Raven sipped her tea quietly while Samantha pondered the masks. A Dark cloud passed over her forehead in thought, but Samantha was preoccupied with her own questions so she missed it.
Samantha had been chewing the inside of her cheek, wishing she wasn't filled with even more questions than before.
"I don't want to sound naive or dumb...but if I am not aware of a mask, how can I remove it?"
"There is no question that could make you seem dumb or naive, except perhaps the one you choose not to ask for fear of damaging your image. Do you see? Already your fear of judgment has nearly stopped you from asking the next thing. Do you know something else? All that judgment is In Your Own Head. That's right. Before I can begin to answer your question I must address the way you even posed the question. Perhaps by unraveling that, we will even get one step or all the way closer to answering your thought about masks."
Samantha's brow furrowed.
"I can't imagine ALL judgment is in my head. That can't be right. I know I judge others at times, even though I mean well and I assume others do the same as I do. I've certainly rolled my eyes internally and when I was younger externally when someone was asking a question that seemed obvious to me."
"You may, but Let me ask you something. Have there been times when you asked a question and felt judged, and other times when you asked a question and saw judgment but didn't care?"
"Well of course, sometimes the person judging me is someone I don't necessarily respect or care about. In that case I could not care less what their opinion of me is."
"That's it. Right there. You allow someone else's opinion of you or your question to matter, have relevance, have meaning. You Allow or disallow. So any judgment you feel was begun in your own mind...whether the thought sprung from your mind itself or you chose to accept or invite someone else's thought in and give it significance, weight, and meaning."
Samantha took a sip of her iced tea, and nibbled on her straw.
"Okay, let's set aside the way I posed the question though. I am still confused about how to remove a mask I am blind to seeing. How can I be expected to get rid of something so unconscious?"
"Child, you are still caught up in someone else's expectations. Who are you trying to please?"
Samantha was getting frustrated.
"Are you toying with me?"
"Not in the slightest. This is actually more relevant to your question than you realise, but you are too close to it yourself to see that. Have you ever known someone who dated the wrong person, but you couldn't tell them until after the relationship ended? What do they always say? 'Why didn't you tell me?' And what is your response, usually? 'You would not have listened.' And you would be right. Samantha, you came to me to learn. You are asking me about Removing a mask, but everything you are saying is through the filter of still wearing one. Presently, you frame each question innocently in your habit. Or maybe it isn't so innocent. Maybe it is possible for you to begin to change your language and your perception may also change with more awareness of word choice. Wake Up! Waking up is not comfortable. Do not apologise for your questions to me ever again. But more importantly, Do not worry about my approval! Do not change your approach to please me or any other audience. Your mask is people-pleasing. If I simply tell you how to change, you have trapped yourself into merely pleasing a new entity outside yourself. This is a path to misery. You can not be held responsible by anyone for someone else's emotional state."
Samantha sat blinking, feeling the words almost physically assault her.
"I want to take off the mask...I just don't know how."
"Bullshit. You are the only one who does know how, but you don't have the courage to do it." Raven's voice was quiet, but firm.
Samantha wasn't even sure anymore if she was angry, annoyed, frustrated, or feeling helpless to change
She stood up, adrenaline pumping. She stalked to the edge of the porch and set her glass down on the ledge. Her eyes weren't even focusing on the lawn or street, and there were little flashing spots at the edges of her peripheral vision. Who was this woman, and how dare she challenge her very way of being? People-pleasing? What does she know, anyway? At work Samantha had been so strong, she'd been asked to fire someone, which had been hard for her, but even as she tried to come up with that example she knew Raven would ferret out that she had done it to please her bosses and fulfill her duties. Her white hot rage began to mellow upon that realisation. Maybe she was prone to people-pleasing. Now what? She turned on her heel and stared at Raven.
"Now what? Any impulse I have, I have to pause and ask myself who I'm trying to please? Every move I make, I should live with second guessing my motivations like some kind of ball and chain?"
"If that's what taking off your mask involves, then I assume it will be temporary. I see you don't have the patience for that so it shouldn't take long for you to come up with an alternate approach." Raven's lips twitched at the edges of a smile, and her eyes twinkled mischievously.
Samantha caught sight of herself in this moment, and saw that right now she was being her own authentic self without caring about anyone else's opinion. It felt free, unfettered, nothing resembling a ball and chain, no second guessing, no apologizing for who she was or what she said or felt.
She grinned back at Raven, and then they both chuckled, and the laughter caught its own momentum, and their eyes lit and twinkled and they laughed until tears squeezed out of the corners of their eyes.
Thank you for visiting!
The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.
Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...
And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...