Monday, April 9, 2012

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

When I was a teen, many moons ago, I was confused.  Confused about life, confused about death, confused about my parents, my friends, my feelings, basically everything.  I didn’t know myself, or my place in this world, what I wanted, what I needed, or where I belonged.  Sometimes I even felt like the world would be a better place without me in it.  The teen years are hard.  As adults, we sometimes forget how hard teen life was.  We think that because we didn’t have the responsibilities of being a parent, maintaining a job, and/or creating a home, that life was easy as a young person and that adulthood is the hard part.

Life is hard.  No matter what stage of it you are in, there are stresses but there are also blessings.  As an adult, I have learned that life is also about finding and celebrating our blessings.  As a teen, I just didn’t have that maturity yet (though I’d never admit that at the time because how much more mature could I get?) to see the blessings through the strife.

When I was in grades seven through to nine, I participated in a “Peer Support” group.  This group was initiated at school because it was felt that teens are more likely to talk to other teens, rather than adults, about their problems.  If some of those teens had a little guidance on how to listen and when to get outside help (if someone was going to hurt themselves or others, or commit a crime), perhaps we could prevent some teen from possible regrets, or ruining their future, or maybe even committing suicide.  It’s a great program and I fully support programs like it.
While I was in this group, we were given a poem as part of our guidance training.  This poem has always been a favorite of mine and really helps me to refocus on the people around me.  Although it is not specifically about life as a teen, that is when it was most relevant to me and bears a lot of truth in how I was feeling.  Many times I wanted to ask for help but didn’t know how or even what to ask for or why I was even feeling the way I did.  Mostly, this poem let me know that I wasn’t alone.

The other day, I found this poem in some of my old papers and thought it would be a great thing to share with some of us adults who have teens.  Sometimes we struggle with them, forgetting the inner-turmoil their hormones, changing bodies, and developing minds creates for them.  Here’s a little reminder of what some of them may be going through.  Help them to find the blessings, tell them you love them, no matter what – even if they don’t see it now, don’t push.  They are listening, even when it seems they aren’t.  In time (possibly a decade), they will remember this lesson, even if they don’t remember that you taught it to them.
Take Care, D

PLEASE HEAR WHAT I’M NOT SAYING
By: Charles C. Finn, 1966

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
but don't be fooled,
for God's sake don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command
and that I need no one,
but don't believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
if it's followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.
But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to, I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying,
what I'd like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can't say.

I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings--
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator--an honest-to-God creator--
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me
the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
With firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

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