Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mask Smashing Party

Yesterday, I glanced down at an invitation sitting on a hallway table at the family's house where I tutor.  The invite read:

Max is Turning 10!
Come to his Mask-Making Party!

I stopped dead in my tracks. Noooo!!! Masks? As we grow older, we form so many masks, covering up the Divine Being within us.  And here is a party celebrating this great charade?

Just moments later, I heard the 6 year old telling his older sister, "When I'm in 5th grade, I get to make REAL masks in school! I can't wait! Isn't that cool?"

I watch his bright eyes glisten with excitement, and I want SO badly to protect him from the inevitable mask making that occurs in all of our lives.  As a teacher, I witnessed this process so clearly in the elementary schools.  Children are such glowing, authentic souls naturally.  They remember who they really are.  Then comes 4th or 5th grade.  I watched as they started to "make masks" to conform to what they think their teachers, parents, society, and most of all PEERS want them to look like and be. 

Here are some of the masks chosen by Yours Truly:  The Funny One, The Party Animal, The Flirt, The Ditz, The Tortured Artist, The Philanthropist, The Prom Queen, The Over Achiever, The Holier than Thou, The Hippi, The Teacher, The Performer, The Good Daughter, Good Friend, Good Wife, Good Everything, The Pollyanna.

I could go on and on. The point is, at some time in my life, probably around 4th grade, I decided that me being ME, wasn't good enough. And I got down to the task mask making.  Interestingly enough, all of these "masks" are part of this Character Cora, and they all serve me in different ways, in fact wearing them can be really fun!

The danger is when I mistake my TRUE identity for one of the masks, instead of seeing them for what they are: Costumes and I get to CHOOSE to wear when I want to play!  They are not  ME.  Masks do not need to cover up my Soul, my Divine Being that shines from within ALL THE TIME when I don't cover it up!!

"Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without, and know we cannot live within.  I use the word love here not in the infantile sense of being made happy,  but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth."-James Baldwin

So guess what everyone?? YOU ARE INVITED TO A PARTY!!!

We are beginning to remember who we are REALLY, underneath all the masks...so we are going to celebrate!

Come to the Mask Smashing Party!!

We will dance, sing, laugh, cry, hold each other, and smash are masks with the unbelievable power of LOVE.

Then we will joyfully look into each others eyes.  I will SEE you.  You will SEE me.  We will be ONE.

Underneath all the masks, our true identity will be so clear...

We are LOVE.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is the Point Ms. Poage?

I just found this piece of writing from 1/12/2005. I wrote this while I was teaching First Grade at Waterside School.  (http://www.watersideschool.org) I decided to re-print...

This year we were very excited to watch one of our first graders, Alyssa, move up to Second Grade after Christmas Break.  She had been held back this year, but by mid-semester she was ready to join her previous class!

We made the announcement to the First Graders on the last day of school before Break.  We explained that she would be right across the hall and the students would see her often.   Most of our class were enthused for Alyssa, and some were a bit confused.

As we prepared the party and the cake, Nahmie, another student, grabbed me by the hand and said, "I need to talk to you Ms. Poage and I need to talk to you out HERE."  She led me out of the classroom and into the hallway, where we sat down at two small chairs.

"Ms. Poage," Nahmie began. "Where is Alyssa going?"

I explained the situation again.

"Why?" she asked.

"At the beginning of the year, we decided that Alyssa had more to learn from First Grade, and we had more to learn from her, so she stayed with us.  But now she is ready to join the Second Graders!  Isn't that wonderful?"

Thinking Nahmie was confused about the situation, or maybe even envious that Alyssa was moving up I tried to explain the situation logically.

"Do you understand?"  I looked into her eyes, which still looked weary. "You will have a chance for Second Grade also."

Suddenly her eyes filled with tears and she threw her arms around me.  Then, she looked straight in MY eyes.  "That is not the point Ms. Poage.  The point is that she is my best friend in the class and I am going to miss her."

