“You’ve got a psychic fat suit.”
The man — whose name might be George — nods to himself. Pleased. As if he’s caught a rare moth and nailed it to the specimen board.
“You’re impossible to connect with.”
We are walking down Venice boardwalk, me and my two friends.
It’s years ago. Over a decade. Venice Beach.
I barely recognize that Rachel. She is more fragile, more defended.
Imagine. Southern California magic hour. Golden light rains down on our faces, paints our shoulders with sunlit epaulets.
Smell of pizza, frying meat. The jingle of bicycle bells. Whir and whoosh of rollerblades. Blasts of TLC, ACDC. Babble of voices.
A seagull shrieks.
I turn to my closest friend at the time — let’s call her Sherry — wait for her to tell George to cut it out. She always has my back. We share dark childhoods. Black humor. And we’ve bared our souls to each other.
Time stops. Streeeeetttttches.
Sherry’s gaze bounces off my face and fixes on George’s. Then she turns back to me.
Poof. Like that. Her face is unrecognizable. Like something’s been building up and building up until it pops out, a dark detonation that blasts me to the other side of the universe. Far away.
“You do!” she says. “You totally have a psychic fat suit!”
Then Sherry, and George, exchange glances and giggle. Giggles that turn into laughter.
That’s not what I meant to write. I wanted to tell you about the Infinity Boxes from last night.
The psychic fat suit incident was a long time ago. I trust there’s a reason the moment returned.
Let us explore.
LOST & FOUND AT THE L.A. DECOMPRESSION ARTS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL
Last night, I went to the L.A. Decompression. It’s an arts and music festival to help burners — those who attended the annual Burning Man festival in August — reacclimate to the “default world.”
I wasn’t going to go. I was swamped with work. The life of the solopreneur! And — as you know from my last ezine — on a deep level, I’ve been feeling sad and disconnected lately.
So why go?
Because my friend Sass, who used to live nearby in Topanga Canyon ten years ago, and who’s the one who invited me to Burning Man — kept texting and encouraging me. She even helped me dress (“Throw on a tutu and those platform boots and come!”).
So I go.
I enter the park and at first it’s a bummer. People are stumbling drunk or drugged, and staring. It feels like looky-loos off the street dropping in to ogle the freaks. To party in a mindless way.
Where is the gift economy? The warmth and kindness? Even the transcendental art cars are parked, penned in by metal fences.They’re not live art streaking through the desert Playa.
I idle by the food trucks and eat my discomfort away, gourmet style. Avocado and tomatillo tacos, grass fed beef mini-burgers cooked with rosemary, Vermouth and Gruyere. Oh yeah.
Little by little, I see the pockets. The burners. People who’ve created art, again for free — installed it in the park. People who radiate a rippling warmth. Who wear the most outrageous costumes. Each one a performance piece, a paean to creative expression, from the sheepskin angel wings to the slick white latex bodysuit to the interplanetary pheasant-feather headdress.
My perception shifts. I move more liquidly. Enter the parallel stream of the burners. I am rewriting my evening’s narrative.
“My name’s Ta-Da,” says the short Frenchman wearing a buckskin vest and a top hat. “That’s my Playa name. I like to make entrances,” he says, and sweeps me into the Beer Garden. “You must have the vodka. It’s infused with honey.”
Drink of the gods.
I find my friend Sass at the Capitol Recker outdoor dancehall. Fireballs burst from a giant unicorn’s mouth. Everywhere art. Everywhere bodies in glow-light motion.
“You’re wearing your tutu like an innertube!” she cries out. Still laughing, she tugs it down around my hips, fixes the neon pink flounces. “You’re supposed to wear it like the ballerinas!”
And just like that, all is well.
BREAKTHROUGH AT THE INFINITY BOXES
Later, we stand in front of a row of gold-and-copper painted boxes on rods planted in the park’s dirt. The artist, Matt Elson, calls the installation The Infinity Boxes and says they’re an experiment in “cognitive dissoance and social interaction.”
They’re brilliant. Each one offers a different experience. Two- or four-way viewing.
I pop my head into one called the Delta of Venus. Inside, it’s a triangular tunnel filled with mirrors and festooned with colored lights. You turn into a human kaleidoscope. Suddenly there are nine Rachel faces. Who needs drugs? Sass stations herself at the other end to document.
