19 July 2006

The Fallacies of the Mask: You Believe What You Want to Believe

It seems to be that time of season these days when we're all sort of taking stock of where we're at...the midway point of observation to determine if the New Year resolutions actually took hold. And it's just not me, which I admit is a bit reassuring. Several friends, facing problems in career, lifestyle, finances, even marriages and with children, all seem to be up against the same confusing wall as I am, but each in our separate way. For me, summertime is one of continued reflection to see what, if anything, can still be 'pulled out' from the ashes of a wayward January 1st dreamfest. It's like as the heat rains down from above, so do the guilt and anxiety of my failures (perceived or otherwise) on my psyche. To sort it all out, I try and find a quiet and safe spot where I can contemplate just how sane some of my goals even were to make, but more accurately it's a time of reflection to figure out how I chickened out again, then rationalize my cowardice. Today's not been a good one for that, mind you, but it's decidedly better than in years past.

The last time I really did this contemplation was on January 1, 2006, as I sat sweltering for a good hour or so on a wooden bench overlooking Lavender Bay, near Milson's Point, on the north side of Sydney's famous Harbour. It was excruciatingily hot, and ended up being a record-setting high at day's end. The New Year's Day was new then, I still had the Sydney Bridge to walk across, a wonderful claims adjuster from Melbourne to meet on the shaded edges of Circular Quay (pronounced 'Key'), a long steamy bus ride to Bondi Junction and another meet and greet with an internet friend who took us to watch the two sets of fireworks that night with the locals in the street. Little did I know then that my traveling companion for that glorious day (and many others to follow) and I would soon permanently part ways ourselves shortly after our return home. Little did I know then some resolutions I made that day...to forge a better friendship with my companion as friends, to do some scouting for my future move to Australia, to once and for all decide if some past actions of mine had, indeed, been worth all of it...that those resolutions not only fell away, but have fallen away so distant and so fast that I can't even see my hands grasping for them any more. All I can remember now about that day is sweating under the limbs of a heaving and lovers' carved eucalpyt thinking about how the 'answers' I was seeking would soon show and develop themselves, and, if I was just patient, those answers would come to me from others. I was, I see now, terribly deluded in my naivete. Unfortunately, I was the one perpetrating the deception.

Forgive me, dear Father, for I have sinned against what is true.

And so again today I 'took stock' of where I stand, not only for my resolutions, but also as a gauge as to where I am as a person. While I don't necessarily like the conclusions as they stand now, I highly encourage the process for others. It's tough to have that heart-to-mind conversation with yourself, when it's not in the small hours of the night or under the influence of something patented to cloud your senses. It's like looking hard at yourself when you know you look bad. All you have to do is stare at yourself and look in your eyes...and you know, just know, the gig is up. Some of us are so good in pulling on a mask as we head out the door that sometimes, when the day is new and the dawn is harsh, we don't recognize our 'real' selves until we blindly trip into a mirror and get frightened. Frightened, especially, when we realize we're suppressing the 'real' person inside in favour of a mask and a persona we really don't like on the outside.

The mask I don't show is in frequent contact with my gut and, on especially difficult days, my whole gastrointestinal system. And recently my true self has been telling me to trust its instincts more...and it's wise advice I should have heeded months ago. I have lost a friend, true, and I am truly sorry of the loss of another person I once cared about from my life. But in actuality that friendship was lost before the end of our magical trip and we didn't have to wait until we came back home, but did...and arguably perhaps it was even lost well before we departed. I can attribute the dissolution to so many things, some more logical than others, but a good chunk lands squarely at my feet for not standing up for myself and my needs. (Amazing what illness will do to you...I'm nothing like the person I was in my late 20's; I've become if not The Enabler, at least The Diplomat...never upsetting or being upset by anyone any more.) A big portion of my outside mask is to be ever-adaptable and easy-going...and 99% of the time that works well until I decide to assert my 1% authentic emotion. They say the worst liars are those that lie to themselves and I agree. Not only agree because I didn't stick up for myself until the damage had been irreparably done, but also because I almost convinced myself I could become something I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I simply could not. Word to the wise: either be a doormat or don't, but don't be one and then later decide to stop being so when you've had too much mud...by that time, it's already too late. And don't ever kid yourself that you can control the 'inner you' at any time when you're angry...because you can't.

