I once played the role of Richard Noakes in Tom Stoppard’s play, ARCADIA. Having my director give me “notes” on my performance got me thinking that “Noakes’ Notes” would make a great title for an online blog or column.
“Mishaguyas” is a word than means “craziness” or “nonsensical” and life is certainly full of its crazy, nonsensical moments and people.
Since I have a lot if ideas, experiences…and questions….I decided I needed a place to post my writings….my thoughts….my poetry…my songs…my struggles….my pains…my joys and my delights…all the things that make me, “me” and run through my head.
That is why this is here, and where the name comes from.
I just finished watching the movie CLOVERFIELD, and I’m moved to tell you all, “I love you.” To some, this may seem like an odd statement. Let me explain.
Whether you have seen it or not, whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, CLOVERFIELD is a movie about disaster, loss, and love. Yes, there is a huge monster destroying Manhattan, but the story is about people. I live in Mendocino County, in Northern California. As I write this, Mendocino, Napa, Lake, Solano, Marin, and other counties around me are experiencing disasters and fires that they’ve probably never before seen. All around me whole neighborhoods are being wiped away by fire. Lives are being destroyed, people die, and everything people have worked for is destroyed. This is very much what is happening in the movie CLOVERFIELD.
Until disaster strikes around you, a movie like CLOVERFIELD may seem farfetched. To me, as I sit in the middle of disaster, it is all too real. I sit and look at the world around me. Neighborhoods are destroyed by fire. We just had a 3.8 earthquake. Around the world war is raging. The United States is falling apart, as foreign countries actively pushed to destroy us. Nuclear capable countries threaten to nuke us off the map; something I believe will happen.
As seen in CLOVERFIELD, and in the recent events in my area, disaster strikes quickly and with little or no notice. As I watch the destruction unfolding before me in the movie and in real life I realize that life is short. Things are just things, and they can be replaced; but people and relationships cannot. As I watch lives being snuffed out of around me, and in front of me (in the movie), I realize any life can end in an instant. It is all too real. It is all too fresh.
If every possession around me was gone, what would be left? People would be left! But what if the life of an irreplaceable person next to me was snuffed out, gone? What would my memory of last thing I said to them be? If my life were to suddenly be snuffed out, what would people remember?
“I love you.” My friends, I love you all. You are all precious to me. “I love you,” I see it as a heterosexual male… “I love you.” I do not expect ever be in another romantic relationship, but I say, “I love you.” All I want is to see you all happy… To see you all succeed… To let you know you are not alone… To let you know you are special… I love you without expectation of it being reciprocated. Just know that you are loved, you are cared for, you are special, and you would be missed if anything ever happened to you.…and I hope it never does. Live Long and Prosper in All Things that are Good.
I cherish the time to be alone….and think….and process….and think….and plan….and think….and reflect….and think…..and sing….and plan….and think…and sing…and dance….and sing….and think….and write…and laugh….and cry…and think….
Through all life, I’ve found I need the time alone, but I also need the time with people. I need the time to share what’s happened and what’s happening….to bounce thoughts and ideas off people….to laugh, make laugh, and forget…. Then I must be alone to think….and process….and think….and plan….and think….and reflect….and think…..and sing….and plan….and think…and sing…and dance….and sing….and think….and write…and laugh….and cry…and think…. At times, I just sit and cry.
I’ve been at my most creative when I’m alone….made the most amazing discoveries, had the most profound thoughts…..then I’m with someone and they ask me a question about myself….something I think I know…or maybe I don’t really know… and I walk away to be alone….and think….and process….and think….and plan….and think….and reflect….and think…..and sing….and plan….and think…and sing…and dance….and sing….and think….and write…and laugh….and cry…and think…. and come up with insight into myself and situations that blow me away.
I’ve been alone, divorced, to over 2 years, now. There’s been a lot of growth and self-discovery in that time. The plays I’ve been in have allowed for tremendous growth and self-discovery….and healing. One day, someone who “makes my cells dance” when I’m around will come to me and say, “My life is unfulfilling and incomplete when you’re not around. Stay in my life and let me be a part of yours.” Until that day comes, I’ll be alone….and think….and process….and think….and plan….and think….and reflect….and think…..and sing….and plan….and think…and sing…and dance….and sing….and think….and write…and laugh….and cry…and think….
