Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
Masks that I’m afraid to take off
And none of them is me.
Pretending is an art that is second nature to me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
within as well as without,
that confidence is my game and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.
My surfaced may be smooth but
my surface is my mask,
ever varying and ever concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anyone to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I crate a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated façade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
my only hope, and I know it.
That is, if it is followed by acceptance,
if it is followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself
from my own self-built prison walls
from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to. I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that down deep I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.
So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
With a façade of assurance without
And a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of Masks,
And my life becomes a front.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
don’t be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.
I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe from my eyes
the blank stare of the living dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you rally care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breath life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
How you can become a creator–an honest-to-God creator–
of the person who is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from the shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
If you choose to.
Please choose to.
Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man,
often I’m irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I’m told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to break down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.
Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.
© 2012 Charles C. Finn
Used with permission and appreciation.