As I tried to think about all the beautiful things I could write about for August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest V, I realized most had to do with what I’ve learned with age:
- Let it go
- Live in the moment
- The power of hindsight
I could go on and on. But in the end, I decided the most beautiful thing about growing older is removing my mask—a mask that was molded by the philosophy of “saving face.”
Wikipedia defines “saving face” as:
The term face idiomatically refers to one’s own sense of dignity or prestige in social contexts. In the English-speaking world, the expression “To save face” describes the lengths that an individual may go to in order to preserve their established position in society, taking action to ensure that one is not thought badly of by their peers.
This was my mom’s philosophy—to do whatever necessary to preserve dignity. Of course, as a child, dignity was not at the top of my priority list. Still, I pondered this concept, thinking it almost scary as I imagined not having a face. I even drew spooky people without faces. No doubt those images weighed on me more heavily than any desire to be “dignified.” Whatever the reason, I began the pattern of saving face from childhood, even if that face was only a mask.
Yet, while my mother taught me to “save face,” I taught my kids to listen to their “little voice.” I realize there’s dissonance in those two philosophies, and there’s little doubt in my mind that my advice to my children to “listen to your little voice” was born of repressing my own inner voice in an effort to “save face,” or appear dignified to others.
That inner voice begins as a whisper. If I ignore the whisper, it begins to rumble. If I try to shove it aside, as I’ve often done, it starts to bubble and boil, until finally, it erupts and I have no choice but to listen. It may take years, but that little voice will be heard.
Many decisions in my life have been caught in this battle between saving face and listening to my little voice. In the past, saving face may have won the battle, but my inner voice always, always, wins the war. Not listening to this stubborn, beautiful little voice has had its consequences.
In much of my writing, my characters’ inner voices are practically characters unto themselves. As in The Red Kimono, I internalize a lot in my writing, so readers will know who my characters are behind the masks they wear for the outside world.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in “saving face.” But dignity shouldn’t come at the cost of authenticity.
Our little voice is the most beautiful part of who we are, because it’s the truth of who we are.