We enter a daily landscape where wearing masks is the new norm. The laundry line now includes a row of cloth masks in various prints and colours, and they got me thinking about the other kind of masks we put on and often forget to take off.
I understand the need for masks. For us to perform certain tasks and roles that let us participate and survive in a society we need to learn some basic manners and codes of behaviour.
The trouble begins when the masks are mistaken to be the truth and there is a disconnect between who we are outside and who we are inside. Most often, the truer self that is kept inside suffers being neglected and forgotten. The self that is meant to grow and become is instead made to conform to the mask.
My mistake has been to assume that the mask is what I am supposed to become. Because the mask lets me into the spaces of belonging that I believed to be were the main destinations of my life, the signals of my success as a responsible human adult.
It had come to a point that I felt my inner self needed exorcism. That it must be removed so I can be more fully what others needed and expected me to be. I spent a good part of my young adulthood feeling that I was born wrong, flawed, and inadequate in many ways, that I should be striving to change "for the better" as defined by the social circles I was immersed in. I have not even begun to understand who and what I was before I was being told that I should be better because everyone else was better that I was. That I had to take on certain skills and apply them a certain way, to build my life in a certain manner, to seek success following a trusted and proven formula.
A child should be allowed to take as long as she needs for knowing everything about herself, which is the same as learning to be herself. Even twenty-five years if necessary, or even forever. And it wouldn’t matter if doing things got delayed, because nothing is really important but being oneself.
- Laura Riding
What I needed to do, however, was to unlearn. There were many things I thought I supposed to be. And I hated that part of myself that did not want to become those things. It was a painful battle to reason with oneself, and more painful when reason was set aside and instead the heart was made to speak. For while it speaks, it breaks. In the same way that my self breaks because I could not reconcile my outside life with my inner life.
Self-examination and self-acceptance, which include coming to a reconciliation and resolution on how to move forward, are hard work. It would appear at first that it would be much easier to let the masks take over, and silence the inner selves forever. Or so I thought. It was much harder to live carrying a death inside of me. A barren landscape that only serves as a mirror to what others want to see. A blank map that others will mark and define while I annotate with apologetic footnotes.
I only started reconciling my inside and outside about three years ago.
I still have masks but I find myself unable to wear them for any long period of time. I get sick. I become a monster. An other self comes out to remind me to fix things or else.
Masks are necessary. They have their purposes. What I need to learn better is how to craft them so they are less masks that are purely for outside function to serve others but instead more of a bridge that connects the inside to bring forward the gift that my authentic self can give.