Seeing Myself for the First Time

When I was in my early 40s (ah yes…the beginning of the searching of a mid-life woman), a friend (who had just returned from a mask-making workshop) suggested I make a mask – as a personification of my “Creative Spirit.” I was looking for something to give me a “nudge,” so I said yes, thinking what could it hurt and perhaps it’d give me some insight into whatever was next on my horizon. I was itching to be creative after all!

I met her at her house one Saturday afternoon. She covered my face with a wet Plaster of Paris material. The feeling of “being inside” the mask while waiting for it to set, was like being in hiding…safe and secure. At the same time, I felt an eagerness. I wanted to see what I would discover when I “came out.”

When I took off the mask I saw myself, for the first time ever, as a three-dimensional being. “Oh my,” I thought. It wasn’t like looking at myself in a mirror or picture. “I’m so small” I thought… disappointed… undoubtedly a reflection of my grandiose sense of myself. At the same time, I was exhilarated – seeing myself as I really am meant there was no more mystery. I couldn’t deny that I’m a person in a body. “I can handle this,” I thought and took my mask and went home.

Then my perfectionist showed up. Even in this I wanted everything to be perfect.

Before we made my mask, I had journeyed into my imagination…to a place where I’d met my “Creative Spirit.” Now, it was time to paint and decorate my mask. The task was to replicate what I had seen, so when I looked at the mask, I’d remember to honor my “Creative Spirit” part of myself in all that I do.

I couldn’t do it. For over a year my plain white Plaster of Paris mask sat on my desk. It just stared at me…begging to be painted. I was afraid whatever I did wouldn’t be “right,” and, perhaps, I may have been afraid that if I completed the mask, I’d express myself in some way unacceptable to others…so they wouldn’t like me…would laugh at me…would be afraid of me, and, in any event, definitely wouldn’t want to spend time with me – a totally terrifying thought.

Then one Saturday morning (God knows what triggered this) I got up and went straight into my closet. I got out some paints I’d been using to paint t-shirts for fun. With each stroke of the brush I gained confidence. I was excited. True, my mask didn’t look exactly like the image I’d imagined. Yet, it certainly reminded me of the “Creative Spirit” I’d seen. By the time I finished, my imagination was filled with ideas about how I could use this process to help others (particularly women) as they get older, accept themselves and discover new and different ways to be creative and contribute to the world. I definitely was full of ideas of my own.

Since then, one step has led to another. People and their sense of themselves have blossomed before my very eyes. Some tell me being forced to be silent for 20 minutes (while they waited for their mask to “set” and dry enough to remove from their face) teaches them to listen – something they say they haven’t done the same way in memory. Others tell me they don’t have to be so guarded about what they say and do. Some, like me, find it amazing they’re “so small.” Some see their fathers and mothers in themselves in ways they never have before. Others see similarities…and that there is no essential difference between black and white, young and old, rich and poor. We are just people…energy in partnership with a body.

Each group activity, including the others I have created since Life Mask, has become a jewel to me. Together they enrich both me and participants. In an era when how we interact is critical to survival, the willingness to explore, however cautious at first, then the willingness to take risks with oneself and others, and the essential creativity in all of us…from prisoner to executive…is a joy for me to be a part of and to witness.

Taking a risk with myself…saying “yes” to a friend…putting my toe in the water of a different pond…trying something different…eventually…one-step-at-a-time…brought me the life I was looking for. Today I am so grateful I took the risk…I said “yes” to myself (I do that more eagerly and often now). I relish being able to be full-on me in life.

As my gift to you in this New Year of 2019, I’m offer you…for FREE:

• A walk with me in my Dunes Retreat Labyrinth…in the heart of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Beverly Shores (1 1/2 hour experience). Learn more here.

• A Forest Bathing experience in an agreed-upon “forest” location (1 1/2 hour experience). Learn more here.

• A Memoir in 17 Syllables experience (this can be done in person or online. Learn more here.

Go for it! Put your toe in the water of your future!

Happy New Year 2019!