Have you seen the commercial, I’m not even sure what product is being sold, where two people sit down to dinner?  It is a date.  And the woman says, “I made plans for later in case this doesn’t pan out.”  And the man smiles and says, “So did I.”  The background voice says something along the lines about how refreshing it would be if everything was as up front as whatever item is being sold.

I have been thinking about facades a lot lately.  It’s like the scene in the movie the Wizard of Oz.  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”  The “wizard” is a gigantic floating head that speaks with thunder and lightning.  Toto, the dog, uses his nose to sniff out and “unmask” the man behind the curtain, who just happens to be a magician that blew into Oz in a hot air balloon.  We may not be using the theatrics of the “Wizard” but there are faces we put on in the different areas of our lives and roles we play with certain people.

I want you to really think about this idea for a moment.  Are you different when you are at work?  Do you behave differently when you are with your family?  What about when you are around people you don’t know?  Do you have close friends that see a different side of you than your family or co-workers?

I think it is a rare person that remains the same no matter who they are around.  I don’t necessarily see behaving differently in different situations as a bad thing.  Think about the chameleon in nature that changes colors with its surroundings in order for it to avoid predators.  Does the human animal have subtle shifts in personality in order to survive in different social situations?

One of the ways in which humans develop as species are by mimicking the behavior of other humans.  Children learn about social interactions by watching their parents.  As we get older we begin to emulate our peer groups and those that we admire.  Where and how you grow up is a determining factor in how you are or will be as a person.

The following is a poem about masks:

Cloak and Mask by D. Eric Hanson

The veil that hides our battered selves from view

The masks and veils that we wear are not just to hide pain.  They are also used to hide parts of ourselves that we are afraid to share with others.  And there is good reason for this behavior.  Have you ever shared something with someone you thought would be supportive of you and they are not?

While in art school, I told a classmate who I thought of as a close and supportive friend that I also wrote short stories.  This person responded positively and asked to read some of my work.  So the next day I brought her the two that I thought were the best.  I waited anxiously for several days for her to respond.  When she finally did…. she handed me the stories and told me to stick to drawing and painting.  I ripped up my stories and didn’t write a fictional short story again until fifteen years later.  Other than at that art school, for that brief period of time, we never remained friends.  The point here is not her critique.  The point is that I trusted the wrong person at the wrong time with my short stories.

Just as we are all unique and have different abilities and life experiences, we are not going to be all things to all people, all of the time.  There are certain people in our lives who are allowed to see behind the mask.  And other relationships where you never remove the mask.  And that is okay.  The challenge is determining who we can truly be ourselves with and who we need to wear masks for.

Brain Freeze

There is something about a snow storm and icy roads that brings out ridiculous behavior in some drivers.  These ridiculous behaviors, I think, are brought on by brain freeze.  The weather is cold and they get into their vehicles and instantly….their brains freeze allowing them to operate their motor vehicle without their brain working.

For example, there is a person in a red mustang with Texas plates who drives 5 miles per hour down Central Ave.  Yes, it is great that they have slowed down and are driving cautiously; but, this is too extreme.  Then there is the person in the white pick-up truck with Georgia plates who was driving 40 miles per hour (this is an estimate) in a school zone (The speed limit in a School zone is 25 mph).  When they got to the corner with a four-way stop….they slammed on their breaks.  The near miss of them sliding through the intersection was terrifying to watch.  I’ve lost count of the number of times individuals have driven the wrong way up the one-way street in front of the office I work in.  Then there are accidents caused by people who pull out without looking or do not stop at the stop sign.  A friend and I were comparing notes one morning.  She saw a three car accident happen at a corner that has notoriously bad visibility.  I saw the same accident as the tow trucks were taking away all three cars.

One of the strangest things I have ever seen happened at the drive through mailbox at the post office downtown.  A woman in a SUV was trying to put mail into the slot on the mail box.  She was having trouble reaching.  So she opened her car door and tried to reach it that way.  She still couldn’t reach so she stepped out of her vehicle.  The vehicle started rolling.  She still hasn’t gotten her mail into the slot.  She turns back to her vehicle and I think grabs the steering wheel as she is trying to get into the SUV.  Mail is flying everywhere and there is the distinct sound of metal on metal as her vehicle grinds against the light post pinning her between her vehicle door and the vehicle itself.  She cries out as she falls to the ground.  The vehicle keeps rolling picking up some speed as it goes up the side-walk and drives over her leg.  It continues into the post office parking lot and only stops when it hits a truck parked in the lot.  Many of us came to check on the woman and ask if she needed assistance.  She said she was fine.  Someone picked up her mail and put it in the post office box.  The guy whose truck her SUV hit, put her SUV in park and called the police.  I was very concerned for the woman.  I told her that she needed to go to the walk-in clinic and get checked out because she may have injuries that could not be seen.

Some of these behaviors may be because the people do not know how to drive in the conditions.  Some of the behaviors may be because people are not paying attention.  Some people just don’t caring and expect others to watch out for them.  What they forget is that it is sometimes hard to stop when you are driving on icy streets and they pull out in front of you.

As I was watching snow fall and thinking about brain freeze behavior, I realized that we all have our brain freeze moments.  A friend, who is a carpenter and does wood working for fun, told me about a time when he was using a table saw and his concentration wasn’t 100% on the task at hand (pun intended) and cut off part of his finger.  Don’t worry, he was able to get it sown back on at the emergency room.  One doesn’t have to have such a dramatic brain freeze experience.    I once put sour milk on my cereal and didn’t notice until that first disgusting bite.  I was reading a book while making my breakfast.  I was in brain freeze mode. Those little moments when you are not fully paying attention, those are brain freeze moments.

Brain freeze illustrates how important staying in the moment is.  That being aware and experiencing life as it happens is not only critical to your creativity, but to your health and wellness.  Paying attention to what is happening around us, gives us an edge in avoiding those who are suffering from brain freeze.

I just heard the weather forecast….. they are saying cold and snow.