Behind The Mask
By: Cyndi Wilkins
(7 min read)
Greetings peeps! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cyndi Wilkins, and I have been a practitioner of the healing arts for eighteen years. I am a writer, blogger, and believer in the healing power of laughter!
If you have read my articles on LinkedIn or Bizcatalyst360, this piece may seem a bit like I have taken a hard left. But a little arrested development can be fun…or at least cathartic!
You know we all have fragmented personalities, right? The hidden figures we keep tucked away in the dark corners of our minds and bodies for safe keeping. Well, this is a sneak peek, ‘Behind the Mask’ of a more, shall we say, edgier side of myself. She is my wader in the weeds. The warrior who lives all the pain deserves a voice. So, here goes…
I spent my first five years after high school working in retail, (snore) then an additional fifteen in federal prison. Ha! I was a letter carrier for the USPS…Might as well have been prison. I say that now, but the job served me well at the time. It forced me to get my shit together if you know what I mean. Not a fun job to perform after a late night of partying. No one wants to see their postal peep hurling in their hedges! What can I say? I was in my twenties…Invincible. Or more accurately, in pain. But those stories will come later.
My supervisors always got a kick out of me showing up for work bleary-eyed the next day. “Wilkins still has her makeup on from last night…It’s just under her eyes now!” Hey! At least I showed up.
The toxic ‘on the job’ work environment certainly helped to fuel my inner ‘Rip Van Winkle’ persona. Yep, I have my demons just like everyone else. Mine were just over-served for about twenty years.
But all that late night lollygagging goes right out the window when you have a kid. Damn straight. Every time my wife and I would overdo it with the libations, our infant daughter would wake up screaming at precisely 3:00 am to see which one of us dingbats would stubble down the hallway. It was always me, of course!
Not that I minded. She is our one and only, and I cherished every single second of her childhood. Note to new parents…The Diaper Genie doubles as a barf bucket…Just sayin’. At least she was too young to remember.
Those shenanigans did not last long though. I was responsible for this little human now. Thank God I cleaned up my act before she developed recall memory!
When she was a toddler, my wife became particularly hyper-vigilant about not swearing with little ears around. I was a harder sell. When the ‘stink-eye’ or a solid punch to the upper arm failed, it would take drastic measures to hit me where it hurts. Yep, you guessed it…The wallet!
That is when the ‘swear jar’ came into being. It cost me a dollar for minor offenses and a five spot for the ‘F’ bomb. I went broke. It did eventually curb my potty mouth, however, every now and then there is nothing that spells relief like f-*-c-k! Hey, the kid turned out all right! She is eighteen now and heading for college in the fall as a math major. Brilliant and sweet, she is one of the most beautiful people I know. And I am not just saying that because I am her mom. She truly is a sacred soul.
Her flawless ivory skin always reminded me of the main character in the film ‘Powder.’ Extremely intelligent with a heightened sensory perception, she was also an outcast among her peers. Nobody wants to hang out with the weird kid who plays with bugs. I swear she could communicate with them.
When she was little, we used to call her ‘The Bug Whisperer.’ She would spend hours out in the garden turning over rocks and bringing her creepy crawly little friends into the house to meet me. I would find worms wiggling around in the bathroom sink, covered in soap bubbles. She thought bathing them was a clever idea until I explained to her, they loved playing in the dirt because it is what kept them alive.
One day, I watched her fish a dragonfly out of the pool. I swear that thing was dead as a doornail. But my little girl would not give up on it. She sat with that dragonfly for over an hour, gently caressing its wings and whispering, “You can do it, buddy…Just take a breath, and you can fly away.”
Well, I’ll be damned. Just as I thought I was going to have to give my best rendition of a bug eulogy, that dragonfly fluttered its wings, and flew off into the tree. She saved its life! How freakin’ cool is that?
Oh my! I better stop now. I am getting very teary-eyed just remembering all of this. I will be a hot mess by September!
Back to me. After fifteen years of pounding pavements, through rain, heat, snow, sleet, and dark of night, my postal days were nearing an end. I had made the decision to switch careers when we were trying to get pregnant with our daughter. By then, I was pushing forty and my knees crackled like Rice Krispies.
