Tearing Off the Mask

26 03 2014

“Whenever I feel my emotions getting the best of me, I simply picture an empty box, and I take whatever I’m feeling and put that in the box. And then I picture myself putting the box away in a big empty closet and closing the door. Then, if I have time, I go back and empty the box and deal with the emotion… in private… like a lady.” — Bree Van De Kamp, Desperate Housewives

A while back, I admitted to you all that a co-worker of mine had once described me as being like Bree (the cold and calculating housewife in the hit ABC series, Desperate Housewives). Her rationale was not that I was cold or uncaring, but rather that I, like Bree, had mastered bottling my real emotions up and presenting this very nice, very happy, very demure facade. I hated this characterization at the time, but I think I hated that much more that she’d pulled my card when no one else had.

I thought about this the other day while in the midst of two separate conversations with some of my closest friends. In one conversation, we were casually joking about the characters we’d received after taking one of those addictive Buzzfeed quizzes, this time on the topic of which Grey’s Anatomy character you were most like. We all, of course, got people that neither of us expected. In fact, we’d all at some point found ourselves identifying with certain characters on the show, and none of us got those characters after taking the quiz.

My person had always been Meredith Grey. She was going through a dark period when the show started, and so was I. She’d fallen in love with someone else’s man, and so had I. She’d gone around telling everyone just how fine she was, at the same time I was lying as well. She climbed herself out of that dark and twisty period, and so had I. But whenever I said that I identified with Meredith to anyone who watched the show, they always looked at me perplexed. How was the bubbly person who found the upside to everything relating to a character known for being quite gloomy on Grey’s Anatomy, they’d wonder.

Well, the same thing happened in that recent conversation too. “You know, you’re not as dark and twisty as you think you are,” said one of my friends when I mentioned that it was funny I got Callie and not Meredith. “Hahahaha, yea, maybe not anymore,” I responded. “But I was.”

In a second conversation, I mentioned to a good friend how great it felt to really be happy these days. And that part of that happiness included finally owning the times when I wasn’t thrilled about something or I was downright hurt or angry. Her response? “But I’ve never thought of you as anything but a happy person anyway.”

Both of those conversations revealed to me the extent of how much and how long I’d been wearing the mask of someone who was fulfilled and happy — so much and so long that even my friends had no idea just how sad I really was. I’d learned to portray this image of an upbeat person so well, and meanwhile, I was hurting inside and afraid to show it.

I mean, heck, I didn’t even want anyone to hug me, remember? When I think about that fact now, it blows my mind just to know how closed off I’d let myself become.

But thank God, bit by bit, I worked to tear down that mask. This blog is part of that. Being able to admit my fears to myself and loved ones who I trust helps too. Committing to be me and love me and be in my truth (whatever that is at the moment) is part of that as well. And so it’s funny now when people don’t know the difference, but I’m thankful that I do. I know when I smile nowadays or I laugh from the pit of my stomach, it’s real. It’s honest. And I do that so much more often now without it being a ruse for the tears I’m holding back.

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