Furthermore, I didn't do a thorough (or even a mediocre) search while in Oz in preparation for the move, creating excuses from everything from public holidays to the need to be a 'good travel companion' to help me rationalize my avoidance. Truth be told, again I didn't stand up for my needs, but I also succumbed to fear. Fear is a terrible poison of the mind, and I would argue one of the most deadliest around. Fear keeps us from love, travel, success, heartbreak, power, and...most importantly...from proving ourselves wrong. For years now, (actually since childhood), I have been preached about 'knowing my limits' and 'accepting what's been handed to you with gratitude'. Those are wonderful sentiments and I'm sure it works for many, many people; in time, they may even work for me, but not yet. Our bodies will be paralyzed all too soon with the advance of age, illness, and death...but to have fear paralyze our minds, too? Yet, I am the worst of a burgeoning clan. As much as I want Oz to happen, I also know I am gripped with cold-sweat kind of fear of moving to country so far away with only myself to depend on, in a culture and way of life (even 9 trips later) I am still unfamiliar with. When I was on the train from Newcastle to Sydney one day, I thought about how this would all work if I wasn't a tourist, wasn't a stranger in a strange land, but just there and experiencing the trip as just a way from Point A to Point B. But here's the catch, the one and still blinding fact that causes me to pause and yes, feel fear: Oz is appealing to me when my 'real' person is there, but when I realize I haven't truly been that person in public for decades...I don't know if I can really make the jump.

And finally, angels and heathens alike, I must admit that I have given great thought recently to whether the balance paid so far is disproportionate to the actual balance due. No need for worries for my mental health (beyond the usual, anyway LOL), but more along the lines of "is this it?" The logic is this: we work and learn and save, to do more work, achieve more learning, contribute more saving because we are taught to preserve the status quo...that this may be as good as it gets. I shudder when I think of that last thought at any length. This is as good as it gets??? No wonder we're someone else in public, who wants to meet that letdown unprotected? Combining that with the many virtues my dear departed Father handed down to me...honesty, sacrifice, courtesy, humanity, hard work, kind selfless acts...I wonder sometimes if I didn't get voted off the planet somehow and am chasing idle dreams in the Milky Way. Because the masks I see, the mask I wear for survival out there, doesn't allow a co-existence between those two extremes.

When unconditional loyalty is taught but found not to be a good skill to succeed with these days, who wins and who loses the most?

When sacrifices are made and not acknowledged, what's to instill any chance of a devotion being offered again?

When the town crier calls out the time and state of the town and no one cares to listen, what's the point in crying out in humility?

I have college degrees that line a wall somewhere, but yet the knowledge I seek is no longer taught. I have many creature comforts and delights, but the emphasis is that I need...indeed must have...'more' to be truly happy (whatever today's standard of 'more' is, anyway). The alternative is an admission of failure somehow. I stand and review my lot from the shores of Truth, yet the Sailor of those seas does not venture out, does not even answer the beacon. To paraphrase a great Tom Petty song ("Refugee"), you're gonna believe what you want to believe. And that's generally true, I think. Problem is that we're believing in a mask that's not who we really are, but instead who we should be somehow. The belief system itself is fucked up. And when the fickle friends disappear and the strong winds hail, that leaves us all where??

I have two images of me: one an outer public core that is misleading and sterile yet accomodating and fulfilled, the other a inner truthful relief that is disillusioned and raging yet bittersweet and utopian. Since neither are working anymore and have no tenets to support them, it's more than time to make a new mask.

1 comment:

twitches said...

When unconditional loyalty is taught but found not to be a good skill to succeed with these days, who wins and who loses the most?

The winner is the one who remains honorable, regardless of reward or lack of reward.

When sacrifices are made and not acknowledged, what's to instill any chance of a devotion being offered again?

Whether or not a sacrifice is acknowledged is not the point. The point is that the sacrifice was made. Think intent and not result.

When the town crier calls out the time and state of the town and no one cares to listen, what's the point in crying out in humility?

To know that you cried out, regardless of whether it did any good or not. To lend your voice to even a very small of chorus of those on the side of what's right and honorable, even if the change that voice effects is very small.