in this wonderful conversation with laura earlier this week, we got to talking about trade-offs and wish lists in terms of dating.  i’ve been reflecting on that a lot lately.  there’s a blog in just that piece later.  but what i’m thankful for today is that in looking at myself i’ve realized that part of my issue with getting close to people in general, men in particular, is a really exaggerated need to protect myself and remain safe.  and for most of my life, real safety was found only in solitude.  i’m grateful for a spirit that is patient enough with myself to get down into the realness of that idea, why it’s there, and why it’s not serving me anymore.  i’m grateful that i’ve got this willingness to look at myself – wherever it came from it is one of my greatest assets.  i’ve always known that a deep part of me was terrified to be completely open and transparent with others, but with this patience i’m getting to the real root of why, not just the stories i tell myself and others.  so in working on this part of myself, one of my newer goals is to practice feeling safe and open out in the world, putting myself out there.  and make no mistake, it’s a practice.  it has to be.  i used to use booze to get me to the place where i felt safe and relaxed (but it wasn’t real security for me, it was just numbed anxiety and disdain for self-control), so the practice of being authentic without chemicals, in public, rejecting self-critique, is a fresh experience for me that deserves to be seen with a gentle eye.  aware of my subtle defense mechanisms, i got this image of a masquerade party.  colorful, flamboyant masks on a stick!  designed to protect the real me.  i have many different masks that represent charm, aloofness, invisibility, funny girl, shyness, quiet, hard worker, biting humor, smartypants, anger… and each can keep me safely out of reach.  in holding so tightly to my safety, i let autopilot find a mask for every occasion.  but what i find comfort in now is that i hold the masks.  i choose.  and i can decide (more and more) when it’s safe to take them down.