We’ve talked about the mask before and I have to admit that it was one of my favourites to write. I unleashed my pure unadulterated fury on the subject, because I was sick of having to pretend that I was OK and that I was happy. It’s here if you’d like a read (https://sarahlawrenceonline.com/2019/03/the-mask/).
At the time of writing it I was well aware of what my mask looked like and what it was made up of. I had also come to understand that it wasn’t something to be tossed away carelessly and that it had been honed and toned over the 40 odd years I’ve been on the planet. It was very much there for a reason – to protect me from hurt. And so it wasn’t a decision that I took lightly when I decided to start to peer from behind it for After the Storm and to start to show my true self.
However, what I hadn’t appreciated was the myriad of effects that would come from me being more open about what I was going through. Nor had I appreciated that the impact of ditching the mask for After the Storm would also mean essentially being more open in my life, in my relationships and being more honest with myself.
You’d think it would be obvious wouldn’t you? I mean I’ve plastered my story on the internet in many different ways and anyone can see it. But, for me there’s no denying that talking about your story with friends and family is a lot more difficult. I mean when I make these videos and I write these blogs, I might shed tears and I might get angry or feel emotions that remain hidden from view for most of the time, but I’m here on my own plugging away. I can’t see your reactions and so there’s a level of safety in that I don’t have to have my pain mirrored back at me, as I sit and describe my thoughts and feelings. And there’s comfort in that, because empathy is a real killer when you’re used to holding people off at arm’s length.
So, when the mask has been ditched from one part of your life, it feels odd not to be able to be open and honest with friends and family when they ask about this stuff. In fact, odd is the wrong word – it feels really uncomfortable not to be able to do that, because in essence I’m saying I can talk to total strangers about it, but not the people I love.
And I don’t know about you, but if you’ve taken the time to speak to your parents, it’s actually painful when you sit and talk to your mum or dad about the emotions and the hurt you feel because you can’t become the parent you wanted. I mean nothing gets away from the fact that your appearance in the world meant that your mum and dad were able to take on those titles, when this isn’t something you’ll ever do.
It hurts when you see friends tear up when you let them in on the smallest slice of your backstory and they question why you weren’t able to share with them at the time. And it leaves you feeling very vulnerable when they want to hug you or support you when you’re struggling with this issue. So, is it any wonder that for years I kept them at arms’ length, so that I didn’t have to see that? And perhaps you have been too.
But, now as I emerge from the mask and I start to show people me, turning up as me, not as some bloody emotionless clone, I have to face up to so many of the fears that I pushed away. Like Gandalf a few weeks ago in my blog, I’ve reached a line in the sand where anything less that rocking up as me, 100% me, feels disingenuous, inauthentic and wrong.
I want to be the real me – in all her Doc Marten wearing, beer drinking, sweary, opinionated, geekiness. I don’t want to have to pretend to be someone I’m not anymore and I certainly don’t want to be the person that leaves a room and is instantly forgettable. I mean, bloody hell, who amongst us wants to be that person?
So, as I ruminate on my own emergence from behind my mask, what do you think you would want to be if fear wasn’t stopping you? Who would you be and what would you look like if you felt able to ditch the mask? What really doesn’t feel comfortable anymore?
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