Yesterday, while digging frantically for hours for important papers I swear I had in my hand as recently as a week ago, cat 5 frustration was setting in. The stroll down memory lane of projects never realized wasn't helpful either. There were sketches of inventions, screen plays, new business plans, conceptual painting ideas that sat waiting to be colorfully executed on big canvases. All the things my creative mind would dream up while having to tend to life's more immediate responsibilities and demands. I was feeling a surreal mixture of accomplishment and failure. Then I came across a simple folder labeled "Inspiration." As a creative person, one of my favorite things to tell people has been, "You never know where your inspiration will come from," as if that somehow gave instant validity to some of my more questionable life choices. When I opened the folder I found, as expected, the most random things. First was a picture my daughter drew when she was in first grade. It was filled with big red hearts and people -- it was titled "My Wonderful Family."
That pure love and innocence certainly was inspiring -- sadly that picture was drawn shortly before an ugly divorce that left the family scarred and broken. Cat 5 frustration quickly morphed into cat 5 emotional meltdown. Also in the folder was a funny email from a friend, a page of fun facts such as, "The highest point in Pennsylvania is lower than the lowest point in Colorado" (does anyone really care?) and Anna Quindlen's incredible Villanova Commencement Address. But what I found that had resonated with me so deeply years ago, was this piece of writing by an unknown author:
Please Hear What I Am Not Saying
Don't be fooled by me. Don't be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks that I'm afraid to take off and none of hem are me. Pretending is an art that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled, for God's sake don't be fooled. I give you the impression that I'm secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without that confidence is my name and coolness my game that the water is calm and I'm in command and that I need no one. But don't believe me, please. My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask, my ever-varying and ever-concealing mask. Beneath lies no smugness, no complacency. Beneath lies the real me in confusion, in fear, in aloneness. But I hide this; I don't want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weaknesses and fear being exposed. That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind; a nonchalant, sophisticated facade to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only salvation. And I know it. That is if it's followed by acceptance, if it's followed by love. It's the only thing that will assure me of what I can't assure myself -- that I'm really worth something. But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to. I'm afraid to. I'm afraid that you will think less of me, that you'll laugh and your laugh would kill me. I'm afraid that deep down I'm nothing, that I'm just no good, and that you will see this and reject me. So I play my pretending game, with a facade of assurance without, and a trembling child within. And so begins the parade of masks, the glittering but empty parade of masks. And my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that is really nothing and nothing of that is everything of what is crying within me. So when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and TRY TO HEAR WHAT I'M NOT SAYING, what I'd like to be able to say but what I can't say. I dislike hiding, honestly. I dislike the superficial game I'm playing, the superficial phony game. I'd like to be genuine, but you've go to help me. You've got to hold out your hand even when that's what the last thing I seem to want or need. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you're kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand, my heart begins to grow wings, very small, feeble wings, but wings. With your sensitivity and your sympathy and your power of understanding, you can breathe life into me. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator of the person that is me if you choose to. Please choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble. So do not pass me by. I am told that love is stronger than strong walls and In this lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands. Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well, for I am every man and woman you meet.
-- Author Unknown
I never did find the papers I was looking for, but they didn't seem so critically important anymore. What is important is that as fellow human beings, we take the time to look a little deeper, hold those glances a little longer, and hold out our hands a little more often.