How easy it is to hide away parts of ourselves. To present the edited, polished version. But, it’s only part of the story, and I’ll be honest—hiding hurt.
In her poem, Poem as Mask, Muriel Rukeyser acknowledges that she used metaphor to hide. She writes: When I wrote of the women in their dances and wildness, it was a mask…it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from myself.
That is what happens when we hide. We become exiled from ourselves. We might be successful for a while, but we can only hide from ourselves for so long. And at some point we are faced with a decision—will we, as Rilke encourages, let everything happen…the beauty and terror?
But who willingly welcomes discomfort? And I am loathe, I say having just quoted Rilke, to spout off some pithy quick fix quote or simple meditation that will solve all life’s mysteries, cure all trauma, make it all make sense. Because, I’ll be honest—I tried them, read the books, they don’t work. None of them, despite their promises, irrevocably removed my pain.
Because healing from any kind of pain, according to psychologist Jacob Ham, isn’t about removing the pain or sadness or fear; it’s about increasing our ability to hold both the challenging aspects of life and the resilience and courage and forgiveness. To allow both to exist. The beauty and the terror. To make space for both. And maybe even inch toward honoring the terror a bit, the dark night of the soul moments, the flashbacks, the physical pain, the challenging relationships. And reflecting perhaps on how we have softened or grown from these challenges.
And then we can remove the masks, step out of the shadows of our metaphors, and write a new poem. Sing a new song. Rukeyser ends her poem: No more masks! No more mythologies! Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand, the fragments join in me with their own music.