Archive for April, 2011

The presence of disguise

April 18, 2011

I’ve been hidden from view for most of my life. Nobody really knows who I am. I am so good at disguise that I often do not know who I am.

In my childhood world, revealing one’s true self brought about punishment and familial exile. It is not surprising that I chose to live in disguise. I made that decision over 45 years ago and I don’t remember the incident that crystallized my reality. I do remember being 5 or 6 years old, sitting outside on the sidewalk in front of my family’s house, knowing with full recognition and ancient wisdom, that my life was crappy and it was going to be a long, long time before I could do anything about it. In that crystalline moment, I saw the years ahead of me before I would reach adulthood. To survive my childhood and become an adult, I knew I would have to hide who I truly was, not only from my parents, but from everyone else, including myself.

I don’t remember anyone ever asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I know my answer would have been “alive.”

Years of disguise become tiresome and genuine disclosure of self (even if only to myself) brings relief and the realization that I can choose to reveal or not reveal. I learned that I had to reveal something or else unconscious people (which is pretty much everybody not reading this blog) would project whatever they were feeling at the moment on to me. They would declare me as being a certain way and then act shocked, surprised, and deceived when I would resist their label and often prove them wrong.

Such a way of being in the world did not bring about lasting and supportive relationships.

I learned to extend my boundary and to reel it in depending upon my safety within any specific relationship. I learned to wear the persona of “what would work best here?” In my employment, I have had numerous supervisors who I thought were complete idiots, yet they never knew (and probably still do not know . . . again, they are not reading this blog!). Such people have often written me glowing letters of recommendation.

But there comes a time when the disguises need to be put away and brought out only upon specific special occasions. I am learning to live from my truest presence, trusting my wisdom to be wholly who I am, choicefully revealing my thoughts and feelings when appropriate. And, my true presence would always choose honesty dressed in a way so as not to bring harm to another.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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The presence of spiders

April 3, 2011

Arachnophobics beware. I am a big fan of spiders. I am, however, happy to love them and cheer them on from a distance.

Of all the insects, spiders are perhaps the most shy and prefer to have nothing to do with humans. If they venture into your house, they hide in dark, undisturbed places, spinning their tiny webs and nabbing other pesky insects. I once lived with what I will call a “fly spider.” He (or she, I never got close enough to check it out) lived on my ceilings and spun webs close to doorways trapping the flies who would zoom in as I came and went. Because the fly spider stayed on the ceiling and I stayed on the floor, we maintained an excellent relationship for over two years.

When I was about 10 years old, I invaded their world by creeping outdoors with my flashlight before dawn to explore what the world was like in the dark. Before you go freaking out imagining all sorts of dangers lurking in the shadows prepared to pounce upon me, know that I haven’t been 10 years old in at least 40 years and I lived on an army base. And I never went much further than my own back yard. I didn’t need to. I found the most spectacular spider webs carefully crafted between bushes and trees, with the creator nestled snugly in the center patiently waiting for that tremble signaling prey had landed. I would go back later in the day only to discover no traces of the web or the spider.

Knowing what I know about spiders, I was surprised when I saw one scuttling across the floor the other day during a yoga session. I was perfectly fine with allowing the spider to continue its way to its intended destination, but the man next to me was not. He screamed, jumped up, grabbed his shoe, and started pounding the spider, yelling the entire time, until it was nothing more than a pasty dark mass. Please understand we had the spider outnumbered. There were ten of us. It was the middle of the day with bright sunlight streaming through the windows. I think the spider was searching for some darkness (it found the ultimate darkness, that’s for sure). It certainly was not looking to attack any of us.

While that man was responding as many other people do when they see a spider, I now view him in a very different way than I did before I witnessed that event. I understand that people, when in the midst of their phobias, lose control of their responses. But, he could have chosen a different response. He could have moved away. Or, done nothing. The spider was going to bypass him. As he sat back down, he said “I hate spiders.” I want to say he acted out of his fear, but instead of acknowledging he was afraid, he could only acknowledge how his fear manifested – in the form of hate.

Some fears of getting bit by spiders are well-founded. The brown recluse and black widow are poisonous to humans. If a brown recluse or black widow take up residence in your home, feel free to escort them quickly outdoors or, in some cases, the next iteration of their existence. That is taking good care of you. Of course, if you really want to be magnanimous, you can leave the spider there and you can find a new home.

Just kidding.

This episode brought home to me how the world manifests its fear of others by telling ourselves we hate someone else and need to attack and kill them before they attack and kill us. Maybe the topic of fear should be the first thing discussed at peace negotiations.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass