A few years ago, my family went to a mask workshop.  We got to meet a mask maker and see a show where he used all of his masks in a drama.

When I think back on this family time, I remember all of the masks I wore in my lifetime.  Some were actual masks because I collect them and wear them sometimes.  But many masks were artificial roles I took on as life went by year by year.

As a child, by age two, I was an angry child.  I decided if I couldn't get attention by being good, then I would be bad as I could be.  Here is a mask I would have chosen for that time.

Once my parents were worn down from trying to manage my rage, a few "solutions" were put into effect which caused me to live outside my body, not in a good way, for several years.  Here is the mask I chose for that period.

I did not want to be seen.  I was ashamed of myself most of the time right up until sixth grade.  I may have had moments of joy and happiness, but my default status was hiding as much as possible.

At between twelve and thirteen, I went into a passive rebellion.  My mother blamed it on my girlfriend. She said I was a perfectly good girl until Tony came along.  We were wild.  We had a great time.  The mask I chose for that period is this one.

If I could have, I would have worn all black, all of the time, black make up, black clothes, black nails.  It was a very dark place inside.

Some time around sixteen, I put on the mask of shame. It looked like this.  I was going to become the freak I thought of as myself.  This mask lead to a double life.  To comply, I had a proper girl, then when I drank alcohol, I let down and became the freak I felt inside.

Here are the two masks I wore for those many years.  No holds barred, everything goes and then suddenly switching to terrified and ashamed.

At 35, I got caught up in the shame and fear around AIDS.  I began having panic attacks at 35 and sleepless nights worrying about my entire family dying of AIDS. This was an existential crisis.  I was suicidal, homicidal and very depressed.  Thank heave I never acted on any of those urges. Yes, I had engaged in some risky behavior, but nothing anyone could say relieved my anxiety.  I attended a self help support group, sought medical treatment for depression.  I had been depressed before but I treated it with drugs, alcohol and sex from fifteen through thirty-five.  At thirty-five, I stopped using sex and drugs, but not alcohol.  I drank for another five years when my daughter was young.  I regret this.  My daughter doesn't blame me.  I don't blame myself anymore either. Here is the mask I chose for that period of time.  This is Donatello's sculpture of Mary Magdalene Grieving.  I was definitely grieving for the loss of my best friends, alcohol, drugs and sex.

Then came sobriety at forty.  The panic attacks continued for the next twenty years.  I was out of my mind. I looked and sounded like an insane person to me.  Though I worked throughout that time, I wondered why anyone would want to hire me.  It was during this time I began to put the puzzle pieces of a life of trauma and abuse together, mine, my father's, my mother's, my sisters, everyone I knew.  Sobriety took so much courage.  I have never been so afraid, all of the time.  I was depressed and fearful for twenty years.  It took me that long to recover from my childhood trauma.  Here is the mask I chose for this period.

Between fifty-seven and sixty-two, it was the peak of my career. I had been working in a County job, was elevated from Counselor to Quality Assurance Team, to Manager of seven alcohol and drug treatment centers.  Although I was not well liked at any point in that 12 year career, the managers trusted me.  I had a wonderful business mentor and I knew she had my back.  I felt confident and alive.  Here is the mask I wore.

I retired and opened a private practice in a land far, far away from everything I had known for thirty years.  I founded a non-profit and aside from giving birth, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  The non-profit was a miserable failure, I had to file bankruptcy, my family were all angry with me, I got a divorce (we are now back together again) and I was exhausted at the end of my eight year business adventure.  This is the mask I would chose for this period of time.  

This brings me to now.  I am seventy three years old and feel the best I have ever felt in my entire life.  I am filled with joy.  I practice Yoga and Ayurveda daily, all eight limbs.  My diet is healthy and medical.  I have very few friends now.  I survived the pandemic so far. I still wear my mask and I will probably continue to do so.  I enjoy working on ZOOM now.  I do not have to leave the house to work.  My husband works at home also.

We have it made.  I just registered for a five-year Ed. D. program in Health and Wellness Leadership.  It sounds challenging but I am looking forward to the time I get to spend doing my work.  

It was fun sharing my masks with you today for the different periods of my life.
Just know that you will wear many in your life, it is OK, just be the best you you can be at a given time.  That is all that is expected.  Do your work and let go of the outcome.

This is how I feel now.
This is Parvati, an East Indian Spiritual Dancer.
She is so Fierce.
And so am I.


Popular posts from this blog


Wellness through Radical Self-Enquiry

Self Help Groups are Not About Conversion