Invisible Wo(man)

Life-Lesson #8

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 I have always thought of “transparency” as a really wonderful thing – being so genuine that you always give other people the “real you.” There are no walls to hide behind, no pressure to embody something or someone – all you are is you.

I’ve found that people long for transparency – in their lives, in personal relationships, and even in the working environment. Transparency can be defined as ultimate honesty. We often live our lives invisibly. We move through the world without people ever really seeing us. We control how much of ourselves we want others to see and often “ration out” parts of ourselves, never truly giving people the “whole” us or the real us.

To be “visible” to another person is to allow that person to see you for who you are – every color, every shade, and every detail that makes you you. Often times, we wear masks, put up facades, and even take on completely false identities in an attempt to either find who we are, or hide who we really are on the inside. Rather than hiding who we are, we should seek ultimate honesty. Albeit, it is extremely difficult to be brutally honest with yourself and with another person. In fact, being brutally honest in any area of your life requires much vulnerability. We run from genuine communication with other people because of our own shame and fear – we do not want to be truly known for who we are because we don’t even like who we are – sometimes. On the one hand, we might understand that ultimate honesty with ourselves and others is important, but I relate our understanding of this notion to one understanding the importance of literacy, but never picking up a book to read. We might know that confronting our real selves can be beneficial, but we often never do it. It seems much easier to hide behind the walls and partitions we set up in our lives.

We often think:

“I cannot open up to another person – he or she will hurt me.”

“If he or she gets to know me, this person might reject me because he or she will not like me for who I am.”

“I do not want another person to know who I am because I am not worth knowing.”

All of these thoughts only add up to one conclusion: we like to disguise our pain. We feign strength by acting arrogantly, we exude confidence to mask our insecurities, we crave attention from others to assuage our issues with self-worth. My point is simply this, if we could learn to peel back the layers of hurt, shame, guilt, anger, resentment, fear, and bitterness, by fully accepting the notion of ultimate honesty, our lives could be richer, fuller, and more meaningful.

Nowadays, we live as if the truth does not exist. The truth is that we are so blind to the reality of our human condition – that we are broken and are in need of love. As a result, we find ourselves hungry for a truth and an honesty that we forget exists. This is where transparency comes in. We long for honesty – it is an elixir with a horrid taste, a vaccine with a brutal delivery. In other words, honesty, transparency, and truthfulness are most often the things we dread, but are ironically the things we need. Being transparent helps us navigate the world with a sense of hope. There is hope in being honest with yourself – being honest with yourself leads to self-acceptance and even healing of the inner-self. Further, being your most honest, most true, most genuine self with another person gives that person the capacity to do the same. In living out the idea of “transparency” you help others move toward being more transparent. Essentially, it becomes safe to be yourself (whether you are weird as all get-out, as off-kilter as Jackson Pollock, or as wonderfully strange as Edgar Allen Poe), when other people are being themselves also. With as many people as there are in the world, it is a guarantee that there is always someone stranger than you are, quirkier than you can be, and in the same respect, it is guaranteed that someone will be just as weird as you.

In essence, a transparent lifestyle is multifaceted. Transparent people come to grips with their emotional wounds, are vulnerable enough to seek help in mending those wounds, and live out the idea that other people are just as wounded, and just as broken, and just as in need of honest, truthful communication. I encourage you to be one of those people. Be a person that is willing to share your scars, your insecurities and your regrets – those are the qualities that remind us of our humanity. Being transparent and accepting the truth about who you are allows you to hope, moves you to love, and guides you to change.

Move from fake to authentic,

from hurt to healed,

from ashamed to a c c e p t e d.

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The Quality of Tears

Life Lesson # 5

Tears

Weeping

Sobbing

Bawling

Blubbering

Wailing:

crying.

There are many ways to describe the human reaction to pain that involves the shedding of tears. As people, we all have our own ways of dealing with our tears. Some cry alone, with other people, with close friends, with loved-ones. As for me, I cry alone. I weep alone. The thought of someone else being around to witness is usually the thing that makes me cringe the most. Ironically, someone being around to care for me when I am weeping is usually what I need the most. Sobbing alone is like watching an incredibly painful film without anyone around you to offer you popcorn, to squeeze your hand during intense scenes, or exchange looks when the actors have done something really outrageous.

