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My Mask

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear,
For I wear a mask.

I wear a thousand masks,
Masks that I am afraid to take off,
And none of them is me.

Pretending is an art
that's second nature with 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 & unruffled in me,
Within as well as without,
That confidence is my name
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 surface may seem smooth,
but my surface is my mask,
My ever-varying and
ever-concealing mask.

Beneath lies no smugness,
no complacence.
Beneath dwells the real me,
in confusion, in fear, in aloneness.
But I hide this.

I panic at the thought
of my weakness
and fear being exposed.
That is why I frantically
create a mask to hide behind,
A nonchalant,
sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
To shield me from
the glance that knows.

But such a glance
is precisely my salvation.
That is,
if it's 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 is 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.. I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance
will not be followed
by acceptance and love.

I'm afraid
you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh...
And your laugh will kill me.

I'm afraid that
deep down I'm nothing,
that I'm just no good,
And that you will see this
and reject me.

So I play my game,
my desperate
pretending game,
And my life becomes a front.

I dislike the superficial game
I'm playing,
The superficial, phony game.

I'd really like 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 or need.
Only you can wipe away
from my eyes
the blank stare
of the breathing dead...
Only you can call me into aliveness.

Each time you are
kind and gentle, and encouraging,
Each time you try
to understand
because you really care,
My heart begins to grow wings...
Very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings.

With your sensitivity and sympathy,
And your power of understanding,
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 be a creator
of the person that is me,
If you choose to.

It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction
of worthlessness
builds strong walls.

The nearer you approach me,
the blinder
I may strike back;
It's irrational, but despite
what the books say about man,
I'm irrational!

I fight against
the very thing
that I cry out for,
But I am told that love
is stronger than strong walls,
And in this lies my hope.
My only hope.

Please try to beat down
those walls with firm hands,
But with gentle hands --
for a child
is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I'm someone
you know very well. . .
For I am every man
or woman you meet.

Charles C. Finn