Is This My Face?

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A day or two ago, I was trimming my beard. It isn’t an unusual thing.
As I worked to tame the gray hairs that have a growth plan that they haven’t seen fit to share with me yet, I had one of those thoughts that can only happen when your are by yourself, working through a thoughtless task – Why am I spending so much time working on the fine details of my hirsute chin?
I don’t enjoy it. I don’t think I do it very well. In fact, Stephanie at StephanieLouis Salon always humors me and tells me I am getting better at it every time I get my haircut. The only time I ever really see my face is the two times a day when I am brushing my teeth. I never comb my hair, and when I shave, the shower mirror doesn’t catch my whole face. The state of my beard is almost comically unimportant to my daily life.
But I worry about my beard. I run my hands along it a dozen times a day and think that I need to deal with this mess. When I see myself in the mirror, I am almost always shocked when I see my beard, not because it is unkempt, but rather I forget that I have a beard. My face doesn’t look on the outside the way it looks on the inside. On the inside, I look the way I did in high school or college – clean-shaven, 30(?) pounds lighter, 30 years younger.
But my face shows a different version of me to you – an adult version of me. It is this hairy, wrinkled face I share with you every day. It is the face that my children see when I tell them I am proud of them. It is the face that I share with my clients and and colleagues when they look for advice or collaboration. It is the face that my wife sees when we face challenges and joys.
This adult face isn’t a mask. It is me. It carries in it all of the times that I have succeeded and failed. It carries all of my pride and shame. It carries all of my love and apathy. It carries all of my joy and sorrow. It carries you in it, too.
The times I see your version of my face, I am always surprised – sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not. However, I wear it happily, because it is your face. It is the face that you and I created together. It is the map of my life.
The version of my face that I carry on the inside looks at all of you with awe. You are accomplished and striving. You are joyful and despondent. You are loved and alone. My face loves your face.
I trim my beard because it belongs to you.

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