by Charles C. Finn

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the mask 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,
within me and without,
that confidence is my name and coolness is 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 changing, ever concealing.

Beneath lies no complacence nor peace.
Beneath  lies confusion and fear and aloneness.
Bit I hide this. I don't want anybody  to know it.

I panic at the thought of my weakness
and fear being 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
     - to someone.

But I don't tell you this, I don't dare. I'm afraid to.

I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
nor will it be followed by  love.
 
I'm afraid you will think less of me, that you'll laugh,
and your  laugh will hurt me deeply.

I'm afraid that deep down I am nothing,
that I'm just no good to anyone -  even myself,
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 lonely child within.
So begins the  glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.

I chatter to you in the idle tones of suave talk,
I tell you everything  that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's crying within me.
So when I'm  going through my routine,
do not be fooled by what I am saying.
Please  listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying,
what I would like to  say,
what I need to say for survival,
and what my fear won't allow me to  say.

I don't like to hide.
I don't like to play superficial phony games.
I  want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and  myself,
but you've got to help me.

You've got to hold out your hand
even when it'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 real wings!
Your power can touch me into feeling Ok. 
You can breath new life into me,
where sorrow fills my soul,
where  only emptiness has been.
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.
Together we can break down the wall
behind which I  tremble.
You can help remove my mask,
to release me from my shadow world  of panic,
uncertainty, my very 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 me
the more regretfully I might strike back.
It's irrational, but  despite what the books say,
I am often irrational.
I fight against the very thing that 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 these  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.

"The Child Within"
By Charles L. Whitfield  M.D.