Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sept. 29, 1959, Esther St., New York, NY

Halloween is here!  Goblins, ghouls, ghosts!  It's that time of year where the temperature begins to cool, the nights become longer, and the creepy-crawly things of the dark emerge.  These days, it's a holiday of fun and frolic where kids and adults alike dress up, masquerade, consume far too much candy, and spend the next couple months trying to eat their way through the mounds of sweets they have procured.  The entire event is shrouded in mystery where the average joe is able to put aside who he or she may be, and become something completely different and hopefully exhilarating. Yet for some, the mask they wore was already in place and won't be removed after.  And as with most holidays, the ideals of the specific event resonate and can easily be used as a catalyst for analyzing life, attitudes, and prosperity.

All too often, folks waltz into Halloween ready to take on a fake persona in relief of the previous one they have been secretly living as for a much longer while.  Fear, doubt, lack of hope, lack of foresight, or an inability to find the good in things places pressure on an individual's psyche forcing a fight-or-flight reaction to which most choose "flight".

I know, this wasn't much of a segway but I hope you get the idea here.

So what do folks really have to hide?  And why do folks even feel the need to hide?

Years ago, I read a book about advancing my self-esteem by boiling all my personal concerns down to the nitty-gritty and working my way back up.  The process took some time for according to the book's instructions, I was to initially spend every night for several nights standing stark-naked in front of a mirror and without angst or disappointment, point out to myself what my physical flaws were.  The assertion was, if I could get to a place where I could begin to accept the things I was unhappy about even if it meant repeatedly pointing them out to myself, then I could begin to let those foibles go when I was around others.  Indeed, most of my life until my late 20s and early 30s was riddled with insecurity and the masks I wore--depending on the situation--were innumerable.

Sept. 29, 1959, Esther St., New York, NY by Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is one of hundreds of thousands of black and white photographs she took while living the life of a nanny for 40 years (her story is actually quite fascinating and I've included a link to it if you click her name above).  Portrayed is an elderly man in New York seated in a chair along Esther St. while he enjoys a cigarette.  Vivid, dirty, horrendously ugly, the male blows out his latest inhale and stares back at the lens without qualm, without remorse, and without hesitation.  His clothing filthy, his hands riddled with callouses and age, yet his hair is swept neatly and most likely for the moment which Maier captured.

For what does he have to hide?

Immediately, some of you in the recesses of your mind are reflecting upon the implied notions of who this man was and how he lived his life, deducing how you would behave if his attributes were yours.  It's the innate nature of being a human:  Judging others based upon your own precognitive understandings and often times, the reaction is unfair or unnecessary.  Because if you ask me, this man is beautiful!  He is the very embodiment of what it is to be a free citizen, a man open to making his own choices, living his life in as much peace as he can muster and without doubt.  Deep in the craggily folds of his leathery skin and encrusted in the dirt covering his shirt and overalls are the virtues of responsibility.  Yes, responsibility!  Oh, he may be smoking, but he's probably in his 70s and clearly taking a break from earning his keep which he has every right to enjoy.  And to toss insult to injury, it is all capture in a moment where his confident smirk warps his mouth upward and as if to say, "You're darn right I'm alive and well and there is nothing you can do to take this moment away from me!"

He's out there.  He's alive, he's not shy, he's on display for countless pairs of eyes because for him, what is on the minds of others cannot be controlled or become a concern.  He's aged and while that has been beneficial for his maturity and understanding of life, he's a fresh reminder that to try and hide who you truly are is an utter waste of time and energy.  This man is living proof.

Acceptance is an important part of removing your mask.  From something as silly as accepting Halloween is over to something as serious as confronting a need to abuse oneself.  Accepting that you are who you are regardless of circumstance and no matter what.  Do you see a flaw in yourself?  Great!  Confront it, accept that it exists, then get your butt out there and do something about it!  Don't like where you are in life?  Don't cry about it in public or make a scene, the world doesn't give a damn for it is too busy improving its own life!

Find joy!  Find the things you know you're fortunate to have but never, ever lose sight of the fact that what others may presume about you won't change a damned thing about who you really are.  You have to change you on your own terms and time and as long as you're willing to look at your own true face in the mirror, will you begin to be able to sit on that bench yourself and proudly display your uniqueness for all the world to admire without needing a mask.  Exhale your demons and negativity and remember, dressing up as someone else is but for one day a year, the rest is on you to make the best of.

You only get one chance.

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