Cosmetics for the Soul

Hello from a little bistro called October 6,

Permítanme comenzar con un sincero agradecimiento. Primero a mi compañero de clase de la universidad, y un compañero de clase profundamente brillante y amable se acercaron el i fin de semana. Tus comentarios son más significativos de lo que nunca sabrás. Es irónico que nos comuniquemos en el lugar y sobre el lugar, usted hizo gran parte de su trabajo de posgrado. A menudo cuento la historia de su capacidad para salir con nosotros, ya que somos estudiantes universitarios y llegábamos a casa a la 1:00 o 2:00 a. algo mejor de lo que podríamos esperar escribir en esas pocas horas. A menudo te describí de la siguiente manera. Lo único que no te puede gustar de ti es que no hay nada que no te guste. Creo que eso es probablemente todavía cierto. If you read Spanish, I hope my use of Google translate is not painfully obvious. I can get by more and more with small things. Writing like this, not so much. This paragraph is to a friend I have known 2/3a of my life, and who is an incredible human being.

One of the things we humans spend billions of dollars on are things we can use to cover our blemishes, our inadequacies. I remember the first time Lydia sent me to Macy’s to purchase her makeup. This was not something within my repertoire of handy facts, so she sent along the almost empty bottles. As some will know well, these were not large bottles or containers. In fact, I would go as far as to say, they were perhaps less than a small size. Maybe not minuscule, but certainly dainty. Those three little items were beyond $200.00. I was flabbergasted. And yet, perhaps that was, in part, the reason this little woman, who was beyond 80, could have passed for 60. I would also learn through one of those random conversations that can occur all to often on a plane that most cosmetics, regardless of brand, are made from the same ingredients, they are merely bottled differently. This makes sense to me both literally and metaphorically. We are such amazing creatures, attracted to the outside trimmings of things, too seldom taking the time to example the label. The reason for cosmetics is more than appearance, and the consequence of their 10s of billions of dollars invested is far reaching. And yet, we continue to believe in the efficacious nature of them. I am guilty of some of the same. But I think it is the allegorical nature of covering, the things we do, the methods we use, to conceal our fears and hurts, that are perhaps the most amazing. Those hurts often come from deep inside, the product of past experiences. We think they have healed because we have done such a remarkable job of camouflaging them, of masking them. And yet, the blemish still exists. And yet, much like makeup, the brush of a tissue, the rubbing up against something unexpected, the hurt is exposed, the pain revealed. I experience this more often than not, and ironically it is through the revealing of them in this venue that I perhaps find the greatest chance that they might be finally ready for the light of day, no sort of foundation needed to manage them. Perhaps true healing, profound or more complete curing might occur.

One of the things I have learned through my life is I am able to read or intuit what communication scholars might refer to as relational and content levels of communication. Much of that came from being a parish pastor where most often you get the milk-toast version of most situations, out of deference for the role of pastor. It is also because it was necessary as a child to be able to manage my surroundings. On the other hand, I believe, as noted by Kenneth Burke, much of our language is symbolic and yet poetic. Words are the things that both reveal and simultaneously obscure us. Some of this is unintentional because we are struggling to understand our own needs or wants, our own fears and insecurities. I have been pushed to understand my own insecurity, or perhaps my own selfishness, once again. And then again, how much of it was because of a lack in communication? How much of it was misinterpretation? Sometimes I feel like emotions can be the universal equalizer in our attempts to disguise, much like the remover used to get back to the basics of one’s complexion. Where is the space that is most appropriate? What does it take for one to be protective, but not reclusive, either with their time or their soul, if you will?

I believe more now than ever it is a matter of timing. It is a matter of allowing the process to move forward. The difficulty is most often that we are simply not consistent in our progress, and in fact can regress, and no two people have the same process. As I noted in my last post, forward movement is difficult. It pushes us to take chances, and that is frightening. And then there are times we take those chances, and much like the person on a diving board, we turn around. We are not ready to jump. Our bravery is simply another screen, allowing us to appear to be something we are not. There is a beauty in the natural. I know that sounds a bit trite to some, but even in the realm of our made up world, when I look back in my life, some of the most incredible beauty I have witnessed was in two sisters. They owned a business, and I was blessed to meet them in other social situations, but to this very day I am in awe of their beauty. It was not merely the way they looked, which is still stunning, but it was more who they were (and I’m sure are even now) and the goodness to them. There is an honesty and pureness to them that is inviting and powerful. Perhaps their example is a life-example. Their intelligence and work ethic, their care and compassion for their family and the world, are exemplars of what I hope to be even now. One of the things difficult for us to do is accept our scratches, our defects, our imperfections. Yesterday there was a situation that from one perspective was an attempt to be helpful. From the other perspective it was a slight. Pondering now, I am not sure if the truth is somewhere in the middle or fragility was the main culprit.

What I continue to learn about myself is in spite of my success, I seldom feel successful. What I am pushed to understand or accept is in spite of all accomplished, there is hardly anything that gives me a sense of security, and when something pokes at that security, I am much like that little boy running to a safe place, hoping that I cannot be hurt. I once wrote in a blog to my mother that I am most easily hurt by those I care for. That is not surprising, but perhaps the disconcerting part is how deeply I feel that pain. Again, it is easy to understand from where it comes. It has a long history and is an integral part of my being. It is something I pray I might overcome, and I have worked hard to do so. I know there is progress because instead of stuffing it, I was able to verbalize the hurt, and that hurt or fear did not move toward anger, which would have happened earlier in my life. I was able to get a lot of work done in spite of the profound sadness. Some of that fear and hurt is the solitude I noted in my last blog. Some of it is timing, and an intense sense of vulnerability as I go about my daily work. And yet, like many, in spite of the fact I have never gone to cosmetology school in a literal manner, I have an advanced degree in it metaphorically. It leads to another question. Where is that safe space that one can be open and yet not feel dangerously exposed? I think there is no static space. Furthermore, it is ever more so complicated when it involves more than one person. We are fragile people, and yet I think most of us detest that fragility. I believe we want to be seen and accepted for who we are, but we need to be able to accept that first. Perhaps, almost absurdly and yet profoundly, I should thank someone for their seeming slight. I am not sure what they would say, and perhaps it too would be misinterpreted. The reasons are beyond simply words, but, in this case, even words are a struggle. What I know as I begin today, yesterday’s hurt is mediated to some extent. While I am not sure about the intentions, I would do well to believe the better angels, learn from it, and move forward. Is that covering it up once again? I want to believe the answer is no because I was honest about that hurt. I tried to offer a truthful response to the place I was in. The question is: am I merely concealing it or can I move beyond? Sometimes I think too much. I have been told this, and perhaps today is one of those days. There is so much to learn and understand. Perhaps like the sisters I so admire, I merely need to be the best, open version of myself I can. Is it possible through openness we overcome fear? Is it possible that I might be able to remove that amazing metaphorical make up I have created so well?

Thank you as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Published by thewritingprofessor55

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

One thought on “Cosmetics for the Soul

  1. Michael,

    I am here for you My friend, as you are well aware.

    I welcome you with all perceived blemishes and lack of makeup, and all things within that are spun together into something complicated and unknown.

    Timing may be important, however, the process of getting to a destination is the part that involves discovery, friendship, and living life, love, and learning about one another, and oneself.

    Here to help…
    Your friend, Kate

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