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    Carnival (part 1)

            For the last eight years, on the third Thursday of August, fifty of us have traveled via bus to Provincetown, Massachusetts, for what’s known as Carnival. Carnival is like the Mardi Gras of the Northeast. Thousands upon thousands of people in the streets of this very cool little town; drinking, dancing, merry-making all day. Gays, straights, transexuals, transvestites, families, couples, singles. There’s a theme every year, and it all culminates in a mayhemic parade. It’s an absolute shitload of fun. This year, I had an interaction with a guy that proved the inspiration for this post.   
           This man, who took his virgin trip to Carnival last year, approached me at The Beachcomber, an outdoor restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean that we stop at every year on our way to Provincetown. He said “Ya know, when I first saw you on the bus last year, I didn’t like you. Even though I hadn’t met you. You had no shirt on, wore a couple of earrings, and had all this energy. I thought you were just a guy who was totally into himself, just really narcissistic.” He continued “But, I gotta say, I was so wrong about you. I really get that you’re a friendly, loving person. You really care about the people on this trip, and you do what you can to see that everyone enjoys themselves. And your spirit is infectious. I’ve really come to like you.”
           Now, I didn’t know this guy at all. But what he said to me really warmed my heart. And it got me thinking about what we miss when we polarize. So, just because I wasn’t wearing a shirt, this guy made the assumption that I was a narcissist. He set it up in his own head that somehow I couldn’t be shirtless and a deeply caring man. He polarized shirtlessness with lovingness.
           The truth is that I am very comfortable with my body. But this was not always the case. I’ve worked hard at being comfortable, at being at ease, with myself. Not only through lots of exercise and proper nutrition and education, but by doing the work on my insides as well. My back story, which is actually a source of potential connection because, in my story is a piece of your story, gets totally lost when you leap to judgments about somebody based on what they are, or are not, wearing. And, on a purely superficial level, the simple fact is that I don’t like wearing a lot of clothes in the hot summer when I don’t have to.
           When people see a shirtless man, there can be a natural tendency to assume certain things. No shirt equals self absorbed narcissist who really doesn’t care a lot about people and is probably a cocky jerk. That’s quite the leap. But it’s made all the time. And it’s not under my control. So I don’t worry much about it. The day I start changing my preference of not wearing a shirt because I’m afraid that you’re going to think I’m a narcissist is the day I’ve sold myself out. I accept that my way is not going to resonate with everybody. I accept that some will snicker, or be put off, or downright not like me, just based on that. I accept that and understand that it comes with the territory.
           Part of what makes being misunderstood worth while, however, is when I share moments like the one I had at The Beachcomber. Because this relative stranger got something from his experience of me. Something maybe he didn’t have as much of as before, or maybe he just forgot. He realized that he misjudged me, that he polarized who I was against what I looked like, that he didn’t consider the option that a well built man who goes shirtless can also be a friendly, loving, giving man who really cares about people. He got that a man who doesn’t want to wear a shirt is also a man who goes out of his way to create a loving connection with others. When he realized all that, he got a little insight. He got a little something. I was able to impact him. Just a little bit. Just by being myself, at full throttle.
           That’s my way. That’s a big reason why I’m here on this planet. And what this guy gave me by sharing his story with me is validation of my very own dharma. He gave me a mirror into my own purpose. He gave me a lesson as much as I gave him one. And we created a great little connection. That’s the way it works if you’re open to it.
           Tell me. Isn’t all that worth it? Isn’t all that juicy richness, that connection, those lessons, those insights, those warm fuzzy moments….isn’t all that worth the risk of playing your cards with a more open hand and showing the world more of what you’re about? At least some of the time? I encourage you to raise the stakes of your own life by risking more, and thus increasing your chances of getting more. Lots more. And my experience is the risk/reward ratio is outstanding. The potential “what you get” is tremendous considering what you’re actually risking.
           There’s more to my experience of Carnival. Please tune in for part two.

    ©2014 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.    

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