That is not the point Ms. Poage. Those words live in my heart and mind to this day. Nahmie, at six years old, could see right through my rational response, and chose to open my eyes to what really mattered.  She wasn't jealous of Alyssa, or even confused.  Nahmie's heart was broken.  She loved Alyssa, and Alyssa was leaving.

How much we can learn from the heart of a child.  That is not the point, Ms. Poage, she said, when the world and society can tell us the opposite, emphasizing competition and at times, apathy towards others.

"What is the point then Nahmie?"  I wanted to ask. I wanted to know, because at 23, I feel like I have forgotten.

But I hugged her, I loved her, and I learned from her...my wise six year old.  And maybe, just maybe, THAT is the point.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Prince Charming

As little girls, many of us are raised with the idea of finding wholeness, happiness, and our dreams, once we meet our Prince Charming and he "saves" us from our apparent life of mediocrity.  (Thank you Disney)  Before meeting Ben, I was constantly asked if I was dating anyone "yet", as if I would not be a worthy or whole woman until I met my man...

My freshman year of college, my friend Brittany wanted to set me up on a date with a water polo player at University of Southern California, actually the top water polo player in the country.  He was also VERY physically attractive conventionally.  Like, probably top 1%.   (think...Brad Pitt, George Clooney,  Justin Bieber???) Could this be my Prince Charming? The man to "save me" and give me wholeness, validate my worth, and allow me truly pursue my dreams?

The night of the Big Date, I spent hours picking out an outfit, straightening my hair, and applying my makeup.  Finally, with my heart beating extremely rapidly and sweat pouring profusely from my body, this little girl from Kansas was ready to meet the Big Man on Campus, Mr. Water Polo, my Prince Charming.

We drove to USC, parked, and headed into the dorms. I was so excited to meet  him, however our initial interaction was quite awkward.  He took one look at me, pulled Brittany into the adjoining room, and announced, loud enough for me to easily hear it...

"She is NOT pretty enough for me."

Whew.  My ego was not happy.  Tears streamed down my face.  In fact, all I wanted to do was run, fly back to my campus and to the safety of my apparent mediocrity.  The night was intense and I had to stay, as I had no way of getting home.  

I've often wondered how and if this experience has continued to script my life to this day...and then in class last weekend, I had a vision that I am processing.  In the vision, I was a marionette puppet attached to all these strings that were pulling me this way and that.  Who was the puppeteer?  MEN.  At many points in my life, including, but not limited to the night at USC, I have handed over my strings, my power, to men.  I have looked for male validation for so much of my life to give me permission to dance, to design my life, to save me.

If a man told me he heard I was easy,  I would become a prude.  If a man said he liked my hair long, I would swear to never cut it again.  If a guy I thought was handsome told me I wasn't pretty enough, I agreed and decided I would never be loved or ENOUGH.   I thought marrying my "Prince Charming" would stop this cycle of needing outside validation from men, but up until now, it hasn't.

However, in this vision last weekend, I pictured me, the puppet, BUSTING THROUGH THOSE STRINGS....I am dancing to my own music, my own rhythm.  I take my power back.  God is my Co-Director.  It's me and Spirit now!  Designing and choreographing my BEAUTIFUL dance through this Life...

So Mr. USC, I forgive myself for buying into the misunderstanding that I am not pretty enough.  I forgive myself for buying into the misunderstanding that I need validation from men, from anyone, to feel whole, beautiful, and enough.  I forgive myself for believing I needed a Prince Charming to save me.  And I am grateful for that experience and many that have followed.

No man is going to save me...no man is going to make feel whole or worthy or beautiful.  I don't need that anymore.  There is only one true quest to healing, Love, and wholeness and that is the journey within.

My Date with God.

I joyfully drive down into the dorms of my soul, where I meet the Source, the Divine, my true Prince Charming.  He holds me in a loving embrace and I remember where I came from, who I am as a Being of Beauty and Light...and I hear his words, like a waterfall of Love...

"You have always been and will forever be ENOUGH."