NOTE: Both men and women can be victims of the one-sided sexual desires of another human being who is only out to satisfy themselves. This was written from my point of view, as an expression of how I have felt after being in abusive, negligent, one-sided sexual encounters. These were not one night stands, but supposedly loving committed (post-ceremony) relationships. Feel free to let me know if you’ve ever felt the same.
What?!?! That’s it? Well….I guess that’s all I am good for.
Here I lay…used…discarded…….dirty.
Once, I felt important. Once, I felt beautiful. Once, I felt useful. I sat and waited…
I waited for the day when someone else might see that same importance, beauty, and usefulness in me.
Oh, how I dreamed of that day….how I anticipated it….I longed for it….you might even say I hungered for it.
When I saw you had seen me, I was so happy! You saw me….you see me…..you selected me…… I am so elated….so excited…. the day is here where I will finally serve my purpose! I will experience all I’ve longed for…all that I have craved…all that I was made for….I will finally be complete…whole.
I was wrong, though. I was deceived. I was misled.
Together we went…..into the heat….into the passion…all our wrappings came off…..all the adornment….. we stand before each other and with each other and together… raw…. naked. Together we come…. we connect….. we moan…. we pant ….we grind…. oh the ecstasy ….. you peak….you quake….you quiver….you grunt, moan….groan….
You lie still for a moment….you got what you wanted….you got what you needed. It’s my turn…..I’m getting close…ooohhh….huhh?
You throw me off and toss me aside. “Wait!” “I’m not done!” “Oh….OK….well, can’t we cuddle…can’t we talk?”
Here I lay as you walk away…. I am covered with your secretions and mine…..dirty….dripping…oozing..ostracized…slippery….slimy…..unsanitary….undesirable.
Realization hits….reality sets in…harsh and bitter. To you, I was nothing special…I was a tool…. I was a toy…. I was an object for your pleasure…your satisfaction…I was and am inhuman…unimportant…unloved…devalued….discarded.
Like a used prophylactic, I am discarded…..tossed aside…spent and used…..dirty….unloved…..unvalued……unadored……unadorned.
I am not a toy….I am not a prophylactic….I am a human being…I have feelings….I have needs and desires! I don’t ask for much….I don’t need much….I don’t desire much.
Love me! Cherish Me! Value Me! Pleeease!!!!
Oh, no! You’re back…..and you’ve got that look in your eye…..again.
This is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of blogs on characters in productions (Live Theatre, Movies, TV, Etc.) where I plan to write about how I can (or can’t) relate to the character and choices they make. I’ll admit, this is the most difficult blog I think I have ever planned on and then written.
I am currently playing the part of Norbert Garstecki in the play The Great American Trailer Park Musical. This part is a “first” for me in so many ways, and it’s also the most difficult part I’ve ever played. As the name of the play implies, the play is a musical and it is the first one I have ever done. The play is the first one I’ve ever done at the venue. It’s also the first time I’ve played a character like Norbert. While there are some ways that I can totally relate to Norbert, there are sooooo many ways I can’t…or at least I didn’t think I could…until tonight.
Norbert Garstecki is a middle age man who has made some poor decisions that brought him to the place he is in the show. Norbert was a star athlete on his high school football team. His eye is caught by the beautiful and alluring star “mathlete” (star of the math team and perhaps the math club) Jeanie. Norbert gets together with Jeanie so she can tutor him in the Geometry class he is failing; the sparks fly and the passion kicks in. As is so common with hormonal teenagers, they fail to take appropriate precautions and Jeanie becomes pregnant. Following a “shotgun” wedding, Norbert and Jeanie move into a trailer park and try to live as adults…even though they are not ready. To this effect, they quit school, Norbert gets a job and Jeanie stays home with the baby. A few years later, Norbert becomes careless while caring their son, and the baby gets taken. The trauma causes Jeanie to develop Agoraphobia which is a fear of going into public places. For twenty years Jeanie refuses to come out of the trailer that she and Norbert live in. Norbert continues to stick by his beloved bride but after nearly twenty years, his patience is gone. Norbert is broken hearted as his lover has become more of a roommate. Norbert misses being close to his lover and misses going places with her. He longs to have the passion and connection back that he once had with his friend, lover, bride, his wife….Jeanie. As the play begins, Norbert is storming out…he’s at his wits end and just doesn’t know where to go or what to do; he’s exhausted every mean and method he can figure out.
