Hello, HaQ readers – Happy Near-Hallow’s Eve! We’re on the cusp of November and it’s the season of pumpkins and candy corn and kids having fun. Trick or treat was a special night when I was growing up – you got to wear a costume and be someone else for a while, a princess, a ghost, a superhero. On all the other days, you were just you.
As a kid, a mask was the stuff of dreams and imagination, a chance to pretend and then pop out from behind, squealing with laughter. Somewhere along the way, things changed. The mask became armor, not just fun. You may have felt this, too. At some point, you start to hide thoughts and feelings you worried would not be acceptable to someone nearby, or someone who might hear of it. You start to be careful of how you express yourself, how you show yourself, whether you show your true thoughts and feelings. Your face became a holder of the acceptable expression. A mask. How exhausting.
It’s not unusual to be circumspect about what you say and who you say it to. That’s part of being an adult and being mindful of how your words affect others. On the other hand, if others aren’t aware there’s anything wrong and you have no way to express a negative feeling, you have hidden too much. If they gave a Tony for this, I’d have the lifetime achievement award. I have screamed in my car, cursed at my shoes, blistered the air in my kitchen about something that upset me – and could not say anything straightforward to anyone involved. They might have – kinda, maybe – gotten an impression that something was a little off. But I couldn’t say what, and they never really knew. It’s so frustrating. The mask was too tight.
I dropped the mask last week. I was feeling very stirred up about a situation at work. It had been going on a while, and a new event made it even worse, and there didn’t seem to be a good way to find resolution. I went to a colleague, who was also involved and just said, flat-out, “I’m really angry”. There was a pause while we both took that in and listened to the ice shatter. We talked, we tried several solutions, we created a plan that worked for us. We acted on it. The situation still isn’t resolved, but we both faced a few feelings, they were acknowledged, and no one felt attacked or “less than” as a result. It was such a relief.
I will be thinking about this in the days to come, wondering where else I’m wearing masks that aren’t necessary, where I can come out from behind my assumptions and be a little braver and a little freer. Worth a wonder or two.
Stay tuned for more on the Here’s a Quarter blog next week! As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome – they are moderated (I know – adulting again), so they may take a little while to appear, but I read them all and appreciate that you were here. Thank you!