“Smile!” she says.
I try. I try keep my chin up to avoid double-chin-itis. Try to open my eyes so I don’t look as tired as I am, nor as old. Try to smile brightly so I can summon a radiance that can just as quickly turn off.
Confession: I am not a full-on extrovert. Nor a full-on introvert. I need balance. But what I tend to show the world is the extrovert. I shine the light. Then I retreat to my sanctuary in Topanga Canyon to refresh. Can you relate?
Sass shoots so many pics the smile starts to feel painted. Strained. I realize I am performing for her. For the world. Adjusting my persona the way Sass adjusted my tutu earlier.
WHAT IF YOU DROPPED YOUR MASK?
What If I do what I feel like?
I am comfortable enough with Sass to do what I want.
So I experiment. I stop smiling. Relax. Just look at the pretty lights. The fractured faces staring back. Forget the camera.
I let the mask slip.
Rachel on Venice Beach would never let a friend take this picture. Would never let her see the vulnerability. Would never share the pensiveness and pain you see here. Or if she did, she would’ve done so from a place of neediness. With people who couldn’t contain the sharing. Or stay steady. Because they mirrored Rachel Then.
A woman who couldn’t yet contain her own multitudes.
At the moment of this current picture, I am not just pushing my face into the Infinity Box, I am the Infinity Box. Refracted and raw and real.
That’s how confident I feel today. How integrated.
It’s taken a lot of work. Something I’ll share about in future Blaze! ezine issues. Because I think we all have trauma and challenge to different degrees. It is part of being alive. And nurturing self awareness is part of learning to navigate the journey with power and grace.
I know that by sharing in this personal way, through carefully crafted image and words, rooted in confidence — that I can connect more deeply with you. And maybe give you permission to do so too. Because connection is what we all crave today.
3 WRITING EXERCISES FOR PERSONAL NARRATIVE INSPIRED BY THE INFINITY BOXES
Try your own Infinity Box experiment.
Name your Comfort Mask. The way you usually present.
Next, name your Hidden Mask. The way you secretly feel.
1) Write a short blog post from the point of view of your Comfort Mask.
2) Write a short blog post from the point of view of your Hidden Mask.
3) Write a short blog post from the point of view of you as your Future Ideal Self. Are you a combination of the masks? Are you one mask and you’ve tossed the other? Or, are you something new?
IS THIS YOU? THE PROBLEM OF THE SPLIT SELF
You say we want to get clear on your messaging. You want to serve people. Create a thriving business.
Are you willing to do what that takes?
In order to step into your full potential, you must recognize your split selves — which requires self awareness — and, you must do the work to integrate them.
I’m going to share something I learned from the experience of writing my own memoir. Personal narrative techniques not only will help you clarify your message and find your voice — it can help heal the fragmentation so you can be the most powerful you.
Many of my current clients struggle with split selves. They might be trained in corporate, so they’re used to shutting down their wilder, creative side. Or they might be creatives who feel like if they share their true voice, they’ll be judged. And if they let the raw emotions out, they’ll overwhelm themselves and others.
If you’re doing this, you’re cheating yourself.
HOW VULNERABILITY AND VOICE ARE CONNECTED
You must tap into your vulnerability. It’s the only way you’ll find your True Voice. You’ve got to go vertical. Dig. Find your own sentence rhythm, syntax, style. This will help you stand out from everyone else who’s writing and running businesses.
How are you presenting a false self to your clients? To your followers? To your loved ones? And most of all, to yourself ?
What If you let your mask slip?
We’d love to hear your comments. Your experiences. Whether the exercises inspired. Did you resonate with today’s Burnt Offerings?
I invite you all to join me. We’ve been dancing fiercely at Cafe Gratitude. Now let’s play in the Infinity Box of personal narrative. Turn into human kaleidoscopes and spread our messages far and wide.
Celebrate your many selves and moods, and know they are all part of one magnificent flawed and electric being.
Yrs in truth,
P.S. Many of you have been asking about voice. True Voice. What is it? I keep talking about how critical it is for success today. First comes voice. THEN comes story. And yet, I’m not dishing in enough detail!
IF you want to learn more about voice, would you let me know?
Would you be interested in a live Q&A call where I talk about voice?