Norbert longs to have the passion, and connection back with Jeanie and misses the fiery, energy filled “go-getter” that he married. Soon, however, Norbert meets Pippi. Pippi is the new girl in town, the new girl in the park, an exotic dancer, and has all the qualities and characteristics that he once saw and misses so much in his wife, Jeanie. Needless to say, passion and fire flair and turn into a full-blown affair. Norbert has made a lot of bad choices in his life, and this is probably the biggest. Try as he might, the affair is not hidden from the neighbors, and eventually Norbert gets caught “in the act” with Pippi. I won’t tell you too much more, but will simply say that the remainder of the play looks at the struggles of Norbert as he sorts through what he’s done and the feelings he has for both women, Pippi as she seeks to find some stability and connection with Norbert, and Jeanie as she struggles with what she should do about the affair and with her fear of leaving her “safe” trailer.
I said before that I, personally, can and can’t understand Norbert and his behavior. Let me tell you first the ways I can relate to Norbert. Now, you’re about to learn a lot more about me that you may EVER want to know, but here it goes… When I was in high school, I was a kind of “Big man On Campus,” though it didn’t start that way. I was never a sports star, but I became involved in student government in my Junior year. My senior year, I lived on my own and supported myself while doing countless activities on campus…things that did not go un-noticed. I wanted to become a radio DJ and had a bright future ahead. I received several scholarships and had the chance to go into college and then into radio. I had even been given a scholarship from a local radio station and an offer of an internship at the station once I was in college. Like Norbert, I had a promising future….but I fell in love. Unlike Norbert, I did not get anyone pregnant…I had enough sense to put on protection when I finally “gave myself away.” Like Norbert, however, I moved away from all the promise and potential. I put my life (desires and future) on hold for “family.”
I don’t know about Norbert, but My family life was not good growing up. My father was a professional photographer who excelled in his field. Three months before he was killed in a car accident, his accountant had told him he’d be a millionaire in six months if he kept going the way he was. We buried my dad on his 34th birthday. My family was never close and my mother had mental…issues. The one thing I always craved and was jealous of were the big, close families. Rather than perusing my dreams, I continued to peruse “family.” There’s a line in the opening of the Great American Trailer park Musical that states, “‘Ain’t no sense wanting what you can’t have; no sense dreaming like a fool.” I wish I could have given myself that advice…and taken it…when I was young. Call me a fool, but I kept wanting what it seems I couldn’t have: a big, close family. I ended up being engaged twice before finally getting married.
Yea, I’ve been married. Norbert’s been married once. I was married four times, and divorced the same. As an actor, I believe I have to make it big in Hollywood because 4 divorces is a requirement to even get into the industry (just kidding). I can relate to Norbert putting his family first; it’s what I believe any real man will do. Now, Jeanie (Norbert’s one and only bride) developed a mental disorder after they were married. I have to say that I can relate here; My first wife had a multiple personality disorder known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, the second was Obsessive-Compulsive as well as being addicted to booze and drugs, my third had Asperger Syndrome as well as being Bipolar, and my third had Bipolar, Depression and Munchausen Syndrome. Like Norbert, I understand what it means to be married to someone with a mental illness. My last three wives’ spent almost all their time planted in front of a television, much like Norbert’s wife Jeanie does.
In The Great American Trailer Park Musical (GATPM), there’s a point where Norbert states, “I can count on one finger the amount of kisses we’ve shared in the last five years.” Norbert is an affectionate guy, as am I , but he’s in a marriage where there is no longer any affection or love. All mine were like that. Norbert, I understand….except where I don’t. Now we start to get into the places where I have really struggled with playing Norbert.
