Passionate. She took the word in and repeated it to herself, enjoying the way it rolled off her tongue. Passionate was not a word she used to describe herself. Yet, when she heard it, it seemed to fit like an old pair of jeans. Well, the pair of jeans that she’d thrown into a closet and forgotten about for years, only to find they still felt as comfortable as the day she first wore them.

As she let the word dance inside her head, she realized it was an old familiar friend, one she had long ago traded for the more comfortable, predictable stoicism she put on each day. She searched the catalogs of her brain, trying to figure when exactly this happened. She came up empty, but it was clear that somewhere on the journey, she had gotten the message that her feelings were too much and not to be trusted. So, she learned to mask them behind her intellect.

She had become astute at this charade. She spent years carefully observing and studying the reactions of others, like chess player trying to master the game. She was adept at it, quickly reading the slightest change in expression on another’s face, adjusting herself to the situation. She read signs of pleasure and disgust masterfully and used these data to hone her game.

But, she realized, it wasn’t a game at all. This was her life. And she had built it around this façade. As she sat there, she could feel the layers of self-protection crumbling. And this both exhilarated and terrified her. Could she really take off the stoic mask she wore? Would people even recognize her underneath? Did that even matter?

She didn’t know the answers to these questions. But she did know that she liked how the word “passionate” felt on her tongue. She had the urge to jump headfirst into these strong feelings in the depths of her soul. And she had the urge to put the mask of stoicism back on, never allowing her tongue to speak that word again. She had feeling this was the start of a dance that she would both love and hate, a push and pull, toward what exactly she did not know.

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