Lots of times when I’m working my way through a regular day I have to interact with lots of people with whom I’m not particularly close. Everyone on the planet faces this. There are hundreds of people we come into contact with every day and we are not intimately connected to all of them, or even to most of them.
I have discovered that when I’m dealing with people who are strangers, or acquaintances, or even casual friends that I have a mask I put on. I call it my “old Gary” mask. I’m really familiar with it because it’s the person I used to be. I can put this mask on at work or in a crowd and unless you were paying close attention you’d never pick up on it. You might think “He seems fine”, unless you talk to me at one of those moments when my mind is off somewhere else and I forget to answer you. I swear I’m not being rude, I‘ve just stepped out for a moment.
There is a danger to this behavior. It is really easy to fall back into the old familiar patterns. The problem is I’m not entirely happy about that old me. He was too cynical for one thing. He didn’t always listen and he was a bit of a “know it all”. Don’t get me wrong the old me wasn’t a total ass, but there I things I’d like to do better.
The problem is I know this old guy so well I can inhabit the mask without thinking about it. I can be there without actually being there. Over the last several months I’ve been inwardly focused. I’ve been there in body, but my mind and my spirit have been wondering who knows where searching for who knows what. Sometimes, perhaps too often, I’ve slipped on the mask with the people who can see the difference and that doesn’t work.
So I will try to be the new me with my family and close friends, but sometimes that’s hard because I’m still discovering who that guy is. One thing I’ve been working on the last couple of weeks is engaging. It starts with listening and processing what the person you are interacting with is saying and then sharing from the heart. It’s about being there, overcoming distractions and focusing.
One of the comforting things about Compassionate Friends meetings is I never put on my mask there. I can just be me, the real me, the now me. No one there really knew the “before me” anyway, and since we all share the same affliction, a broken heart, a wounded family and a saddened soul, we share an intimacy that might not make sense to others.
I also need to give thanks to Kev this morning. He helped me work this out. I started writing to him in my letter file and in about five or ten minutes the confused feeling I’ve been having started to make more sense.