I have been thinking about something, which was said to me during a tarot reading a few weeks ago. The reader told me I have this external image of being peaceful, calm, and happy, however, there are things from my past, which weigh me down. In essence, there were masks I wore and parts of myself I did not openly share with others. Perhaps those were not the exact words shared with me; it is however how I remember it.
Those words have come and gone from my memory. However, this morning as I was reading from Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements Companion Book. He wrote, “We know we are not what we believe we are supposed to be and so we feel false, frustrated, and dishonest. We try to hide ourselves, and we pretend to be what we are not. The result is that we feel unauthentic and wear social masks to keep others from noticing this.” he challenged the readers to think about what masks we wear around others? Why do we wear them? What would happen if we took them off? What would it be like to express who we really are?
As I was sitting here thinking about this question, I had this dejavu kind of feeling and realized I had written about this about 9 months ago. It was interesting to go back and read what I had written back then and where I am now in my journey.
This time, I think I am more mindful and more aware of when and why I am wearing masks. Sometimes I get the sense that others put a mask on me. For example, one of the things I hear most often is that people perceive me as existing in a perpetual state of peace. I felt this way nine months ago, although at the time I thought I was contributing to the wearing of that mask. Since then I have been more transparent about the reality that I do experience challenges in my life. What I have learned how to do is to be intentional about staying present and calm during the challenges. I no longer allow the crisis or challenge to control my life; I control my mind and my response to the challenge. I have learned to appreciate that my agreements are not the same as others and have come to accept that it is what it is, nothing more or less. It just is. I no longer take things personally. As I have learned to do these two things, I have also minimized the suffering, drama, and trauma in my life.
I think the biggest mask I have taken off this year is the mask of fearlessness. That is not to say I am not strong as steel and steady as stone, as my friend Hari Nam Singh Khalsa would say, rather even when I am experiencing fear, I recognize it and tap into my inner strength and courage and address it head on. Over, the last 18 months I have had to face some challenges in my life, which have not always been easy. Walking with Zoe as she went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her breast cancer was one of those challenges. The other was the loss of my paratransit services.
I think the last mask I wear, and I am not even sure this is a mask, is that I have nothing left to heal or grieve. The reality is that I do. While I have done a significant amount of the grief work around leaving the church I had planted, there are moments when that grief will be retriggered and I take my healing to a new level. Perhaps, the other time I feel the most vulnerable is when others ask me to talk about the loss of my paratransit services. I know I have done and am doing all I can to make the best of this situation; however, sometimes I feel this wave of anger at the systemic injustice and the ways it has limited my freedom and independence.
These, however, are from the present, not my past. I think what I carry from my past is this wound of injustice which stems from my birth and knowing that it was the prejudices of the time which coerced my birth mother into giving me up for adoption. I am grateful for the family who provided me with foster care and my parents who adopted me into their hearts and lives. However, there are questions about my beginning, my genetics, and all those things that remain unanswered. Perhaps that is why I do not change doctor’s because I hate that tell me about your family history question, or reminding my physicians about my being biracial. I was mindful of this when I had to do a genogram as needed to explain the three mothers and fathers. I am mindful on mother’s and father’s day to give thanks for all three sets of my parents, those who birthed me, fostered me, and raised me. Without any of them, I would not be who I am today and for them I am so grateful.
I am grateful to have the courage to live openly as a same sex loving woman who is in a long term committed relationship with my soulmate of 11 years (well as of December 24th, 2012). I am grateful to live openly as a biracial woman, as it has taught me to appreciate all of who an individual is and not just the categories we are taught to put people in. Being able to live authentically with these masks off is quite liberating.
However, I am still mindful that while I may do all I can to remove the masks in my life, others may see me through the lenses of their masks, but that is about them and not about me.