take off the mask, you beautiful mess.

The Moment
~Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Yesterday I was running errands when all of a sudden I was saturated with an overwhelming feeling of anger. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and irritated by anyone who was in my way. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be in nature. I wanted the library that I was encapsulated in to disappear and for everyone to shut up. I needed silence. And for some reason, libraries are no longer the sanctuary they used to be…

I usually love going to the library, but at that very moment, I didn’t want to be surrounded by library walls and library books and enthusiastic school children. I was suffocating in my awful mood and feeling too large to be held by four walls. I was pissed at the woman in front of me who was patiently teaching her son how to use the self check out, and I was irritated when one of my books didn’t register on the machine. I wanted to scream at the librarian and push everyone out of my way so I could beeline to the park where the trees were undoubtedly continuing to change colors under a hazy autumn sky. I was missing the show.

The funny thing about these moods is that I notice right away just how irrational and awful they are. But there’s a sense of urgency and intensity that is hard to shake off, let alone rationalize. If I slow down enough and utilize my breath, I can instantly notice the judgments that happen in my mind and the ways I want to lash out at other people who are around. Apparently, I want to make everyone else feel just as crappy as I do. Don’t they know I’ve had a hard day? Don’t they know I’ve had cancer? Don’t they know the world is going to hell in a hand basket and that I’m missing the trees changing in the park?

ahhh, the joys of anger

Brené Brown clarifies in her book Daring Greatly  (which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone wanting an amazingly life changing read on tapping into personal courage and living more authentically and wholeheartedly) that anger is a “secondary emotion, one that only serves as a socially acceptable mask for many of the more difficult underlying emotions we feel” (p. 34). Oh, right. My anger wasn’t really anger after all. It was sadness.

It’s true that my outward frustration was more socially acceptable than me melting down in a puddle of tears, but I felt like one of those monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. I was a beast who could have ripped my books apart and busted through the ceiling. I didn’t seem to have any ability to manage myself in that moment and, in hindsight, I should have listened to my gut in the first place and just bypassed the errands to go directly to the park. But I didn’t have that insight at the time. I just had my crappy mood and my sadness masked as anger (is there a Halloween costume brewing, here?).

I suppose the moral of the story (and I’m reaching, here) is that I need to take more time for myself and to notice when I’m feeling sad. Even if it means losing the books I have on hold at the library or not picking up my beloved coconut creamer at the grocery store. It means not checking my email or twitter or facebook to see if there’s anything I’m missing. Sometimes life is more important that the chores or tasks I have imprinted in my brain- those “shoulds” and “coulds”. And the real connection I long for is the one that doesn’t exist inside or online.

So, my friends, my personal assignment is to become more aware of my own needs in any given moment and to listen to my gut, which happens to be right a good portion of the time. If I need more outside time, I’m going for it. I’m going to (try to) admit my imperfections, even it means looking like a watery mess, and honor that this moment is another opportunity for growth. This is what I love about yoga- it’s all a practice and a journey.

The Yoga Sutras begins with Atha Yoganushasanam, translated as something like “now begins the practice/discourse of yoga”. It all leaves room for improvement. That was then, this is now. The past and the future do not exist. There is only now, and this is my yoga practice.

12 thoughts on “take off the mask, you beautiful mess.

    • I hope you made it to the beach, Mary, and that it was a good day of doing whatever your whimsy desired. I love beach days- some of my favorite days are on the beach, and those were in the middle of a blustery winter!

  1. Brutal honesty is so important. An important lesson that you have reminded us through your own words. I am happy that you know and trust your gut so go with it. There seems to be so much emphasis on all of these blogs about going inside. Reaching way down in there to find what is true but there us nothing more real than the cool and sometimes wet autumn winds, the crisp and delightful dancing leaves just waiting to be caught by the earth and the sounds of nature that bring us to the real. To the beginning. To home

    • Thanks, Julie- it’s taken a long time to trust my gut, but I feel pretty darned in-tune with my intuition and knowing what I want. The goal now is to begin working on taking those steps toward what my gut says- I often ignore the messages (food, drinks, exercise, life….). I love your image of going back to the beginning- home. Lovely. xo

  2. We only live once and its WAY too short for bad wine. As a fellow emotional substitutioner (love that word…going to have to use it again ;)) I know how easy it is to get bogged down in anger and frustration rather than head off to find the actual cause of the problem. The world is a messy place and there is so much going on that we have all been elevated to ADHD status with the amount of stimulus we are all subjected to and we need to take ourselves away and reconnect with the reality of the real world. Grounding yourself in the park is a true reminder of where we humans really belong. We think that we have come so very far but in all honesty, all we have done is remove ourselves from our life blood and made everything so much more difficult to keep the wheels of consumption greased. Underneath all of our “humanity” the real world keeps rolling on, steadily ticking over and adapting to our mistreatment and cycling exponentially while we all race about like ants on a piece of hot tin. It’s no wonder we are all stressed out and prone to meltdowns! Your post is a good reminder to slow down and smell the roses/look at the autumn colours in the trees because where are we all racing to?

    • Yes! I love that- ants on a piece of hot tin. Perfect metaphor for how I’ve been feeling (when I’m not wanting to rage like a monster). It’s so good to have those earth grounding reminders, right?

  3. I feel you are always “beating” your self up–enjoy the “you” you are.–I’m writing this in a positive manner—you are one of the easist, most comfortable people to have in one’s presence. Hugs, B. xo

    • Thanks, Lora! I had a feeling I wasn’t alone! It’s so affirming to put words out there- even the vulnerable, not so sweet ones, and to know that others can relate. Phew.

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