You Wear a Mask While I Become a Hermit. The Overall Effect is the Same.
One of what I consider the lesser products of human evolution is the existence of masks. Not the kind you wear on Halloween or Mardi Gras, but the invisible ones we don for various social situations.
Some of us are still pretty “what you see is what you get” but we’re in the minority and tend to come off as somewhat socially retarded as a result. In fact, even recognizing that a mask is in place is something I find challenging, and often to my own detriment.
I recently saw masks of friendly acquaintanceship replaced by ones of cordial tolerance. My initial, knee-jerk reaction was a combination of hurt and anger followed by a shut down which, to the casual observer would probably be seen as rude. In fact, the harsh words that shutdown prevented would have been far more rude and unkind. They’d also have been harder to repair afterwards.
But I’ve had some time to think about the whole scenario including a brief fall into negative self-talk. After referring to myself as “pathetic”, followed quickly by a stern reprimand about speaking to myself so disrespectfully, I paid a visit to the therapist who does me the most good and forces me to look at things objectively: my writing.
It was there I discovered that I still carry pieces of my mother with me; particularly those which leave me staring at a mask instead of a real, honest person and not understanding why. It was because I recognized the source of my reaction that I began to understand and even feel compassion for those who utilize masks instead of being honest with themselves and those around them.
Now, I don’t mean baring your soul to every stranger you see. But I think we can exercise self-restraint without hiding behind a mask. Seeing/sensing someone’s pain, our inherent compassion allows us to offer a shoulder or ear, but understand if they’re refused. However, I realize what’s true for me may not be so for the rest of the world. Maybe I’m simply naive.
From my mother’s life, I am learning to recognize people use their collection of masks to protect themselves and to hide hurts which are too raw and exposed to safeguard any other way. Like me, they have triggers. In their case, those triggers automatically throw up a particular mask. It might be something which affects them directly or something they witness which brings a painful memory rushing back. I suppose it could be as simple as a song or a phrase for some people.
Like so many things which remind me of my mom, I have to remind myself that the donning of a person’s mask really has nothing to do with me aside from something I might have unwittingly said or done to trigger that person’s defense mechanisms.
I’ve struggled interpersonally over the years, and the struggle continues, even after 6 decades. I was never interested in the social game playing so I never took the time to learn the rules. It’s bitten me in the butt on too many occasions to count. Yet I can only be who and what I am, and that means masks off. The only exception to the rule is when I do experience pain coupled with ire, at which point, retreating behind the one mask I do possess is better for me and everyone else concerned as it prevents my mouth from running amok and exacerbating the situation beyond redemption.
Forgiveness is the Answer
I have also learned that time and distance heal pretty much everything. If I didn’t believe it before, a recent encounter reminded me. A couple of years ago, I had a friend who I thought I was helping (I was in the middle of the healing class at the time). Instead, I unwittingly triggered something very unpleasant from her past and found myself completely shut out. A week or so ago, we happened to be in the same place at the same time. She approached me and apologized for her actions! After assuring her that I understood why she’d backed off, I accepted her apology (as it would have been unkind not to!) and we caught up a bit with each others’ lives.
Once again, there are some painful lessons and perhaps a long road back. But in the process, I’ve learned a little compassion for the wearers of the masks as well as some appreciation for their methods. While I have to just shut down for awhile, they can continue to function socially and, I suspect that few ever even notice anything different about them.
It Always Comes Back to Gratitude
And still, I’m grateful. Each experience and the lessons I learn from them helps me become a better Human. So here, for your reading enjoyment are tonight’s gratitudes.
1. I’m grateful for lessons which teach me compassion.
2. I am grateful for my flaws and social awkwardness. In many ways, they leave me free to view the world with the innocence of a child.
3. I am grateful for a very productive day.
4. I am grateful for the ultimate therapist: a blank computer screen or piece of paper and the spilling of my thoughts.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, kindness, compassion, lessons, productivity, health, peace, harmony, happiness, philanthropy and prosperity.
I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!