Norbert meets Pippi and eventually a torrid, hot, passionate love affair starts. I have struggled with this sooooo hard. It’s taken me a long time to even begin to understand Norbert because this is where we have really differed. In all four of my marriages, I had opportunity and invite to become involved with another woman. Believe me, I was tempted to cheat, just as Norbert is. In my case, I (being the ever dying romantic, and a man who does everything possible to try and be true to my word) chose to remain faithful to my bride. I made a promise to be faithful, and I was. So it’s been a real struggle for me to “cheat” on my “bride” in the show, even though she’s only a bride for the show. “How can I justify,” I ask myself, “cheating on a woman I swore to be faithful to?” It has always been a struggle for me to wrap my mind around why someone cheats on their spouse. If you can’t endure living with them, then get a divorce! That’s what I did! Maybe you look down on me for breaking my promise to stand by them faithfully forever. I simply will respond that when your “other” is unfaithful, abusive, or destructive that it is time to get out. When respect and trust are so far decimated that there is no hope of ever getting them back, then it’s time to get out.
I will give Norbert credit where credit is deserved: Norbert sticks with Jeanie for 20 years. If you add up all the years I’ve been married, I’m ashamed to say that I fall far short of that.
Why does Norbert cheat? I didn’t understand, but now I think I do.
I believe that Norbert is like me in that he holds a sense of responsibility to his bride. I believe he loves her and wants/hops to see the woman he fell in love with come back. Norbert is a romantic, I believe. He holds the faith that the woman he loves is “still in there” and will come out “any day now.” Norbert tries to woo Jeanie out to do things with him. As it happens, Norbert finds someone who is everything Jeanie was, but is them NOW. How beautiful is a woman who is confident, driven, a go-getter, in touch with their wants, needs and desires, and who doesn’t really need you…but want’s you around just because they feel happy around you! Isn’t that what life is all about…finding someone who will love you for you and doesn’t need or want anything from you but you because they are sufficient for and comfortable with themselves? “So what if he’s plain, and a Rockefeller he’s not…He’s got a beat up old car, I have to hold the door closed when we go out (in it) …” Pippi sings of Norbert, “…but he’s my tallest star, don’t care who you are… it’s alright as long as I’m with him and he’s with me.” Who wouldn’t want someone to love you like that? Don’t we all want to be loved for who we are, where we are, and have someone be “complete” just by being around us?
I’m really starting to understand! In fact, I was in tears at tonight’s show…”real, American tears” streamed down my face as I felt Norbert’s struggle. Norbert is torn between these two amazing women that he has fallen in love with! One is here, now, with him…loving him as he is. This one is strong, sexy, vivacious, at his side…and everything (NOW) that the other love was (back them) and he hope to see again. On the other side, the woman he swore to be faithful to, the woman he has spent 20 years with, the mother of his child, the love of his life…the woman who was (and he hopes will be again) everything that the other woman is right now! “My God!”, I said to myself, “I understand why Norbert cheated! I understand why he is struggling and what he is struggling with!” Now, intellectually, I kinda got it….I have an improvised monologue that I’ve extrapolated from a song I (Norbert) sings that I expanded on……but tonight I really got it. Tonight, I felt the struggle, saw the lives, saw the history and the fights and the scenes that came between the scenes we see in the play…..I got it. I now understand why Norbert cheats….but I don’t condone it.
Now I want to say, if someone has cheated on you, don’t just throw them out, but don’t just take them back, either. Make them earn your trust and respect back; if they want to and if you are willing to.
While I never cheated on any of my wives, I did have one who cheated on me….apparently, quite a few times. I did give her a chance to redeem herself, but ultimately had to terminate the relationship. “Here’s the cord. You cut it, “I said, “and you’ll never see me again…or we can work this out. The choice is yours.” She cut the cord, but tried to come back later….nope….sorry. So I say what I say having gone through it. I was not the cheating spouse, but rather the cheated on.
Norbert was a hard character for me to get in touch with. Usually, I have played comical characters and/or comic relief. I’ve had major roles where I played a “clueless” husband (See How They Run) or a frantic fiancée (Arsenic and Old Lace). The roles I’ve played have typically been easy for me to pull off. In the play The Dining Room, I played a whole slew of characters including a cheating husband(but I was “cheating” with the woman who really was my wife at that time) and the only other role where I cried on stage. “Norbert” has forced me to pull from all the other characters and roles I’ve played, PLUS pull on real-life experience, AND manufacture things to connect it all.
As Norbert, I’ve had to do things that I normally wouldn’t and were really hard for me. Laugh if you must, but I had to grab “high school” Jeanie’s ass and stare at Pippi’s boobs popping out of her shirt. Even with approval AND encouragement from the actresses playing the parts, I struggles with this because these are against MY character. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to be close to someone and get to know them really well before I even begin to think in that direction. Even if/when I’m at that point in a relationship, I’d have a time doing those things in public. I believe that it stems from the way I was raised and from trauma I’ve experienced earlier in life. That’s a story for another day.
