Not long after I met my husband, he was caressing my shoulder and exclaimed, “you have the softest skin of anyone I have ever met”. Then he moved in with me, and discovered that I keep a bottle of skin cream in every room of the house. A shared shower taught him just how much work goes into trying to keep acquired moisture.– if it is winter, a layer of baby oil, followed by a layer of cream, followed by another layer once the first is absorbed; not to mention the Vaseline for the feet. What can I say, ashy isn’t cute.
Now, my illusion of soft skin is not designed to fool anyone, including myself. I put the effort in for two reasons a) indoctrination; from childhood I was made to understand that ashy was a sign of poor hygiene and b) I prefer to not walk around looking like an ape; itching myself due to dry skin.
There was a time however that I did maintain damaging illusions; damaging in that they either taxed me, or blinded me from my own truths. Eventually I had to tackle them if I was to find any kind of inner peace.
First came the illusion of happiness. I remember once in my youth being asked what I wanted to be. I flippantly replied, “Happy”. I eventually came to understand that happiness was not a state of being that could be sustained continually. Happiness is the fleeting result of a job well done, a challenge overcame , a pleasant surprise or such. The fading of this happiness is what motives me to get out there and do some more. When I stopped trying to project happiness all the time, I was better able to appreciate it when I feel it, and not fear its absence when I don’t.
Next I tackled the illusion of perfection. We are trained to believe that getting it right is of paramount importance. Yet getting it wrong can be so much more edifying. The other problem with needing to project permanent perfection, is that I started to shy away from things if there was a chance they could go wrong. Letting go of perfection allowed me to a) lighten up on myself and others b) perceive beauty and value in imperfection.
Next came the illusion of strength. Of all the illusions, this one is the biggest trap, particularly for people of BIPOC. When you walk around projecting strength all the time, people feel free to dump on you because you can take it. Screw the stiff upper lip; just because I am no wilting flower does not mean I want to carry the weight of the world.
This led me to explore the illusion of image. There was a time that I suppressed who I was in an effort to project who others wanted me to be. As a part of my teen rebellion I thought I had rid myself of that. Then a financial crisis in my twenties, showed me that I had not. While I was no longer trying to be someone I was not, I was putting a lot of effort in projecting a winning image. Now I play with image and love to watch people try to figure me out and get confused when I don’t fit neatly into a box.
My decision to stop the illusion of image, led me to discover the illusion of false friends. To this day I have a problem with things like “networking” because anything that smacks as disingenuous turns my stomach. As much as I understand peoples’ investment is so called social niceties, I can’t help but feel a combination of pity and annoyance whenever I know someone is fronting – and I usually know. I guess that is only fair, given that people who front, tend to get annoyed with people who like to keep it 100%.
While life stripped of all illusion can be dull, I find life simpler without them. When I want to take a trip to fantasy land, I read a book, watch tv, see a play. I don’t allow anyone into my inner circle if they feel the need to play the illusion game, because trust is big with me, and how can I trust you if you are lying to yourself?
In the end, I now enjoy the pleasure of my own company. I can’t say that was true when I too played the illusion game – it is hard to hide from yourself when you are alone. As a result, I continue to be watchful of building or accepting illusions in life. Thankfully I have people who love me and support me in my efforts to keep it real.