Lately, I’ve been thinking about the way we reveal ourselves. In our daily life, our work life, our home life, our out on the street life, our parent life, our going to school life, our private life. But what is a private life? It seems that this is where our true self resides. This is what interests me. The inner life, and what parts of this we reveal.
When I was little I took piano lessons with Sister Margaret up the street at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent. I loved going to the convent. All the women there were smart, funny, talented, and behind the convent walls, let their hair down not as teachers but as real women and I felt that I had entered into a private sanctum that very few experienced. I loved to sit and eat at their long table, with delicious food being shared peaceably, (unlike at my house), intelligent conversation, and robust humour –these were ‘nuns’ yet this inner life of theirs was very different from their public facade.
One day, as I was walking down the hall to the music room, I walked by an open door and peered in. There sat a nun, deep in prayer, the sun streaming across the floor, the birds quietly chattering outside the half-open window, wearing a different habit than the Sisters of St. Joseph. Hers was a globally recognized one: white, with bands of blue, the uniform of the Missionaries of Charity order, and the woman in front of me was none other than Mother Theresa. I stood stock still. She was a legend in my Irish Catholic world and yet, here she was, a small, frail looking woman on the edge of a single bed. I felt as though I had violated her most private moment. She must have sensed me standing there, immobile as a deer in headlights, and she turned to regard me with her gentle eyes.I was thankful her face erupted into an enormous smile and I gave a little laugh of relief.
“Hello Sister” I whispered.
She nodded, and smiled, then turned back to her rosary.
I learned early on that the lives of these women were a complex web of what they revealed and what they did not in public.
I would say that we have become a world obsessed with revelation; we are entirely in the grip of revealing ourselves to one another. It is in this revelation of ourselves that intimacy lies, as a parent, a wife, or husband, lover or even child–this most personal choice that allows others in or shuts them out, draws them deeper, or keeps them lightly on the surface, as easy to rinse off as watercolour. Perhaps the deepest intimacy does not lie in commitment, but rather in how much of your true self you can reveal to another human and still be loved.
I am curious, how do you reveal your true self?