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August 7, 2006


n 1: the face or front of a building [syn: frontage, frontal] 2: a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant [syn: window dressing]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Throughout my life, I’ve suffered some ridicule based upon the neck of the woods from whence I hail. It’s a little “po-dunk” place where mostly everybody is kin and mostly everybody looks, thinks and acts alike. There is not much room for diversity and the general rule of thumb is that if you can’t fit in…you best get on out.

The education system in this small town is nothing to brag about and yet there are some really smart people who have moved on from there…and there are some really smart people who still live there.

I really don’t think it was my misfortune to have lived and grown up there, for what I lacked in learning in the school system, I learned very well on the back roads and around the courthouse square. And much to the chagrin of many a city-slicker who thinks he or she may be smarter than the average bear from this neck of the woods, I’ve recognized that people are people no matter where they live … and they all deal with the same issues at heart.

The most detrimental aspect of living in a small town (for me at least) is that folks seem to live a “double life.” There is a mind-set that says, “What appears to be far outweighs what really is.” And for those who dare not adhere to that double-life-style and just blatantly go ahead with what the local social order would deem “deviant” behavior, well there’s just hardly ever an opportunity for redemption for that kind of brazenness.

Now I thought that this mind-set came about just because it was a “small town” with “small minded peoples” with “small vision.”

But alas, I’ve found that it’s not the geography that determines this mind-set. Instead, it’s the inner need to be accepted, to belong. But, when people are too familiar to expose who they really are inside…and they are afraid of not being accepted or being ostracized if their own quirks are too distanced from their neighbor, their only option is to live a double life. My problem was (and often still remains to be) that the “fire that burned within my heart to live life with passion” did not coincide with the “belongingness” that I also yearned for. Therefore, I am conflicted quite often.

We did have vocabulary words and spelling tests in that small town school. I remember them well because I was always a pretty good speller. (won the school spelling bee twice – even in the fifth grade, beating out upper classmen)
The only word I ever remember being on a vocabulary or spelling test was in the 7th grade and it was the word “chaos.” I am certain there is a reason that this word has stuck with me so long.

I was about 32 when I first came across the word, façade. I saw it in one of those romance books that I’d pick up about once a year to see if they had changed the format. I didn’t know what the word was and I pronounced it in my mind with a hard ‘c’ — (good thing I wasn’t reading out loud, huh? Someone would have surely made fun of me.)

Anyway, that word also stuck with me until I finally decided to look it up. Then when I read the meaning I said, “Aha! So there is a word for such a thing.”

After I learned the word, I started seeing examples of it all over the place. And it wasn’t too long after I started studying the many facades that existed around me that I started experiencing a little “chaos” in my heart and my mind. I couldn’t understand why a façade was generally necessary, but also, why people continued to need a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant.

It seems to me that nothing will ever change as long as people are satisfied with a façade. (WOW, now that’s some hard but good wisdom) But like the dictionary says, a façade is just “window dressing.” It’s “fake” (there’s that hard “c” sound)…and there is still something bad going on behind the façade.

You know, “scuttlebutt” (though we dismiss it as gossipy) tends to be an indicator, or have the low-down on how things really are. Living in small towns, it is not hard to keep up on the “scuttlebutt.”
One might also be surprised to find out that there really is a pecking order in small town society…the who’s who…the have’s and have nots…the power-mongers and the subject to the political regimes who cast their votes in exchange for a new screen door or whatever else they might have need or want of. I did think this sort of thing only happens in small town…with small minded peoples…who have small vision.

But alas, upon moving to the “city” — a friend and mentor of mine told me early on that the game never changes, only the names of the pawns. People live double lives, speak double language, and think double-mindedly every where you go. The only difference between a small town and a big city is that there are just more of such folks in the city and they are not necessarily kin to each other. And it’s the same order in organizations no matter where you work, and even where you go to church. (gasp!)

So why all this ranting and raving about “façade”?

Well, it just gives me such an unsettled feeling in my gut to know that this is an acceptable means of living. My mama used to complain that everyone always expected her to be the “life of the party” — to always be smiling and happy no matter what, and sometimes she just felt like sitting down and crying.

I could see the façade that she’d put up around certain people…and then I’d see the real deal when they were not in her company any longer. It was scary and “confusing” (chaotic) for me as a child because I never knew which mother to expect. I often wondered if she was a bit schizophrenic. But now I know that she was doing her best to keep up appearances…in hopes of being accepted, or even worse, “in hopes of being acceptable.” When she could no longer live the double life, she had a major breakdown…and that was finally the step she needed toward healing.

Obviously, anything with two heads is a freak! And I can’t imagine anyone would want to purchase a building that simply looked good on the outside — but was falling apart on the inside. I’d much rather take a house that looked like a shack…with a solid foundation…than to buy a mansion that would fall in one day.

Facades are just window dressing…appearances…masks for hurting people and damaged hearts. Living a life that is simply “going through the motions” to get along or make it through one more day…is surely not the abundant life.

After all, did Jesus not say, “The truth will set you free.”

I was sitting on my porch the other day…thinking about my life and the direction of it.
I asked myself…”in all the world, what do you really want to be.”

The answer…clear as a bell… “ I want to be free. Just free.

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