Faking it. We all do it. The casual, “let’s have lunch sometime,” we toss out during a chance meeting with an acquaintance in the supermarket, knowing full well that we have no such intention or desire. The “I’m doing so well,” when our heart is heavy, and we are overwhelmed with worry.
The little white lies we tell others – and ourselves – as we create a busy collage of perfect images that mask our Authentic Selves. “Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in jar by the door. Who is it for?” sang John and Paul in Eleanor Rigby. We feel the heaviness of the suffocating masks we wear, and still we protect, preserve, settle for, ideas – and relationships, that keep us feeling like frauds. Eventually, we come to believe that we are what we do, or what we own. We rationalise, quantify, articulate, until all we are is a pastiche of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Remember the scene in When Harry met Sally? They’re in the diner. Sally wants to prove to Harry that women can – and do – fake orgasm. She puts on a very vocal performance of ecstatic pleasure. The woman customer in the booth nearby says, “I’ll have what she’s having!” It gets the laugh, makes a point. We fake orgasms, tans, happiness, success, and youth. As little children we may be told to dry those tears and put on a happy face, and as little children in grown up bodies, we may continue to be “the good girl” and fake it to win approval, or avoid saying what we really think and feel. The little lies we tell that erode our authentic Self, and split our energy. We wear our tragedy mask when we lament, “why is this happening to me?” when the question that always empowers is, “What do I want to make of this situation?”
The Zen Koan asks, “What was your original face before you were born?” It asks that we discard the masks we wear to conceal our vulnerabilities and hide our fear. It invites us to go deeper, further, to excavate our origins, the meaning in our lives, and the source of our true selves before the story of our lives. To reveal our original face in everything we do. We have all lived many lives, whether we realise it or not. Childhood, adolescence, our student years, first jobs, unrequited loves, marriages, motherhood, divorce, illness, or death – each experience has left a deposit of sediment, like a sandstone cliff. It will require some painstaking digging to unearth the sacred site of our True Self. If you have a photograph of yourself as a little child, take some time today to study that snapshot and look deeply and lovingly into her eyes. Examine her little face. Notice the jaw, the eyebrows, the mouth; get a sense of that little child, and of who you were before the layers of assumptions and expectations, covered her essence. Brush off the clinging soil that hides the truths, exhume the promises and the pain that have entombed your True Self, and gently, very gently, allow your Original Face to smile back at you this new day.
“We view ourselves as works of art. Somewhere in us there is a perfect image, a perfect work, a well-wrought mask that cuts us off from flesh and blood. Our real terror is that the work, being precious, may, in an instant, be destroyed. Medusa wants everything permanent, perfect, engraved in stone.” Marion Woodman