SPEAK YOUR TRUE VOICE VIRTUAL INTENSIVE
You also might be interested to know I have just finished creating a new service, called the Speak Your True Voice Virtual Intensive. It’s crafted for those authors, speakers and entrepreneurs who’re going to give a talk at a conference or other gathering and they want to make the most of it. Zap me an e-mail and let me know if you want to know more and set up a complimentary 20-minute Target Your True Voice call.
MESSAGE MAKEOVER CALLS
P.P.S. If you are one of those who expressed interest in a 20-minute complimentary Message Makeover call, know that we are still working our way through the list in order of receipt. We had no idea there’d be such a flood of response. Be assured we are eager to speak with each and every one of you.
Rachel you are such an inspiration. You Live. And through your colorful and raw writing you bring us on your journey, too. It’s so challenging to be vulnerable, not worry about being judged. Take off the armor. The armor however doesn’t protect us, it keeps us from connecting. (I wish this was mine but it’s Brene Brown.) I’ll be thinking about my masks this week thanks to you. Let’s see how many I can peel away.
And YES I would love a live Q&A to get hear more of you wisdom!
Great! Glad to know you’re interested. Will keep you updated!
Elaine, thank so much for your enthusiastic and encouraging response! Love the idea the writing is colorful and raw! I think you should be nervous each time you press publish. I know I am. I’m eager to hear what masks you identify, and how you play with stripping them away. I think we get comfortable in certain roles, wearing certain masks — and then we are in danger of losing touch with our whole selves. And thus, our whole power. Does that make sense? We must connect ourselves with our various aspects — the shadow sides, the sad the sexy you name it — so we can become whole. And step into our most complete and complex power. That is what compels others, as well as ourselves. Here’s to whole living!
I love writing prompts and am always looking for new ideas both for myself and to share with other writers. I’m bookmarking your post Rachel, with thanks!
Thanks so much, Cindy! I’m so glad you found those writing prompts inspiring. Do please bookmark my post and share. I’m honored.
What a great post! I really enjoyed the story. It is hard to be vulnerable and to open to our authentic selves, take off all the masks. I have found it easier to do with silence and stillness and then I can allow the emotion to move through me. Are we ever really there? I don’t know. It seems like there is always another layer. Thanks for the writing prompts. Great ideas for my next writing block. Namaste.
Christina! Lovely to hear from you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. It is hard to remove those masks. Be vulnerable. To even experience our authentic selves, let alone share them! I’m totally with yhou that the silence and stillness allows that emotion to move through. How eloquent. It’s one reason I love where I live, in Topanga Canyon, right on the edge of the Topanga State Park. Where civilization meets wilderness. It’s not just silent and still, there’s also that powerful liminal space. The in-between. Yes, there are always new layers. That’s what makes the writing so challenging, and also fun. Glad this helps for handling your next writing block! Keep us updated on how it works. Namaste to you.
Rachel your exquisite writing illuminates your soul and your soul being so vast and eternal illuminates the world. Writers learn by how you do. Thank you, most generous artist!
Raw Rachel. Rachel, Raw and Ready.
Sounds like a new book is birthing itself, one little bit at a time. Maybe for all of us. Because RAW is our story. The real story. The one we are afraid to write, The one that makes us squirm, clear our throats over that sandpaper lump stuck there. The one that NEEDS to be written. This is what inspiration looks like- reminding us to write what our spirits need to say.
Thanks for being the flag-bearer of raw. Such an important reminder. Raw and Real: Rachel.
That’s you!! – and thank God for you!
True Voice Q&A with Rachel, YES! Count me IN.
So many juicy good things in this blog, even more than usual! Split Self, masks… Your tutu! Your past Self versus Rachel Then. Your half introvert, half extrovert…
Yes, I can totally relate.
Thank you for reminding me.
Mmmm, name my comfort mask. In control. Calm. Gentle. It’s a mask, but it’s very much who I am too…. most of the time.
My hidden mask: maybe a little overwhelmed (or a lot). Disappointed. In life, in myself, in the falseness of this world. Wondering if this is all there is; if this is as good as it’s gonna get. Aware of how I’m getting older and life is moving so fast. And I’m moving so slow.
My future ideal self: Relieved. Relaxed. Satisfied. The cat with the cream.
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