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I was reading a friend’s blog this week when something snagged me. She’s taking a workshop that encourages participants to ‘dig deep into wholehearted living, authenticity, and courage,’ and one of the prompts for them to journal was: “I am more or less __________ than most people think.”

It intrigued me, made me start thinking about the many masks we wear. Made me start thinking (again) about how personalities get so little play, when they’re such an influence on the way that we’re perceived (after all, what percentage of the people I encounter in this life will ever make it past my personality into the depth and richness that is me in my entirety? Not very many, if I’m honest about it – that’s just the way it shakes out).

So, what am I, more or less?

I am more vulnerable than most people would think. I tend to project this image of capability and confidence, which is pretty accurate – I am capable and I am confident. But I am also extremely vulnerable, and people mistake my hard candy shell as a sign that I am not hurt as easily as others, or that I can handle a hard truth or criticism better than someone else can. I take on those hurts, and feel them deeply – and once you’ve cut me, I’m bleeding….but I don’t let you see it.

And by extension, I am more sensitive than most people would think, as well. I have cried for the world more times than I can count. I take in others’ hurts and feel it for them, with them. I have a hard time witnessing or attempting to understand cruelty or apathy – they sicken me. The hard candy shell I’ve donned and worn for years is really just an attempt to fool the world into believing that it all slides off of me – but it’s an illusion. Every sling, every arrow finds its mark and embeds more deeply than people realize.

I am more romantic than most people would think. (This is probably one of my dirtiest little secrets, strangely enough.) I do practical really well, and I do pragmatic really well, but in my heart of hearts, I want to be cherished. And for something more than my efficiency. I want someone to inspire yearning in my heart, and to know that I inspire the same in theirs. I want the hearts and flowers and poetry and gallantry and all the girly stuff that I have way too big a chip on my shoulder to admit out loud and which I tend to roundly disabuse publicly.

I am more private than most people would think (especially, I suppose, given the fact that I blog right out there in the open). I am upfront and pretty open – or at least it seems that way. I like truth, I like things to be simple, so I do put a lot of things right out there on the table from the get. But, I only trot out what I’m comfortable with, and that gives the appearance of being very open. I suppose I am more open about my life and my experiences than most other people, but those are the easy things. It’s the true weight of life that I shield from view – the emotional reaction I have to everything that happens. That is what stays closeted, that is what I keep private, that is what goes in my journal – how I feel about everything that’s happened to me and because of me and around me.

That privacy extends into a monkishness that comes over me every so often. I enjoy solitude and silence more than most people would think – especially given the fact that I am outgoing, enthusiastic and gregarious when I am with people. I am able to be those things because I take the time to go away and be by myself. I am able to be those things because I seek out space and silence and stillness. Like air and water, they are necessary for the proper care and feeding of a Carolyn. Most people would have a hard time believing that I could be perfectly content in a hermitage somewhere high upon a hilltop – I would be…as long as it was only a short-ish walk back to people. That way I could get my ‘fix’ of socialization and go straight back to the stillness.

I am less strong than most people would think. I’ve been through more crap than some people, and less crap than others – nonetheless, I’ve shoveled my share of crap, and sometimes a little more than my share. And people always look at me just picking up that shovel and digging in, and say or think that it’s strength that gets me through it. Nope. It’s the desire to be able to put down the damn shovel. It’s the fact that I was raised with the mantra, “It’s just what you do” – as in, carry on, get on with it, don’t stop, don’t mope, don’t stagnate. Just get on with it. Is that strength? I don’t know. What I do know is that there have been plenty of times I’ve been shoveling my way through life, desperate for someone, anyone to see how hard it was, to see how much I hurt, to reach out and carry the load for just a little bit. But when they see you plugging away like that, they figure that you’ve got it, and just keep walking.

The whole time I was writing this, I couldn’t help but see how it was sorta skewed – I’m glad I did it, and it was illuminating and all that, but this is my perception of how I am perceived by others, and that gets tricky. I’ve probably got a pretty good grasp on what I think people do or don’t think about me and who I am, but maybe that vulnerability peeks through more than I think it does. Maybe I think I shield my emotions, when that’s not the case at all. Maybe I’m far more transparent than I believe that I am.

It’s interesting to think about, and it draws into question why I bother to hide parts of myself. Why anyone does. I could just go out there and embrace all my awesome, embrace all my flaws….but not quite yet. I’ve got a great idea – you go first, and then I’ll do it, too. In the meanwhile, what are you more or less?

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)