Naked Soul

When is the last time you were completely naked in front of someone? I’m not talking about being naked for sex. I’m not talking about your significant other catching a glimpse of you coming out of the shower. I’m talking about REAL nakedness. Have you been naked to the point where you’re simply standing there, in the daylight, being thoroughly scrutinized by whomever was looking at you?

Well, I have been completely naked and thoroughly scrutinized. Just recently in fact. But I exposed myself with a different kind of nakedness than you may think. I exposed my soul.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had trouble unveiling my body to others.

In the summer, I’d wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. I’d wear sneakers or tennis shoes – never flip flops or bare feet.  During the winter months, I’d use any excuse to wear a winter coat or jacket – even on warm days – all in an attempt to cover myself up to the fullest. My hair was long – almost to my shoulders. The sheer thought of cutting it accelerated my anxiety to a level of panic. I wasn’t ashamed of my body, I simply didn’t want to reveal my body to anyone. My body was nobody’s business but mine. Little did I know that I was also hiding my soul.

When I first started writing for Feminine Collective, I began to carefully expose my soul by shedding a small piece of figurative clothing one garment at a time. With each article, I slowly yet cautiously began to reveal my naked soul to everyone that read them. However, before I could even begin to symbolically undress, I had to slide a titanic load of bricks off my back with my very first article.

Allowing that load to spill off of me was an instant relief. Despite that milestone, I still felt exposed and didn’t even have the courage to sign my name when it was published.  At the time, anonymous was much more comfortable.

Later articles became a bit easier: I cut my hair and shed my winter coat when I learned more about my unique personality. I finally grew up, took off my shirt and bullied up after decades of silly, childhood resentment. I exchanged my long pants for summer shorts when I came to peace with a huge teenage crush. I took off my socks and shoes when I admitted my failure as a parent to the world.

For me, exposing myself with my writing can be likened to birthing a baby. First, I impregnate myself with an idea and then ponder and obsess about how many details I wish to unmask and how I should reveal them. Next, when I feel the pangs of distress, I sit for many grueling, painful hours trying to make sense of it all until my story gives birth.

Finally, my story receives an overview from the Feminine Collective editors to ensure it’s healthy enough for all to see. Granted, some of my articles grew up to be “doctors and lawyers, and some grew up and became bums.” Nevertheless, they are all expressions of my naked soul. [1]

Removing barriers and exposing my soul is a challenge. It is especially challenging when my defenseless courage is trampled upon with unwanted criticism. Recently, a so-called Facebook friend wrote me a message and told me that I was doing it all wrong:

Dave, you’re not writing a simple Facebook post with your articles. No telling how many people will read them on Feminine Collective. You need to come to me before you publish anything. I am a real writer. I’m the professional.

After reading this comment, I immediately wanted to cover up as quickly as possible. I longed for that winter coat, the long hair, and even that pile of bricks. Those familiar barriers seemed much more comfortable than being told my nakedness was wrong. With support from other writers who bare their souls, I learned that I own my own experiences. I own my own writing. No one can take my place and shed my barriers and expose them but me. Only I truly understand what I attempt to express with my writings. If my naked soul can entertain, enlighten, and perhaps make a difference in someone else’s life, I’m willing to bare it all.

The intrusion from an outsider attempting to interpret and recreate my naked soul was devastating. I felt literally naked, in the daylight, scrutinized and humiliated from head to toe:

Dave, you’re chest hair is too gray. You have chicken legs. Your penis isn’t normal. Put on that winter coat. Never wear shorts. You’re feet are gay.

It took a few days, but I finally let the humiliation, embarrassment and unwanted dissection of my naked soul run it’s course. I have since learned to ignore it. I am in the process of building a tough, impenetrable, yet see-through, outer shell to protect my future nakedness. No matter what anyone says, my naked soul is precious.

And you know what? So is yours.

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

[1] Summary of the songwriting process as revealed by singer-songwriter Billy Joel.

Photo Credit: MandoBarista viaCompfight cc