Recently I ran across this picture of me with Darth Vader in Victoria, BC. 

Me and Darth Vader

I admired his chutzpah; the courage to put on the costume, play his music on the street corner and entertain people while doing something he enjoyed!   I still admire him, but now the picture reminds me of wearing masks.  Not just for street vendors or Halloween, but also emotional masks and what we can accomplish (or cover) when we wear them.

 For years I’ve fantasized about being a Seattle sports mascot like the Mariner Moose or (back in the day) Sonic Squatch.  I know I could have so much fun dancing around the stadium, high fiving the kids, blasting T-shirts into the crowd and generally being a lunatic!  All that craziness behind the mask and everyone would smile with approval and laugh with me!  But, take off the costume and suddenly those same people would look at me with raised eyebrows and maybe even consider calling security due to my odd behavior!  The funny thing is, I often have that much enthusiasm, but I rarely let it show for fear of being ridiculed.  Oh, to be able to say “Damn the naysayers!”  and have the carefree attitude of the very young or the very old and just do it anyway! 

Wild-n-Crazy!

 Likewise, I’ve fantasized for years about being able to be real emotionally.  When someone is hurting, I automatically want to hug them.  When somebody is grieving, my tears are swift to come.  When I’m hurting or grieving I want a hug and someone to cry with me.  But, growing up, I was treated as if it was a weakness to have emotions.  Of course this was a convenient way for my dad to cover the abuse.  If I wasn’t allowed to be sad, then his chances went down for being found out.  This life-long message that emotions were bad taught me it was better to have a mask on my face than a heart on my sleeve.  It also taught me to hold back my natural compassion.

 Through considerable work and processing, I’ve relearned that it’s okay to have feelings.  It’s actually a good thing!  Predictably, I did the radical swing from being shut down to wanting to talk about emotions with everyone.  Now I’m discovering the middle ground, the balance of knowing when it’s appropriate to show emotions and whether or not someone is emotionally safe for me.

 Unfortunately, I think there will always be times in my life I’ll need to wear my own emotional mask.  Because we are all human, our lives occasionally thrown into bedlam with twists and turns, we are all susceptible to defaulting to the mask.  It’s quick and safe to go there.  Sometimes it’s actually the best choice.  But, it is an ongoing challenge to determine when that’s true.

Mask for All Occasions

 So, for now, I continue to learn how to decide when it’s okay to take off the mask.  I also remain in admiration of those brave enough to do the zany thing –despite what society says!  Stay tuned for the day I toss societal rules aside and listen to my not-quite-muted, wacky self!

How about you?  Do you wear a mask?  Why or why not?

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