To sum things up, out of the 18 shows I have done over the last four years, Norbert Garstecki has been the most challenging, not only because it’s my first time doing a musical, but because it’s my first time playing a character that is so different from me, my beliefs, my values, and my character. Playing him has, however, given me a deeper understanding and sympathy for people in other situations as well as helped me reach places in me that I didn’t know were there.
I know that some people may think that this is evil or that I was being guided by demonic forces. I will ask you to set that thought aside for a moment, and simply consider what I have to say. If you read this all the way through, you may form a different opinion.
Taking off masks by putting them on: A journey into self-discovery via mask work
By K.T Klay
Within each of us is a side that we hide from others and may even be hiding from ourselves. This is something I have understood to be true, but recently experienced it first hand in a powerful and life-waking journey of self-discovery. This journey came in the form of the study, creation of, and then presenting of masks in my college Improv class.
In the spring of 2016, I enrolled in the “Acting Improvisation” class at my local junior college. Most people think of stand-up comics when they think of “Improv.” While comedy is often the result of these acting sessions, the main point is to teach the students how to react to odd “unscripted” situations in acting. Konstantin Stanislavski is considered to be the father of modern acting. He defined acting as, “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” Improv is part of that. Part of the class includes the study of Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) and Commedia dell’arte which is a improv acting style that involves the use of masks and certain “stock” character styles that go along with those masks. In preparation for the “mask” work, we are given an assignment to create our own masks. I want to note that while this is actually the second time I’ve taken the class, it is the first time I have been able to complete the “mask” project. This is where the real journey of discovery…and the point of this paper…begin.
When I first too the class, we spent an extended time studying masks, how they are created, the origins, how they are (or were) used in different cultures, and how they are used today. One of the common themes I heard from mask-makers of old and the modern creators of masks, is that the masks “came to them.” Now to be clear, there was not a knock on the door and then a mask standing there saying “Hello, I’m your mask.” Nor was there a phone call or text to that effect. What they said was that they cleared their minds and the masks would “come to them” in their cleared mind. Others said that the masks came in dreams. Still others said that they sat down with materials, cleared their minds and began creating. I took all this to heart as I looked, studied, and then prepared to create my mask. In the end, the mask …or masks…showed themselves to me and guided me.
“How could you be guided and called by an inanimate object? This is crazy…wrong…evil…” If you remember my opening statement, “Within each of us is a side that we hide from others and may even be hiding from ourselves,” you will understand (as I now do) that this mask came from inside me. It came from my life, experience, hurts, fears, and desires. As I blanked my mind, those items bubbled up so I could release them and (literally) face them.
What I saw when I blanked my mind, was a face with a mask. The mask was a half-face mask, much like the one you see in pictures for the musical, “The Phantom of The Opera.” The face under the mask was a twisted, contorted, monstrous, terrifying raw mess. I knew how I wanted to make it and what I wanted it to look like. I figured out the mechanics of suspending the “pretty” half-face over the “monster” that was under it. I researched to find out what materials I needed and what would work best. I then began my work.
Creation of masks, prosthetics, costumes and such are not really new to me. From the time I was young, I wanted to be in the movies. I studied special effects, costumes, and make up effects. I worked with them on an amateur level for a long time. Often, I won costume contests with wholly original creations and work. For a while, I even was one of those guys who went to the Star Trek conventions in costume, again, often receiving special recognition for what I was wearing. It was always a treat to have people come and want to take a picture with me, and I think I enjoyed that more than the contests that I won. Even with all that experience under my belt, the task I was beginning was like none that I had experienced.
One of the requirements for the project was that I was not to look at myself with the mask on until my appointed time in class. This was not easy, since the “under-mask” was created using the same casting material that is used in making casts for broken limbs. The under mask was molded directly on my face. Having studied Hollywood style masks in the past, I knew that I needed to have my face “greases” or the mask would become a more permanent cover. Even after generously greasing my facial hair with petroleum jelly, I still ended up with hair in the plaster. I guess I can genuinely say that there is more of me in this than just time, effort and creativity. When it came off, the monster was all I wanted and more. In the plaster, I saw muscle, and sinew, and bone, and blood, and hanging, rotten flesh; I painted it according to what I saw as I looked at it. I saw that it needed teeth. What perfect, monstrous teeth I found what I tore apart a pinecone. The teeth were painted white….but needed more so they got a layer of blood, and chunks of flesh form victims it had attacked and torn apart,; devouring their very being. That being done to my satisfaction, I moved to the “pretty face.”
