Soul Skin

I came across something this morning which I wrote when I attended a women’s retreat with friends some time ago. I keep moving it, trying to find a good place to keep it so I don’t lose it and it occurred to me (duh!) that I should share it here so I don’t have to worry about keeping up with this scrap of paper I hastily jotted these thoughts onto.

First a bit of background. For one of the activities at the retreat a woman read us an Inuit tale about seals that come up to shore and remove their skins to dance. They are human (so this is a mermaid tale of sorts I suppose) beneath their seal skins and a fisherman spots the beautiful woman and steals her seal skin so she will have to remain with him instead of returning to the sea. As the years pass she nearly forgets her seal life and even forgets to dance. Then one day she spots her skin and slips it back on, returning to the sea and leaving her captor behind.

After reading the tale to us the woman leading the activity asked us to think about our own soul skin and who, if anyone had stolen ours. As she was reading the story and giving the writing activity I wasn’t really “feeling it”. It didn’t seem to resonate or connect with me… and then I picked up my pencil. I wrote for about 10 straight minutes without a lot of forethought. I shared what I’d written with my friends on the way home and told them that I didn’t think anyone had stolen my soulskin- I had freely given it away without realizing it’s value. I never want to make that mistake again and I hope I can help others who are about to or have already made the same one. So, I’m sharing with you the completely unedited version of what came pouring out that day.

When I was a girl I wore my soulskin without knowledge or recognition that it existed. (A seal doesn’t think about being a seal, after all. It just IS.) Without this knowledge there was no room for self doubt or recrimination. But as I grew and looked around I grew more and more concerned with fitting in so I shed my true nature, not to dance to my own music but to march with the world. Each misstep in the highly coordinated march was further proof that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, cool enough, sacrificing enough, controlling enough. Simply ENOUGH. I became burdened to the point that I could not see through the fog of Enough. I had no hope that I would ever be Enough. So, I decided to stop marching and I began to dance to my own music. There were no missteps in MY dance, only surprising new ways to move.

As I was dancing I noticed the soulskin I’d shed and wondered when that happened, I hadn’t even noticed. But now I could feel it calling, begging to be tried on. I wish I could say it still fit as perfectly as the day it was shed but I’ve carried too many extra layers to slide back in naturally. But as I let go of those old ideas of Enough it fits better. So, I continue dancing, writhing my way into it and am comforted by the idea that I will never abandon and forget it, myself, again.

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4 responses to “Soul Skin

  1. A couple weeks ago my husband & I were at a seminar and one of the speakers mentioned how people where different masks depending on who they wanted to be or needed to be at any given time. He then asked us to think about what masks we wore and when we wore them. Almost sounds like this story. So many times my husband has mentioned to me that I just needed to be myself. I’m 36 and really don’t know who that is. I wish I could figure it out. Maybe I shed my skin too soon or worn too many masks! Great post Hope, thanks for sharing!

    • There is a quote I love from My So Called Life (one of my favorite shows ever!) where Angela says, “People are always saying you should be yourself, like that’s one set thing.”

      I love this quote because it reminds me that “myself” is a changing, growing thing that is impossible to pin down. The best way I’ve found to be comfortable with who I am in a given moment is by surrounding myself with people who accept me even when they don’t understand me or disagree with me.

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