Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines the word “ mask” as both “something that serves to conceal or disguise” and something that is a “protective covering for the face.”
Human beings are the ultimate improvisers. The masks we wear allow us the flexibility to adapt to the myriad improvisations we find ourselves engaged in on a daily basis. From the drive to work, dinner with family, conversations with friends… we literally have no idea what’s going to happen next. Therefore, having this amazing ability for response-ability is relatively useful for successful living, at least in my perspective.
When we can break from rigid conceptions of ourselves and others, for example, “me Republican” versus “ me Democrat”, we can embrace the complexity of what is to be human. Rather than being trapped by a static notion of what we can do and be, each day we have the possibility to make a fresh choice. A choice more aligned with what we hope to express and share.
For example, in an argument with a loved one, we can call on our inner resources of patience, desire for harmony, and willingness to compromise. We can decide to move from a place of polarity to a place of yielding. Yes, ten minutes ago, perhaps our faces were contorted in a mask of anger, trying to hide our hurt. The mask of anger can be “protective” at times. However, it is often useful to remove the mask of anger, to reveal the part of ourselves that is tender; and simply be with our own suffering compassionately rather than lashing out through anger’s mask.
In difficult situations within social settings, we can draw on our desire for acceptance and can often find ways to compromise our needs to meet the needs of others. We need compromise in an interdependent society. However, this does not mean that you give up nourishing yourself. We can consciously strive for a balance, acknowledging our own values and limits to ensure that we do not over-extend ourselves.
Within ourselves, we may feel the push and pull of wishing to un-conceal aspects of ourselves while worrying that doing so may risk having to experience the awful pain of…disapproval of others (if I could, I would put this in a really scary font). I have certainly experienced this myself as a mental health counsellor who has also experienced stress and anxiety in my own life. However, in un-concealing aspects of myself, I discovered new aspects of myself including deeper empathy and desire to support others.
Here are three ideas to help you have a happy and healthy Halloween:
- Make a mask.
Purchase a blank mask and some markers. You can also just use a piece of paper and use one side for the “outside” and other for the “inside”. On the outside write down all the roles you play in life such as parent, child, accountant, friend, co-worker, committee member, etc. Then write down what traits or aspects of yourself you tend to easily un-conceal in these roles. For example, caring, assertiveness, cynicism, tense, fun-loving. Then on the inside of the mask (or piece of paper), write down some aspects of yourself that you are interested in bringing out a bit more in your daily life. These might be aspects or values or interests such as compassion, ease, dance, integrity, playfulness, curiosity, wisdom, or honesty.
- Get a “costume.”
Either from your own closet or thrift store put together a “costume” that makes you feel comfortable and reflects what you find personally beautiful. As you go through your closet or thrift store, notice what colors you are drawn to… cool blues? Warm autumns? Notice what textures feel great against your skin… rough tweed? Soft fleece? Wear something that allows you to connect with your own personal style and physical comfort.
- Eat a treat — mindfully.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I suspect that the candy tradition is related to the idea that the fall was a time of reaping the harvest, a time of abundance and replenishing for the cold winter season. Take a moment to enjoy a treat. Actually put your treat on a beautiful plate, have a beautiful napkin. Beforehand, offer up gratitude in any way that works for you, for the food in front of you.Take in the aroma of your treat. Actually look at the color of your food, feel its texture. Then eat it slowly with real enjoyment. I just had some baked apples and let me tell you; even that little act positively influenced my whole day.
- Crunch through the leaves.
Childhood was a difficult time for many people, a time when you did not get to choose your experience. As an adult, you may have more power to make choices for yourself. Remember when you were a kid, and you were like, “I can’t wait until I grow up, because when I do, I’ll get to do whatever what I want.” That promise, like flying cars, probably did not come true. But guess what? You do get to decide to have fun. So, take some time out of your day, feel the rain on your face, pick up some colorful fall leaves and toss them in the air, and enjoy this day.
All the best to you!