An old friend of mine, wrote a blog yesterday, http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=421091304&blogID=449405861 about the grief she felt concerning the suicide of a new friend. In it, she spoke quite eloquently about the masks we wear in public, sometimes in private. Use them to cover up, and deny our real state/s of being. And because I agree with much of what she said, I want to write about something of that issue today.
I like masks. Have spent many pleasant hours creating them. Used them in my classes to explore the different voices we all use in our daily existence. Have done the same in defining archetypal energies, bringing them more alive to those who might be unfamiliar with them, and the role they play in the choices we make and the lives we are creating. My nephew has an entire room in his home, where he displays all the masks he has collected and ones that have been given to him by friends and family. One of my very favorite movies is Mask, starring Cher. Each individual in the film wore at least one or two, character-wise, in the story. Because she is so facially expressive, one can watch Cher go from rebellious daughter, to lonely needy woman, to eager lover, from addict and then to protective Mom, and back and forth again, throughout the film. I thought her performance was fantastic and really underscored the title of the movie.
But what does all of that have to do with you and I? A great deal. We all wear masks at one point or another. They are, or can be of extreme importance to the art of self-protection. The only place we really never need one is inside of our journals. But, even there they might be present if we are into denying some aspect of our reality. A while back, I mentioned my old boss and the role he was playing in my everyday life. So much so, that when I went back to read my morning pages, I found his name on almost every one for days on end. But, it wasn’t just his name. It was his face as well, and I actually felt my own face alter in accordance. Until that moment, I wasn’t aware that I had been wearing a mask in his presence, and to do my job. That was one of the main reasons I knew I had to get out and find another place of employment.
And that place of employment called for another mask of sorts. The masks we wear are the roles we feel we must play in order to survive in the environment around us. The face of the eager wife, waiting for her hubby to come home, is not the one that hubby sees if he inadvertently left her hanging on the phone and is now coming home three hours late from a meeting. What’s even more important is the mask we wear most often. The one we use to project a certain image of what we think most people will find acceptable and meant to hide our genuine state of being, our genuine humanity. That one who is always smiling, is he really that happy, or is he hiding something beneath that mask of easy grins? Does he go home, sit and pour buckets of pain and sorrow into a journal? We can’t and don’t know. And if he is, maybe we should be grateful for that.
If I am honest, there have been times when I’ve wanted very much to reach out and pull off the mask someone was wearing. But, I much prefer to wait and let them do the honors so we can be genuinely human together. That isn’t to say that they will keep the mask off, afterward. Masks are habits, and its extremely difficult to do without them. As I told my friend, yesterday, I believe it is one of the hardest things we can do, to remove those masks, even for a few moments. That is real exposure, and it doesn’t feel safe at all.
Do you know the masks that you wear? What do they accomplish for you? Could they possibly be a hindrance to some aspect of your life? Keep you at a disadvantage in others? Do you have places in your life where you can be free of the masks? Do you go there often, or not? We have talked a great deal about having a best friend, one that accepts us. Is there someone in your life that you feel is safe enough to leave your mask at home when you are with him, or her?
I have a suggestion. Start watching for images of faces that you yourself might be wearing at different times. Put a face to the different roles you play, cut them out, and paste or glue them into your journal. Then write about them, the value they have in your life, and when you most need to put them on. If you are even more adventurous, give them names. Naming a thing lessens the fear it might hold us in. I read that in Harry Potter. Dumbledore said it, so you don’t need to take my word alone.