Wearing Many Faces

03 Jul

After reading Parker Palmer’s “Now I Become Myself” taken from Let your Life Speak I realized something about my past five weeks of service at St. Anthony’s. After my first week of service I was exhausted and upset and deeply saddened, very different from my happy and animated usual self. I thought it was just because I had not acclimated to a new home and workplace, but after five weeks I haven’t felt any different. I kept thinking that I didn’t feel like myself. Then I read the following lines from Mary Sarton’s poem that open Palmer’s text: “I have been dissolved and shaken,/ Worn other people’s faces” (9). This sentence aptly describes my experience at St. Anthony’s thus far. Palmer’s text made me realize that my role at St. Anthony’s has caused me to wear faces that are completely unlike who I usually am. I think of myself as an empathetic person who is hypersensitive to the feelings of the people around me. As a result, I can easily take on the emotions of those I encounter, whether those feelings are of happiness or anger or pain. I came to St. Anthony’s with my heart open to the people I serve, and in doing so I have felt my own usually self become “dissolved and shaken” as Sarton describes. From the people I have met and the stories I have heard I have experienced their trauma secondhand. I feel like I have put on the faces of several of the people I have met and have glimpsed the ways in which they see the world. It has left my heart strained and stretched who I am in ways that are at times very painful.
In light of Palmer’s reading I have realized that my vocation is not in direct service, a realization that is both disappointing and relieving. I am disappointed that I am not meant to serve in a direct capacity, but I am also relieved to learn why I have felt so unlike myself and that it is normal. I have realized that a big part of my service is in my empathy for others and my ability to listen and relieve others by sharing their pain with them without internalizing it in myself. It’s by taking what I see and hear and feel and using it to speak for the people I serve when society chooses to ignore them. I can be who I really am by offering to listen.

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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth


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