“I slap this perfectly sculpted mask onto my face every single day. It is one that has a perfectly carved smile and warm brown eyes. One that is well kept and put together. One that gives the impression that I have skillfully figured out my life. One that tells the world – this woman is happy. This woman is whole. Her life is complete and her heart content. She is courageous, resilient, and strong. My mask speaks out, “I’m Okay!” All while muffling the screams from inside, “I AM BROKEN! I AM BROKEN! I. AM. BROKEN!”…In the solace of my home – I remove it. Tears that have been contained for days and weeks are released and pour out in uncontainable amounts. The scars and trauma are again visible, if only to myself. My truth is revealed. Only I know the depths of that truth. For it has settled in a dark abyss and the world is too afraid to climb down with me. My mask hides how truly deep my pain runs. It hides it to protect me from the judgment that I should be better. This mask is my most useful tool – yet I despise it most.”
Oh how “The Mask ” posted at Still Standing Magazine resonated with me when I read it! Their Mission: “In the face of loss and infertility, our mission is to show the world that we are still standing. Holding fast to resilience and hope. Our mission is to help you embrace life for everything that it is after experiencing the loss of a child or infertility.”
Arachnoiditis Survivors and others living with Chronic Pain and Illness work to maintain a similar Mask. No matter the source of our Pain and Grief; Resilience and Hope Inspire Survival and LIFE.
The Mask provides a temporary illusion of inclusion which, for a brief time, keeps the loneliness of reality at bay. But that isn’t its only purpose.
“In many primitive societies, to wear a mask was to invoke a supernatural being. In Africa, masks were used to ward off enemies, to summon ancestors, and in rituals and ceremonies that marked alliances between tribes. Masks, particularly those depicting animals, were also used as a means of denying personal identity, thereby bringing the wearer closer to the paradisial state.” ~Fontana
That Supernatural being is often the ONLY thing that gets us through the day. When It leaves me feeling trapped in the loneliness It creates; Making Art, even when I use symbolism which is not understood by all, helps me un-glue the facade cemented to my soul. The Mask is a duplicitous mate.
No Matter the Cause, Maintaining the mask ~from the body language, to The “Smile” to the Hair ~that we hold up for others can be extremely exhausting…but, I have often asked myself, “What WOULD I do instead?” The alternative is even LESS appealing. MaintainingThe Mask sometimes becomes a temporary link that anchors us to the edge of Survival until we are strong enough to move on without it. Over time, though I still have days where I resent the effort; I have become thankful for my companion, The Mask .