If you had told us last year that masks would be a normal part of life this fall we would have found it inconceivable that such a drastic change could take place.
Yet here we are.
Masks used to be something you only saw on medical professionals or contractors doing dirty work. When I traveled in Asia I saw them on people in public once and a while. That was my experience anyway.
They have become the thing you cannot be without now. Last question before anyone is out the door, “Do you have your mask?”. Getting someplace you need to be and realizing you don’t have one involves a lot of inconvenience and sometimes a few choice words. We are slowly getting into the rhythm of life where we mask up anytime we are inside or near people.
It seems new and foreign but this has been the norm for us for a long time, we just couldn’t see the masks. We have been “putting on our masks” to interact with the public for a long time.
As school has launched I have been reminded again of the challenges of just being yourself. Watching these two kids carefully curate their clothes and attitudes so as to be seen as “normal” and maybe even “cool” has driven home how scared we all can be to be ourselves. School can be a scary place for a lot of kids. Very few people are able to embrace their story at a young age and just let everyone see who they are!
This is true for a lot of us as adults too. Do you ever put on your public persona before walking out the door? Have you ever been having a stern discussion (a.k.a. argument) with your kids in the car and arrived at your destination only to pop out of the vehicle with smiling faces and present the perfect family. Have you ever found yourself thinking about what others might think of your clothing, choice of words or abilities and wished you could dictate what they believed about you because of them? Masks.
The Other Mother’s mask cracked and fell off… the facade of self sufficiency couldn’t be maintained. Is this what caused her mental decline? Or did her mental decline mean she couldn’t maintain the mask? Is the realization that my true self is visible for all to see that unnerving? We seem to think so. Do we judge those who let all the brokenness climb out and take over? Does seeing others crumble make us secure our masks a little tighter and press down our own growing insecurities?
Our foster kids are faced with more uncertainty than most of us can imagine. Will they still be with us next week, next month, next year? What will happen if the Other Mother gets better and fights to get them back? What will happen if she doesn’t? What if a strange family member steps up and offers to take them? What if their friends at school learn their story? What if they stand out as different in a culture that values conformity?
In this season of insecurity there are a lot of people struggling to maintain an image.
- An image of self-sufficiency
- An image of financial stability
- An image of relational security
- An image of emotional serenity
If you are truly enjoying all these things you are blessed! You have probably put some work into maintaining this. Most people are struggling in one of more of these areas! It is the reality of the times we are living in… perhaps always a reality but more prevalent now.
The more we try to hide the reality of the mess, the more it will hold us back, damage us and stop the change we need. We need to stop putting on these masks and be honest with ourselves and others about our current reality.
I don’t mean you should post on social media that you’re unable to care for your kids, bankrupt, considering an affair or diving into depression. Social media is truly a kingdom of masks! You need to trust someone with the full truth of your situation. I hope you have family and friends you can learn to trust. I pray that as you choose to be vulnerable you are met with compassion. I recognize it is hard to find a safe place to be ourselves.
The path to being fully ourselves without the masks is scary. But it is worth it. Freedom lays on the other side of transparency. Secrets kept in the dark are what hurt us the most.
So here are some truth’s you might need to hear today.
- It’s okay to need other people’s help. Self sufficiency is not a sign of moral superiority. The “I can do it myself” stage is cute in 2 a year old … not all that useful in real life.
- It’s okay to need a little help financially. In this season people have become more aware of their financial frailty. Our life of ease is a fragile house of cards that depends on many things outside of our control.
- It’s okay to ask for help in navigating relationships. People are complicated and you can’t know everything. People are worth the time and effort it takes to build solid relationships. You often don’t know another persons struggles.
- It’s okay to acknowledge your sadness, panic, anxiety, dark thoughts, self-doubt… you can probably add to the list. Everyone has had a struggle with some of this, some of us struggle with all of this. You are not alone!
The path to freedom and being ourselves is open for everyone. You have to take off the mask to get there. There is hope for all of these struggles, for everyone!
The masks we are wearing because of Covid-19 are ultimately there for our protection. Whether you believe they make a difference or not, that is their intention. The masks you put on to protect yourself from other people are not beneficial in the long run. The more you cover up your true self the greater the internal tension you have to manage.
So every time you put on your mask to enter a building or interact with people may you choose to ask yourself “What mask am I wearing today that I need to take off?”. If we were as grumpy and antagonistic about our emotional and relational masks as we are about the cloth ones…
In the midst of the mess