Friday, November 21, 2014

Nakedness is blinding

Asking why appearances matter so much in the material world answers itself: because it IS the material world. Things are solids and shapes and we identify them by how they look.

In my world, where spirituality and creativity merge, I am much more interested in the inside. What composes someone? What is their interior life? Who is the self they don't often show?
Prickly self/paint and pastel on paper

My oldest is currently enamored with costume and fashion design and served as lead costumer for the high school play, for which she performed admirably. The fashion world seems superficial to me and yet, something she said yesterday has me thinking otherwise. "Mom, the thing I like about fashion is that it can be so individual and you get to express yourself." As an artist, I know that is true and surround myself with color and what I call the magic of accessories. I wore orange purposefully Wednesday to boost my energy and brighten my aura on a particularly tiring day.

One morning at the gym this week, I noticed the cute 40-something moms in their neon racer-back nylon shirts and matching shoes, hair looking perfect. Meanwhile, I was dressed in 10-year-old yoga pants, inherited gym shoes, a nondescript t-shirt and bedhead. I really don't care what I look like at the gym. I am there to work.

Apart from the pack of moms, I noticed a perky red-head with whom I had a long conversation about nine months ago. Our daughters attended elementary school together until the family moved. They changed schools, then districts for their daughter, who was struggling. When we spoke, she was excelling at an alternative school and I was lamenting the pressure my then-sophomore was experiencing. The mother opened my eyes to looking at other options for my daughter. She was a good listener and shared her wisdom generously.

So, I decided to interrupt, which is atypical for me, and let her know how much that had meant and that my daughter, now enrolled in a post-secondary program where she attends college classes part time, is blossoming. That the high school stressors were gone.

Her entire demeanor changed when I uttered those sentences. "I really needed to hear that today. I broke away from my friends, I am a rebel and independent, but mostly because I was furious today. Furious with how things are going for my daughter."

We spoke about 20 minutes and she shared how her daughter had missed her friends, so they tucked her back into a small suburban district known for its academics. And she'd sunk back into old anxiety patterns and was a mess. My heart broke. This teen struggles with anxiety, yet is cool as ice on the outside. The district doesn't get this and really is of little help. "They only see the strong exterior and assume she's like everybody else," the mother confessed ... though everybody else, who seems perfect on the exterior, is anything but inside.

We talked about my nephew, a very premature baby who has grown into a wonderful young adult and will always struggle with cerebral palsy. Had my sister not become his advocate, he would have been written off. In fifth grade, the district informed my sister they were placing him on the non-graduation track because, essentially, he impacted their test scores. She had a fit and asked what the point of finishing would be. Wouldn't that district love to know he's taking college classes ... thanks to mu sister's continued advocacy. He's a smart kid with processing difficulties.

This mom's other daughter shares some of those same issues. She's got her hands full.

"You're so open about all of this," I remarked. "I have to be real," she said.

Being real, that's exactly what I am looking for.  No pretenses, walls, fences or facades that project a perfect image. Because we're not.

Chronic pain has taught me that lesson and tomorrow I'll be co-leading an hour workshop on pain as teacher. Our goal is to provide safe, creative community where those struggling can share themselves and be open to what their physical pain may be signaling.

And I keep thinking about this beautiful teen who has learned the trick of pretending on the outside because most of the world isn't ready to deal with its realness. Nakedness can be blinding and awkward instead of real and beautiful.

• How do my insides and outsides mesh?
• When am I real?
• With whom can I be real?
• Am I comfortable being real with Spirit?
• What happens when I am?

as an artist,
I am attracted
by what something
looks like

as a mystic,
I want a closer
look, to
the inside

for that is
where the center
of anything,
can be found

and it's
where God


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