Masks Are For Halloween
As a kid, Halloween meant trick-or-treating in the chilly, DC October air, usually with the reluctantly donned coat over my mother's hand-crafted costume. A plastic pumpkin was never large enough so my older sister and I took to carrying a pillow case instead. We got a tongue-lashing from Grandma Rachel for dragging that pillowcase in the grass, but it was worth it for the completely ill-monitored sugar high for the weeks following. These days, with kids of my own, Halloween represents much more dread, as I barely get the pins out of hems before they wear my costume creations, and I plot how to hide away candy from myself and my kids by November 2.
But one thing has not changed - nobody likes the guy who gives out a piece of fruit. Maybe he doesn't get it. Halloween is for candy, dude. Halloween is for dressing up and wearing a mask. Everything has its time and place. So if we can agree that fruit is better suited for a harvest festival, and Halloween is for costumes and masks, why do we keep wearing a mask when it's no longer Halloween?
We all have a mask we don at some point. We do it on purpose or accidentally. Either way, that mask hides what lies beneath - how we feel, what we need, what we want, and who we are. Masks are barriers between our true selves and the rest of the world. And as much as we believe they protect us, masks keep us from realizing our true potential. They hide our pain, and they hide our happiness in equal measure.
So why do we keep the mask, and what are we hiding?
Maybe we wear a mask to hide from change because we are so afraid of what might come next. We know that change means something will have to be different, like our surroundings or our routine. It might mean that we have to change. That can be terrifying, so we hide and insist on the status quo despite the obvious benefits to do otherwise.
We wear a mask and hide from our feelings. We have unresolved pain or hurt that lingers just under the surface. If we stay committed to never revealing it in our expressions or our words, blocking others from knowing it exists, then we can pretend to be ok and we can protect ourselves from feeling that pain all over again. We fear that being vulnerable will damage our relationships. Actually, it is the reverse. We damage our relationships when we hide. We are more than our feelings and our past but they both play a vital part in defining who we are and how we approach life. Those who work with us, who love us, who depend on us - they all are more capable of dealing with complicated us than we give them credit for. Hiding shuts down the connections.
We wear a mask to hide from our worst critics, who can take down our facade without touching what lies beneath. If we never reveal who we really are, then we never have to risk being hurt by the judgement and treatment of others. After all, they are taking down an image that we have created, not the real thing.
We wear a mask as protection from ourselves. We don't like what we see without it. We are unhappy with who we are, what we look like, what we have done that we regret, so we hide from that reflection. Rise each morning saying "I can't, I don't, I've never, I'm not good enough" and a mask is the natural accessory for another day of struggle in the big world. That deep-seeded self-doubt is a fancy mask that protects us from facing our single worst critic - ourselves.
We wear a mask to hide from the good stuff because we believe in its fragility or sparseness. Don't celebrate too much. Don't get too excited. Don't enjoy this moment. Don't own the spotlight. After all, all good things must come to an end. The mask keeps up appearances and reassures others around us that we aren't getting ahead of ourselves, that we aren't placing too much value on the wonderful. And while we are wearing the mask, we are missing the wonderful.
So what's your excuse for wearing a mask all year? Whatever it is, now is the time to take it off to reveal what lies beneath, in all of its glory. Then you can begin the process of making sure that masks are only needed as an accessory for a costume rather than a way of life. Halloween is nearly over - let the mask go. Everything has a time and place. Fruit is for the strawberry festival. Masks are for Halloween.