We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
By: Paul Laurence Dunbar
This morning Facebook sent me a “gentle reminder” of a memory posted on April 2, 2014, “I’m at peace. Best decision of my life. Let’s begin…”
We often do not know where the decisions we make in our life will lead us. Sometimes, we think we are going insane. Sometimes, it seems to all make perfect sense. Sometimes, we do not know what to think and we just keep going with the flow. This morning, it makes sense.
Four years later, I am staring out the window in New York listening to a playlist with my earthly angels Sara, Jill, Erykah, Stevie, and Frank singing beautifully. Their lyrics were an instrumental as I stripped away the mask I was wearing to reach my soul.
This morning, my thoughts are sitting with a homeless woman standing outside a Starbucks one hot July afternoon in 2014. The woman looked into my eyes and said in a calming and loving almost like an old friend “…you don’t need all that make-up. You need to see yourself.”
In her eyes and the energy around her have always made me feel in the depths of my soul that it was God speaking through her. I gave the Frappuccino I was holding in my hand to her and departed . You see, what I was thirsty for was not in the cup.
When I arrived home that evening, most of the contents of the make-up bag found their way to the trash bin and I stared in the mirror to cry as the mask started to wash away as the tears fell.
Throughout these four years, I have come to understand that wearing the mask kept people from seeing the parts of life that truly mattered to me…to be genuine and be a light of goodness, grace, and love to all I encountered. It kept me from embracing the core of my soul that likes to color outside the lines and go my own way. The part of me that does not care what people think of me because my approach does not fit in their own narrative of me. To be honest, it was not a part of the narrative that I told myself for so many years.
As I finish writing my thoughts, I am staring out the window watching four bright yellow balloons dance as the snow falls from the tree branches. The fifth one sitting down below is the partner that is waiting for me that my favorite people keep asking me about…
Tears are falling down my eyes because my life has awakened to the beauty that surrounds me. The simple joys like watching old episodes of “The Golden Girls” and “Living Single”, sitting in the window seat of a plane to experience your body flying through the air to see the smallness of the world we have made larger than it really is, wearing a great pair of Pumas, or seeing art that leapt off the history books to stare right back at you in a museum in close and distant lands.
It is beautiful. It is joy. I would not trade it for anything.
This weekend, I bought make-up for the first time since that July evening and stared in the mirror to release. This time the make-up compact is not to hide what my soul is seeking, but to not wash me out when the light reflects back on me.