Our pastor preached a message a few months ago on one word. Masks. Here are some of my own thoughts on the subject:
At some point or another in our lives, we all wear them. Masks shield us from judgment, they protect us from unwanted questions, and they keep other people at arm’s length. I have worn many masks in my life. There’s been the common “I’m Fine” mask, put on after grief, a big fight with someone, or even when I just didn’t feel well. It resembles a tight smile that warns others not to pry. The “½ of a perfect couple” mask was worn in the past to alleviate the stress of others sizing up our marriage. I knew that if the mask slipped, other people would see a mess. This mask is most effective when the other partner is wearing it too; throw in some hand-holding and you have a full-blown costume. Most recently, I have been trying on the “No, it doesn’t feel like a knife to the heart when I see your newborn baby/swollen tummy” mask. This mask is complicated because although I am TRULY happy for the person sharing such great news, this mask is only successful if the person is looking at your smile and not your eyes, because your eyes will show the pain behind them.
Because of my past expertise in mask-wearing, I have really begun to notice those around me lately. It makes me question everyone…what masks are they hiding behind? Is their marriage crumbling? Are they having financial stress? Is their child heading down the wrong path, while they sit by feeling helpless? Having been on both sides of the mask, it is tragic to me that we feel the need to put them on at all. When you are mask free, people open up to you. They share their pain and struggles. After reading my blog, virtual strangers have poured out their sadness and hurt to me. I have reconnected with friends that have gone through the same issues as I have; I never would have guessed had I not opened up first. Instead of hiding behind our masks thinking others will never understand, it is healing beyond words (not to mention a huge relief) to be real, for people to accept you as you are, and to truly begin to OWN your past. My mistakes and struggles do not define me, and they haven’t changed how my true friends feel about me either. If anything, they have made me more human and accessible. Being mask free is when the true renewal takes place, and I promise, it’s the best way to be.