trying to hold off a torrent of flooding emotions. Mostly, my feelings of uncertainty and insecurity arise from my self-imposed rules, deadlines, and expectations. More and more, I’m learning that what it looks like to others matters very little in comparison to what it looks like from my lens or my reality because everyone else has to deal with the same questions, regardless of how little or much they share about their journey. I’m also learning that it is necessary to step away sometimes to process all that is happening, and respond to our own inward quest for whatever it is that we hope to find, without the filters of everyone else. It requires no explanation as it is necessary if we are to grow. It is only through this processing and investment of time and energy that we can become more assured, and more focused on what really matters, and strip away the veneer of what everyone else expects of us. Moreover, we are worthy of that time and introspection.

    • I agree with you, Ms.Empress. I only wish society meshed with these concepts. That would make it possible for each of us to be truly confident. Most of the job market goes against all of this. It dictates that we can’t be considered unless we wear the correct mask and exude perfection as we inhabit it. Being ourselves – no matter if we are intelligent, able, and earnest – isn’t enough if our mask is seen to be ajar.

  7. I think survival can be enough sometimes, as far as contributions go. Why shouldn’t it, if that’s what consumes you at the moment? I’m sure the struggle for daily hope, for morale, for stamina, for courage, is no less difficult nor less momentous than anything else anyone struggles with anywhere. We are not all dealt the same lot, and we each bring to ours what we can. Like everyone else who’s written here, I thank you for giving us a window into yours.

    I’m guessing from reading the comments that job interviews are part of what’s clawing at you so terribly these days. Those seem practically designed to erode the interviewee’s heart and soul. I wish I could offer you something to hold on to when they come at you. All I can think of is: whatever they think is not your worth. Your value is not the value they’d dismiss you for.


    • Thanks for your kind words, Lisa. It’s crazymaking when it’s all about money for basics, yet everyone agrees that can’t show. It doesn’t show because I want it to. It just does.

  8. I feel for you so much,Ré. I feel that we are in seperate states in our lives,too. I was down so low once I prayed…….and that’s a bigger deal for me than it sounds to some. Somehow, I came out the other side but never forget the fear of waking up thinking that this day could be the one the knife went in. I wish I could be with you to help and lift your spirits – and bring out the beauty that so clearly lies inside.

    • It means a lot to me that you shared that, Al. Sometimes I think it’s the fear that’ll do me in. I don’t think I could forget it either, even if someday soon I surprise myself and come out okay.

  9. Re,

    I have a great deal of respect for you as you fully inhabit this space, bravery and courage. I frequently run from my blog when I am in a state of vulnerability and weakness because I fear being judged and found lacking. I wear the face others expect to see and have come to recognize this as a liability. It is constraining and likely unhealthy. When I reject that notion, I notice I am quite often wholly received, as you have been here. Isn’t that a boon for the soul and isn’t that creates real bonds with others? I can also see by your post that you are, unwittingly, helping others as well.

    I agree with Averil and many others above that you are a beautiful spirit and have much to give whether it is clear to you at this moment or not.

    I have felt for a long time now that my life is a juggling act of which face to represent in which situation and it is indeed exhausting, all other things aside. I’ve also felt that drowning feeling and know how debilitating it can be. Keep up the fight.

    For you, one piece of writing that I most dearly love http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~gongsu/desiderata_textonly.html



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