Naked is all the rage. There are reality shows designed around the concept; all types of media using skin to sell everything from fast food to clothing; stores offering organic (naked) food options; social media feeds full of explicit, unadorned thoughts and opinions… Naked is the new black.
Naked makes me afraid. Not the “stripped bare with my hiney hanging out” kind of naked. (Although that is potentially frightening as well and something that no one wants to see!) No, I’m talking about the “stripped bare to show you a piece of my soul” naked. The kind that makes a person simultaneously proud they are brave enough to share a piece of themselves and ashamed of something they kept hidden in the first place. I have a lot of things that never see the light of day. Like many folks, there are a variety of reasons for stuffing these thoughts or transgressions into nooks and crannies. Sometimes it’s as simple as being unique and deciding not to speak out against the majority… Other times, a fleeting thought that is cruel or unflattering and would reveal a less kind and correct version of me. Underneath all the surface gunk, however, I think everyone has poisonous things secreted away hoping no one will ever see. Have you wondered what happens if too many of the darker thoughts end up suppressed? I was reading a Stephen King book one day when a metaphor regarding this scenario crystallized for me, so it’s only appropriate that I quote directly from the master himself.
“People’s minds, particularly the minds of children, are like wells – deep wells full of sweet water. And sometimes, when a particular thought is too unpleasant to bear, the person who has that thought will lock it into a heavy box and throw it into that well. He listens for the splash… and then the box is gone. Except it is not, of course. Not really. Flagg, being very old and very wise, as well as very wicked, knew that even the deepest well has a bottom, and just because a thing is out of sight doesn’t mean it is gone. It is still there, resting at the bottom. And he knew that the caskets those evil, frightening ideas are buried in may rot, and the nastiness inside may leak out after a while and poison the water… and when the well of the mind is badly poisoned, we call the result insanity.”
– Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon
I’m not insane… no mater how much darkness I might have tucked away. It seems fairly important that we establish that before going any further. Let me also stress that there is not any implication being made about you and your mind. Okey-dokey? Good deal.
Conceptually it’s pretty powerful though, huh? It is a kind of crazy to bottle up every. little. thing. Opening one of those caskets and baring it to another soul might be a freeing experience… but it also has the potential of being fraught with fear and anxiety. When held up to the light that stark lack of adornment is oftentimes ugly. Messy. Objectionable. So we squirrel it away – another splash in the well of the mind. We breathe a puff of a prayer on the dice and roll ’em in the hopes that our luck limit has not been exceeded and the water quality within is still pure. However, there is the toxicity of the ‘thing’. Certainly that poses an eventual problem, right? The process of weighting down each thought or transgression and sending it to Davy Jones’ Locker must be noxious in some way, so it can’t exactly be healthy for the well in the long run, correct?
I’m not proposing we drop all social pretenses and niceties and start spewing a verbal lava of angst and wicked unpleasantness upon anyone that looks at us the wrong way. Filters exist for a reason and can usually be employed with at least some success. What I am suggesting is that sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable. To show a piece of something secreted away within because it isn’t spit-shined and polished until properly acceptable for all. Maybe you should consider keeping the truly heinous schtuff under wraps… seriously. However, not all of the things we drop in that well are necessarily “bad”. Sure, they’re not all nuggets of wisdom or pearls of truth, yadda-yadda-yadda… But it seems to me that perhaps there is a middle ground there. A place where we hide things we live in fear of someone knowing, but in truth, most people wouldn’t care about one way or another. Think of all the time and energy wasted on worries that should never take up that much space in the real estate of our minds and our hearts. Sometimes it is genuinely permissible to… *gulp*… be different! To take a deep breath and go against the grain. Disregard the trend. To sum up: Legitimately be … naked and afraid.
For the last year or so, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to downsize my baggage. Take a good look at the influences in my life and chuck the negativity. I have health issues that are incredibly exacerbated by stress so not only was it a necessary plan, it was also a welcome reprieve from some of the symptoms that had plagued me. The journey has been “bumpy”, if you’d like to minimize the effort. Weeds have grown up and tried to choke the path – potholes sometimes abound. Is it worth it to keep plodding along? Of course! Is every day a success? Not even remotely! Yet there is a triumph gained when things go according to plan. Triumphant days leave me lighter, freer, with more joy and less wasted space inside. So when I find myself clinging to worry or harboring stress and giving it a place to fester and grow, instead of packaging it up and dropping it in the well, I’m trying to set myself free. It doesn’t always come easily or without a price, but dragging those ugly, toxic thoughts out into the light and proving they will ultimately fail to poison me… well, winning that struggle often brings peace.
So I challenge you. Not to go out and hurt others by turning off your filter and saying whatever hateful things come to mind. Not to make yourself feel worse by admitting something private to an audience that will ridicule or hurt you. And definitely not to go out and literally get naked. lol! Instead, I challenge you to challenge yourself and your ideas about what makes you less of a person, or unattractive, or unlovable… Instead of unleashing that vitriol within, giving it power over you that it never should have had, pull it out into the light and examine it for what it really is. Find someone you trust and get naked by baring a bit of your soul and then pay it forward by allowing them to do the same. Without judgement. Without fear. To make things easier I’ll start:
This month I:
- watched as a loved and lovely person from my family passed away and I was unable to make the journey to see them and say goodbye,
- struggled with health issues and tried to be strong for my husband who had his own,
- lost a job I loved and had only recently found, and I am having trouble finding closure and am heartbroken,
- discovered that the job loss – after being laid off from the two jobs prior – has made me feel like a failure, and my self-worth is really struggling along,
- judged people in my head and got upset when I found out someone had done the same to me, and,
- missed my friends and family, yet didn’t have the strength and energy to be more of a participant in life, and didn’t know how to ask them to understand.
And, since I’m trying to encourage you to dig under the surface –
- I began to achingly come to terms with the fact that my husband and I will never become parents despite my lifelong dream of having a house full of children of my own… While dealing with this staggering realization, I have also had to confront my jealousy, envy and grief over the numerous friends, acquaintances and family I know that are celebrating children of their own and still find a way to share their joy.
How’s that for a confessional?
It hurts to have all of that going on, I’m not gonna lie. But you know what’s even more difficult than going through it? Reliving it again and again because I’ve tucked it inside, hidden behind the mask, forced to watch it all on the loop I allow to play over and over in my head. It’s too much and I’m too tired. Who has room for all that negativity anyway? Life is too short and all that jazz. In the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”
So are you up for it? It’s not a miracle cure and it’s not something everyone will find is easily implemented. All of the things I listed above are still present. Shining a light on them didn’t make them go away, nor does it take away the sting of knowing I won’t go to work tomorrow or find a plus sign on a pregnancy test next week. These things DO take time, you know. Is it scary? Making changes usually is. Will it be hard? I’m not going to lie and say it’ll be a breeze… The question you have to ask yourself is – will it be worth it…?
Life is messy. That’s just a universal truth! But you know what the great part is? There are showers for that kind of thing. And everyone knows you have to get naked before you can truly get clean…