The pretty mask was easy to create because it did not need to be on my face. Since the monster that would be the majority of it was fitted to my face, and since it would be suspended from that under mask, I was not concerned with fit. I took a store-bought mask, covered up the eye hole that would be on the side that would remain, and began to make it pretty. White, porcelain skin, a rosy, demure smile, bright, shiny eye, eyebrows made of feathers, and colorful hair made of the same colorful feathers. Looking at it, I fell in love. It was beautiful…but still was missing something; a small teardrop on the side that would be cut away so the ugly could peer through. This is where the masks really took over.
I prepared the drill, pegs, screws, and glue that would support the pretty mask when I suspended it over the ugly. I grabbed my precision cutting blade, and prepared to make the cut…..but I couldn’t. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to destroy the pretty mask. A mixture of emotion swept through me. On one hand, I needed to destroy the one to create the other. On the other hand….I had to destroy the beauty so the ugly could show….I couldn’t do it. I knew, however, that the masks belonged together; beauty over the monster. A thought I would have a year to contemplate.
As it turns out, I was not able to present my mask in 2016. I had been delayed in creating it because of finances. By the time I was able to bring it to class, it was too late to present it; I was heartbroken. The masks went up on my wall and then into a sealed box in storage. One year later, they came out as I returned to class to present them. I almost was not able to make my presentation as I had trouble getting to storage and retrieving them, but all things worked out.
In watching people with masks, I have seen an interesting truth: masks allow certain anonymity, and people often do terrible things while wearing masks. They also become things that they are not (or you wouldn’t expect) them to be. I too have experienced this in the past with costumes. When someone puts on a soldier’s uniform, they become a soldier…even if they are not. I’ve seen mild-mannered people slip into “alien” clothes and prosthetics and become loud, aggressive Klingon Warriors. Once, I put on a costume that was a hooded purple robe with a black mesh shroud for my face (think of a Star Wars Jawa but purple instead of brown) and found I could not speak. How many films have we seen where masked and/or robed figures commit atrocities. How many people do terrible things on Halloween (in costume) that they wouldn’t do normally? Watching people in 2017, and now in 2017, I saw some of the same.
There is a difference in the behavior of one who ‘allows” things to come out when they are “masked” and those who are closed and think it’s stupid. There is also a difference in those who throw a project together because it’s required and those who really pour themselves into the process. In this mask project, you are not allowed to see yourself in the mask until you stand before the class. In this process, the student sits, puts the mask on, and then closes their eyes. A mirror is placed before them and they are told to open their eyes. The result shows a lot about the person, and what went into the project.
Some people put on their masks, open their eyes, and are the same person wearing a mask. You can feel that (for whatever reason) they are self-conscious and don’t want to really let anything flow. Self-discovery is scary and is not for everyone. I can respect that. Other people put their masks on and there is a total transformation. Some people put on the mask and they are bubbly, funny, exciting, and energetic; they may or may not be that way normally. Other people put on masks and become something totally dark, strange, and scary. One classmate who was normally funny and energetic put on a mask and could not speak….could barely move. Others have turned into strange alien or animalistic creatures that grunt or move in strange ways. What I find interesting is what happens when the masks come off.
Within each of us is a side that we hide from others and may even be hiding from ourselves. When we allow it to, putting on a mask allows part of that which is within us to come out. Sometimes what comes out is scary, sometimes it is strange, sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is funny…but it is always powerful when it is real. It doesn’t matter what the experience brings out, when someone has been open (even a little) to what may or may not happen, they are changed when the mask comes off. When the created mask goes on, the “fake” masks….the masks we wear every day to hide from ourselves and others come off….we are changed. Sometimes people walk away happy, and feel freer than ever. Other times they got off sobbing with what they have experienced and released. There is an unknown future when you are open to the experience. This unknown can cause excitement or fear, and it was the latter I was feeling as I sat looking down at my masks.