I did not enter that decision lightly. I had been mentally preparing my departure for at least five years prior. It was not that I hated the job, it was more the job was wearing on me. The work environment had become very toxic and the volume of mail we were carrying daily had increased exponentially after automation.
Interestingly, a work friend of mine had been urging me for years to take a massage therapy class at the school just down the street from the post office. He kept insisting, “With all those books you read, this is right up your alley!”
It was true. I had consumed a gazillion books on mind/body medicine. It was an insatiable appetite that fascinated the hell out of me. But I always brushed him off, saying “Yeah, yeah…Someday when I have the time.”
Well, that was a lie! I did have the time, just not the motivation. Then 911 happened. That shook me out of my complacency. I began asking myself, “If I were to die tomorrow, could I say I had lived my best life?” Hell no! I took my first class shortly thereafter.
I immediately fell in love with the practice! Not only was it a wonderful way to relax, but it also inspired me explore my growing interest in the wonderful world of mind/body medicine. I was determined find a way to apply that knowledge in the ‘real world.’
I eventually decided to take the full curriculum to become a Certified Massage Therapist. Still working full-time, I attended night classes. My inner ‘Clark Kent’ swooped through the office by day, did the quick change in the bathroom, and flew off like Superman into the night. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time!
It took a couple of years to complete the required courses, but with each day that passed, I felt one step closer to freedom. It was like being a lonely bird trapped in a cage waiting for someone to flip the door open. Fly away…Be free.
I even had a dream during that time of escaping from prison. I remember it so vividly, waiting for the guard to look the other way so I could make a run for it. This would be my great escape!
On New Year’s Eve, 2003, I served my last day in federal prison. I shook hands with my Postmaster and thanked him for the opportunity. He hired me at a time when female letter carriers were still exceedingly rare. Carrying the bag was ‘man’s work’ you know, so the supervisors tended to dump on us. But my PM always had my back.
I still remember my worst day on the job as a new hire. It was a miserable day in a cold pouring rain. The three stooges were on desk duty that day and thought it would be fun to send me out on a route reserved only for experienced carriers. The Federal Courthouses. Not a job for someone barely wet behind the ears.
All deliveries on this route had time sensitive accountable mail. If you were late, there were consequences. I was lambasted in every office I walked into. One lawyer even stomped out of his office, and screamed, “This is what happens when you allow women to carry the mail.”
It did not take long for the ripple effect to reach the office. By the time I got back, it was well after dark. Only the postmaster remained. I dumped the soaked mail sack, (pardon the pun) heavily on the floor. “I quit.” I said flatly, then turned on my heels. Elvis had left the building.
“Cyndi!” He called after me. “I am proud of you for hanging in there today. And there will be consequences for those who put you in that position.”
I turned back to face him. “See you tomorrow, sir.”
All three stooges eventually transferred elsewhere. He kicked their collective asses. Good riddance Mo, Larry, and Curly. For my part, I became one of the best carriers that office ever had. IMHO, of course!
After a fifteen-year career, I retired and opened my own massage practice in the summer of 2004. My beautiful daughter was born five months later and the rest, as they say, is history…
PHEW!!! What a rush! Thanks for listening to my long-winded intro! It felt good to unpack that roll-away luggage! Next time, just a carry-on. I promise! I am looking forward to interacting with all of you and sharing stories, ‘from the table.’ Real stories, real people.
My therapist’s journey has been much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I see myself in all these people, and you will, too. We all have those moments that haunt us. The painful experiences we would much rather forget. But life has a way of mirroring them back to us for healing.
How these compartmentalized pieces manifest in our bodies is fascinating. We also have moments of extraordinary joy, too. My purpose as a facilitator of healing is to help others, as well as myself, to focus on those moments of joy while releasing all the pain.
Feeling is healing. Whether you see it as a blessing or curse, our emotions are what make us human. Pain is temporary unless we decide to hold on to it. I am certain we can help each release the beast and tickle a funny bone or two along the way!
Just a quick side note…I received a ‘Thank You’ card in my dreams from my inner warrior, with a picture of a smiling Charlie Brown on the front. A very poignant message from a guy who seems so depressed all the time.
All Things Wellness, LLC
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