Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Mask I Wear

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-
masks that I'm afraid to take off
and none of them 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's calm
and I'm in command,
and that I need no one.
But don't believe me. Please!

My surface may be smooth but my surface is my mask,
My ever-varying and ever-concealing mask.
Beneath lies no smugness, no complacence.
Beneath dwells 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 exposing them.
That's why I frantically create my masks to hide behind.

But I don't tell you this.
I don't dare.
I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid you'll 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 you will see this
and reject me.

I idly chatter to you in suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's nothing
and nothing of what's everything, of what's 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
Hear what I'd like to say
but what I can not say.

It will not be easy for you,
long felt inadequacies make my defenses strong.
The nearer you approach me
the blinder I may strike back.
Despite what books say of men, I am irrational;
I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.
you wonder who I am
you shouldn't
for I am everyman
and everywoman
who wears a mask.
Don't be fooled by me.
At least not by the face I wear.
--Author unknown


I've thought of this poem from time to time for the last 32 years. How could I ever forget when and where I first saw it?

It felt very strange to be behind doubled locked doors. Walls stark and bare. Doors echoed throughout the hallways as they opened and closed. There was a feeling of dread as keys turned to lock you in. I was at our state mental hospital. No, I was not a patient there--although I could of been or might yet could be--who knows? Right? I was in nursing school and was doing my first day of clinicals on the psychiatric rotation.

Hanging out in the patients lounge and nervously trying to take in all that I was seeing and hearing from the mentally wounded--I saw it hanging there on the bulletin board.

It was wrinkled, crumpled and handwritten, in pencil--apparently posted by one of the patients. It explained so much and brought tears to my eyes as I read it.

I thought of this poem last night and just taking a shot in the dark-- keyed the words "the mask I wear" into my google search space. One click and there it was.

It still speaks volumes to me.

Thought I would share it with you.

Blessings of peace and all that is good,


forsythia said...

Like anything else, the Internet has both its good and bad sides. How wonderful to be able to find a favorite poem with one click!

Toyin O. said...

That is a touching poem, thanks for sharing:)

Susan said...

Touching and so sad for many who live behind masks. The saddest part of all is that the real is usually loveable, desireable and beautiful. I delight in knowing REAL people and find the best way to find them is to be the real me, for better or worse.

Pat said...

The poem is so moving, it must have just hit the core of you as a nursing student.
My daugher is a charge nurse in a mental health hospital. I understand the calling and the sorrow.

Travis Cody said...

Thanks for sharing that piece. There is quite a bit of pain in it, but there is also some small measure of hope. I wonder if it was a cathartic confession.

Anonymous said...

That poem rang a bell to me. Thank you for writing about it.

jennifer said...

Blessings to you as well for peace and all that is good. God bless you Debra!

Mimi said...

that poem can touch so many, and I know you know so well, the mentally ill, they are who they are, but sometimes I am sure they really are someone else trapped in that body or mind.
GOD BLESS you for the work you do.
HUGS to you,

Trish said...

Hi Debra...thank you for stopping by my Blog.
My daughter was a veterinary nurse for years but is back in School to become an RN. She now works at the same Psychiatric Hospital as Pat's daughter.
The poem is so fitting...some of the stories that I hear just break my heart.

NNN MOM said...

Touche' my dear, Touche'...

If people only me like you know me,

Love you, the Mask Master
(sorry I'm just now reading it)

Maxine said...

As Susan said, it's touching and sad at the same time. I really felt for the person who wrote it, whoever it was and under whatever circumstances.