May 19, 2007

Masks

How does the mask-wearing get started?

At what point in our development do we start to get the message that maybe we shouldn't be wearing our hearts on our sleeves quite so much?

In my life, I have been unusually well-rewarded for setting my masks aside. When I stopped pretending that life with a soundtrack provided by alcoholism was fine, things actually got better. When I started acknowledging my sexual orientation and standing up for myself, life got better again. When I met my partner, we were both in an almost defiant place as far as masks went. Broken-hearted and determined not to pretend to be anyone other than who we were, we each had a kind of "this is who I am, like it or lump it" attitude, which turned out to be a great foundation for a reality-based relationship.

So lucky me. But am I making space for others to be their unmasked selves? I hear parents telling their kids to stop crying and cringe... I think I do that, too. I can hear myself saying it: "Oh, stop crying, it's not a big deal." That's not who I want to be.

Do I honor my friends' needs to grieve their losses, or do I let impatience get the upper hand? When one of my students breaks down unexpectedly in class, what do I do? When I greet people with a "How are you?" I often don't really mean it.

I think we start putting on masks because the people in our lives tell us – in words or in deed – that their lives would be made easier if we could put on a happy face.

I want to work towards being able to tell people – in words and in deed – that they can just bring themselves, and leave the masks in a drawer.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

18 comments:

paris parfait said...

Your last sentence is key - if only we could always leave our masks in a drawer and never have to take them out except for costume parties. Growing up in a small town, I know I often adopted a mask so as not to offend others. And I still do it when I visit, because they don't want to know much about life beyond their environs. So the mask is in deference for them not having to deal with something outside their self-imposed boundaries. Sigh. It's exhausting and emotionally draining and that's why I rarely visit.

'N said...

awesome blog, just like yesterday's, the the one before that, and well, you know... :-)

sognatrice said...

I love your last sentence as well, and you bring up a lot of issues that we should all think about. Masks involve not only the ones we wear but the ones that we (often subconsciously) encourage others to put on as well. Great post :)

Regina Clare Jane said...

Masks are a kind of protection, aren't they... at least for me they are. It would be nice to always feel safe, no matter where you are or with whom...
I am with you on your last sentence there... the world would be a better place, wouldn't it?

gautami tripathy said...

One great post. We all have masks in some form or other. THose become habit after a while. Underneath that mask, we are not even true to ourselves, let alone the world.

Rob Kistner said...

"I want to work towards being able to tell people – in words and in deed – that they can just bring themselves, and leave the masks in a drawer."

WOW!

Shelley, if you can reach that sublime plateau of tolerance and acceptance, I'm reasonably certain you would live a life of untold possibility.

I have tried for 60 years, but I still trip over my fears and insecurities at times. All you can do is get up and keep going.

Good luck, and fine post!

Michelle said...

This is my first Sunday Scribblings and I love what you wrote when you said that

"I think we start putting on masks because the people in our lives tell us – in words or in deed – that their lives would be made easier if we could put on a happy face."

Another angle to think of - how much mask wearing is for us and how much is for others .

www.smoochdog.com

Rose Dewy Knickers said...

Bravo for standing up and taking your masks off. It takes someone very brave to put aside conditioning and societies expectations to conform. I hope your life will keep getting better and better.

Rose

xo

Anonymous said...

Hi Shelley, it's been a while I know...but I'm back.

I have typed 4 different responses...4 different points of view on masks, but when I comes down to it, I really got nothing.
How's that for honesty behind the mask? ;-) I don't know when we start becoming reserved...why we begin to hold back who we are...when we learn that this whole package is good enough as it is...

Lil
www.lillithmother.blogspot.com

Wendy said...

oh how i would love some sort of sign that reads:

welcome!
no masks necessary.

you inspire me daily,
wendy

Jennifer said...

oh, the stop crying analogy is perfect. i remember the first time i was told, it was ok to cry. I stopped and thought, that's weird, than cried nonstop for 2 hours. I'm sure my hubby's arms hurt from holding me but he didn't let go. Now i tell my boys its ok to cry, and hold them. I don't want them wearing masks.

Amber said...

Oh, this is a really good Scribble. I love this--"we were both in an almost defiant place as far as masks went". I understand it, although for different reasons. I grew up having to hide a lot of things, until it made me sick in my mind and heart, and like you, I just couldn't DO it ANYmore. I got to a place where I didn't care how much it hurt, how hard it was, how un-cozy-- as long as it was my truth.

And I also want to work at being less of a hard ass, and allowing people to be where they really are.

Nice job.

:)

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. said...

Shelley, you are precisely the kind of role model our kids needs. They need to hear that they don't need to follow the crowd, but can be who they are, unashamedly. Rock on!

Patois said...

An excellent take on the prompt. You're "their lives would be made easier if we could put on a happy face" made me think of an army of people wearing those yellow smiley faces. Yikes!

Becca said...

"But am I making space for others to be their unmasked selves?"

Very thought provoking take on this prompt. I think we all tend to encourage each other to wear the expected masks, reluctant to see the "true colors" that might not be so attractive to us.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent post, it is always interesting to think about the construction of our masks, how we came by them.

Deb G said...

I really like what you say here. I think masks to do start in childhood. I work with young children and constantly battle with other people telling children "you're okay," when they are not.

DJPare said...

Good for you for becoming who you are!
As for your post, all good questions...