In my left hand I held the pretty mask and the monster was held in my right. As I waited, I gazed down at the pretty face and noticed the sadness. I looked at the monster…and was fearful. What would happen? The mask terrified me. What was the sadness? What was this beast?
“Who’s next?” the professor asked.
“I will go.” The words came out of my mouth as if someone else had spoken through me. I took a moment to talk about my masks and the process of creating them. I explained that they were one mask even though they were two and explained why. The time had come. A year after the assignment was due, I was there to turn it in; I was there to find out what these were and why they had come to me. Terrified of what may happen, I sat in the chair, and donned the monster, and then the outer pretty face, and closed my eyes. “Deep breaths….deep breaths” I opened my eyes and gazed at the pretty face…the Beautiful face in the mirror. The mirror was small so it was hard to see, but I began to take it all in.
I started to laugh! I was happy. I was excited. I was beautiful. I was loved. I was nervous. I was scared….but it was time to celebrate! My guests had arrived! I’d greet them and make them laugh and be the life of the party….scared they’d see the monster underneath. I’d get them so busy and happy that they’d forget about their problems…I’d forget about mine….and we could all forget about the monster underneath….or so I thought.
“Why are you sad?” The question caught me off guard. I deflected it, “Oh…these are happy tears! I’m just so happy to see you all!” The fear inside me grew….”Don’t let the monster out! Don’t let them see.”
“I sense you’re holding something back,” the professor’s voice rang out from behind me, “Come and sit down. I’d like you to show us what’s under your mask.”
“I don’t want you to see! I don’t want to let it out!” I screamed in my head, but sat down and began to remove the Beautiful mask. As I loosened the laces that held on “Beautiful”, I trembled. “What will happen? What is this monster? Rage? Anger? Hate? Violence? The true moment of self-discovery and growth had arrived; I was about to find out what or who this monster really was.
Under the mask, my body began to tremble. I was cold, and afraid. My body shook with fear, sobs, and terror, but it was not terror of the monster and what it would do; it was terror of what the others would do. I wanted to run, I wanted to hide, I wanted to tear down the walls that held me inside. I make fun with a U2 song, but it sums up what I felt. Even as I write this, I cry and sob….I needed a laugh. This “Monster” was not a monster; it was not some raging beast, the bloody, gore covered teeth were not covered with blood and gore of victims, but rather “victim.” The blood was my own. The rotting flesh was my own. I looked that way not because I WAS a monster but rather because I had been made that way because of their jealousy, hate, and lies of others. I had been turned into a monster by their beatings, lies, and abuse because they were jealous of my beauty. This was me! This was the real me I had been hiding from. The “Beautiful” mask was the “me that was” before the “monster” was created and the monster had created the “Beauty” mask to hide its pain (my pain) and try to get back what was wrongfully taken. I was paralyzed by my own shame, fear and pain.
“You can put the ‘Beautiful’ mask back on or you may remove the one you wear now,” the professor said. For what seemed like 20 minutes, I sat unable to move. Then he told me to close my eyes, breathe, and then remove my mask. I complied. But the paralysis continued, I had to get help getting back to sit.
Was this manufactured? Was it made up? Was it created by demonic entities that were influencing me? Was it just an outcry for attention? I say “No.” This cathartic moment was an opening for a release of truths that I have hidden, partially from others and partially from myself.
I am fond of saying, “My life’s an open book.” And indeed, if you ask, I will tell. I have experienced atrocities, injustices, and attacks because of people’s jealousy and their own issues and insecurities projected on me. I have been in places and experienced things that no person should ever have to experience or be. These have made me seem like a monster to some, and some people use that against me even now. I hide the monster because some cannot deal with it, even as I had trouble with it. Yet, all I want is to be loved, accepted, and be seen as Beautiful, again.
I hide the pain, shame, and hurts from everyone…even myself. This mask project has allowed me to take off the mask that I wear every day, the mask I hide behind, and see what I hide from myself and others. For me the masks were a catalyst that allowed me to remove a “band-aid” and gaze at wounds that need to heal. There were no demons, no angels, no monsters, no saints, just me, my mask, my pain.
The time has come to remove the mask and pursue healing and wholeness for my wounds. By putting on a mask, I was able to learn to take them off.