When my friend Rex first took the black and white picture below, it was a difficult image for me to accept. Since that time, it has been used by a few different folks for different reasons...and in spite of my initial discomfort, I have always agreed to share it, because it resonated with others for some reason. The photo was taken on a day that I had just completed acupuncture and I was feeling very vulnerable. Furthermore, there is something about being inside the Homeless in Seattle office that is just plain REAL. REX captured my insides that day...and it has taken me almost two years to grow into the image that I see looking back at me. See, after the TBI, I didn't recognize myself for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I was used to looking at a person that was essentially wearing a mask. When the mask came off, and I allowed myself to unravel, it was challenging to grow accustomed to what I saw staring back at me every day. The integration process was obvious, and I had work to do after years of trying to be what others' wanted me to be. But slowly, as I did the work, the image in the mirror began to look like me again. So here is what I know to be true for me at least - we are multi-dimensional beings that are so much more complex than the flat images that reflect us. When we take off the masks that hold the illusion of protection, it can be frightening to show the vulnerability underneath. But there is strength in the authenticity that comes from being REAL. Each day, I am going to look different....not because of the mask that I put on, but because of the person that is radiating out from beneath the surface. It's not about the makeup (both pictures have the same amount), and one way is not better than the other - it's about having the courage to walk through life being REAL. I will take REAL over a mask any day.