Crying alone for me feels like death.

I feel the tears, hot and salty. I feel my body tremble slightly as my shoulders curl in. I hear myself breathing, heavily and slowly. Perhaps the worst part of all, is that when I am really upset about some event, or situation in my life, I usually let out a sardonic chuckle just before the tears. I can honestly admit that it takes more guts for me to cry in somebody’s arms than it does to cry at all. When another person is there to witness my emotional outlet it solidifies the pain – the pain I feel is real because another person is sharing in my human experience. To feel another person ailing can be agonizing. You are there with them as they nakedly reveal the evidence that they’ve been hurt. But, for the sake of remaining sane, it is almost always necessary to have someone you care about, whether it is a friend, a dog or a relative, around to console you when you shed your tears. This is a truth that I learned my sophomore year of college, during my second year of architecture school.

First and foremost, architecture school is hard. You can ask anyone who knows anything about design school and they will tell you that it is brutal, the workload can be ruthless, and that the stress is ongoing. Breakdowns for architecture students are usually always around the corner. Our breakdowns seem to lurk around after two or three days without sleep, and tend to creep up on us in the twilight hours of the morning. One of my most memorable meltdowns occurred at around seven in the morning.

It was the day of my final critique for an abstract, semester-long, landscape architecture project. I had not slept in two days. My steady resolve and gentle momentum to continue working on my final model for the review, had dwindled down to pure exhaustion. The only thoughts that wrestled in my mind were, “I haven’t slept in two days, and I have how many more drawings to do?!” And, “Shit, is my project even any good?” I was in perfect condition for a mental disaster. Imagine: back completely hunched over my drafting table, eyes entirely red and baggy, and my outfit the same as the one I was wearing the day before. Adding the final touches to my model, I was gluing 1/32″ linear elements (long, extremely thin, basswood sticks) onto an angular piece of plexiglass. I might have been less frustrated mentally if my hands had not been shaking, if the crazy glue had dried as quickly as stated on the bottle, if the skin around my finger-tips wasn’t peeling due to inadequate scraping off of glue, and if my patience had not been worn completely thin. All I needed was for the sticks to actually stick.

Before I knew it, the tears came. Soft and slow, I felt them on my face, one after the other, unable to rationalize in my mind if I would actually be able to complete my project by 2pm. All I could think about were my grades, the drawings that I had left to complete, how the cheap microns I was using were drying out, the time I’d spent laboring over the concept for the project, and my inability to get the 1/32″ linear elements to actually stay put. To make matters worse, some of the people I knew who were working around me stopped what they were doing and stared at me.

“Oh my God… is she crying?”

“Woah, she’s actually crying.”

Although I had heard what they were saying, I really couldn’t stop myself from sobbing. Then, as if God had heard the faint prayer in my heart, one of my friends, Jorge Rodriguez, who was working close by, looked at me, got up from his seat, walked over to my drafting area, and embraced me. He wiped the tears from my face with his hand, and with every weary ounce of frustration I possessed, I told him, “Jorge, I don’t think I can do this.” He just looked at me as if I’d said something absurd and said,

“Dany, you can do this. I know that you can.”

He hugged me again, asked me if I was going to be alright, and returned to his seat.

In that moment, Jorge was just the friend I needed. The push I needed, the encouragement I needed, the love I needed, the it-is-okay I needed – his kindness was what I needed to move on. He was right, though. I could do it. Later on that day, I gave my final presentation. It was eloquent, polished, clear, and the short, button-down, black dress and fish-net tights I was wearing looked damn good. Not only did I receive an “A” as the final grade for that presentation, my entire studio voted my project as overall extremely well-done, and my professor instructed myself and two other students to hang our work in the student gallery.

To this day, I don’t think Jorge knows just how pivotal that moment was when he held me. I can honestly say that the quality of my tears in the midst of my breakdown was priceless. Having a hand to comfort me and share in that emotional experience with me, was even more valuable than I can relay. I learned that sometimes crying alone is the exact opposite of what we need. We need the human hand, the exchange of looks, the embrace, the pat on the back, the kind words.

Those are the things that measure the quality of our tears.

Easter 2013 002 (edit)